Dr. Umar Saif – Pakistan’s Leading Tech Visionary

The development of IT sector in Punjab holds commendable value as not only does it hold significant importance in opening opportunities for the existing youth, it has kept its growth in par with international level of competency. The credit, undoubtedly, goes to Dr. Umar Saif who is the leading face behind the consistently progressive graph of the IT Sector under the Govt. of Punjab. Despite facing a myriad of daunting challenges, Dr. Umar Saif has only been able to implement his tech-inspired novelty approach and brought about the much-required advancement in Information Technology. He’s the first Pakistani to got the Sitara-i-Imtiaz in information Technology.

Umar Saif Sitara i imitiaz
Umar Saif Sitara i imitiaz

Dr Umar Saif, is an MIT and Cambridge alumnus. Even though he has a lucrative path to follow in Cambridge, this young man had a dream in pursuit of which he returned to Pakistan in 2005. He had a quest that he planned to unwind – he initiated with his full-time teaching at LUMS that served as an onset of exploring a wider landscape in the IT world in Pakistan. At the same time, he founded the first tech incubator in the country which was not only the first start-up on its kind but also produced pioneering research. His main journey started when in 2011, he was listed amongst the top 35 young innovators in the world by MIT Technology Review. This created a ripple of attention from the media which further caught the Chief Minister’s attention as well. Dr. Umar Saif was offered to head the IT sector of the Punjab Govt., named PITB – Punjab Information Technology Board.

Umar Saif Academic Cufflinks
Umar Saif Academic Cufflinks Via twitter

From the above appointment onward, there has been no looking back. Half a decade has passed under his strategic leadership infused with innovation and constructive leap of progress to open up developmental ways for PITB. The IT sector has now intervened in areas like education, entrepreneurship, health and even the police. What he’s striven for is improving the overall citizen experience significantly via liability, computerization, and re-engineering – this is explicit from the digitization of land records, computerizing the stamp papers by introducing e-Stamping technique, this also had an impact on automating the court cases via Case Flow Management System. He also launched automation of Criminal Record Office to keep criminal profiling in one place. This and many other leading-edge intrusions lead to systematic use of IT in diverse ways which nobody had foreseen in Punjab. Gradually, the attention was drawn from Sindh, AJK and Giligt-Baltistan as well to see if the same models could be implemented in these regions as well.

Umar Saif Award from Shehbaz Sharif
Umar Saif Award from CM Shehbaz Sharif

A few turns down the lane, and Dr. Umar Saif commissioned Plan 9 as well. This is currently Pakistan’s largest startup incubator funded by the government. The baseline of developing Plan 9 was that the youth will be empowered with countless opportunities of self-employment. Being a figure with Government’s backing, many young entrepreneurs have excelled in their startups with local and international companies investing in their ventures.

Umar Saif Plan9 PlanX

Narrating Dr. Umar Saif’s statement regarding how he envisioned Pakistan’s MIT: “It was the year 2002; Boston was shut down due to heavy snowfall and my lecture at MIT had been rescheduled. I decided to stay in my apartment and use the time to complete a proposal for my dream project; starting a research university in technology in Pakistan that would emulate the academic structure of MIT. I lovingly titled my dream, MIT for Pakistan”.

Adding to his long list of achievements, Dr. Umar Saif has worked as the Vice Chancellor of ITU (International Technology University) which is the first IT University in Punjab that has state-of-the-art facilities and competent faculty. ITU in fact has an MIT Technology Review magazine which holds a lot of credibility in the IT world. Recently Dr. Umar Saif has had a tremendous uplift in his career and he is currently an Adviser to the CM Punjab. This is of course in recognition of the brilliant contribution he has made to the country’s betterment.

When you search on Dr. Umar Saif recognition on an international scale, world renowned magazines like The Washington Post, Time and Foreign Policy have identified his praise-worthy work. Organizations like DFID, GIZ and World Bank alongside a leading university like Princeton – all have been upholding the contributions in the form of projects or collaborations/programs – one of which is the Citizen Feedback Monitoring Program.