Select Page

South Asia Without Borders Seminar

Umar Saif, Chairman, Punjab Information Technology Board (PITB); Vice Chancellor, ITU

Chair: Karim R. Lakhani, Associate Professor of Business Administration, Harvard Business School

Pakistan is the 6th largest country in the world by population. Over half of the population lives below $2 poverty line; 40% of the adult population is unable to read or write; 30% lack access to clean drinking water; 85% of the world’s polio cases are from Pakistan. At the same time, with over 137 Million cellphone users in Pakistan, almost every household has a cellphone; Pakistani’s sent over 320 Billion SMS last year; you can buy a smartphone for less than $50 in Pakistan.

In this talk, Saif will present a number of smartphone-based systems his team has developed to monitor government work, improve civic services and collect citizen feedback in Pakistan. This talk will explain how they used smartphones to track and contain a Dengue epidemic, identify crime hotspots, measure teacher presence and monitor visits of rural doctors. Saif will specifically talk about an innovative vaccinator tracking application that has totally transformed the vaccination program in Pakistan to eradicate Polio.

Prof. Umar Saif works as the Chairman of the Punjab Information Technology Board (PITB), heading all public-sector IT projects in Punjab. He is also the founding Vice Chancellor of ITU, a newly setup research university in Lahore. Prof. Saif received his PhD in 2001 at University of Cambridge and worked at MIT for several years before returning to Pakistan. He was named as one of the top 35 young innovators by the MIT Technology Review (TR35) in 2011 and a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum in 2010. He received a Google Faculty Research award in 2011. In 2014, Prof. Saif was awarded Sitara-i-Imtiaz, one of the highest civil awards by government of Pakistan. He was named among the 500 most influential Muslims in the world in 2015 and 2016.

Cosponsored with the Harvard Pakistan Student Group