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Ph.D. University of Cambridge

Post-doc MIT

Founder and CEO,

Chief Digital Officer, Jang/Geo Media Group

Chief Investment Officer, Khudi Ventures


Early in my career, I published in Computer Science conferences/journals. Recently my work has spanned a broad range of issues around technology in the developing-world, resulting in publications in journals in science, economics, public health and management.   ​

In the past many years, I have held myself to an unusual standard: I do not publish unless my system/technology/intervention has had "real" impact. A good benchmark is that the work must have impacted at least 10,000 people.  

  • Area-based determinants of outreach vaccination for reaching vulnerable populations: A cross-sectional study in Pakistan
    X Chen, A Porter, N Abdur Rehman, SK Morris, U Saif - PLOS Global Public Health, 2023

  • Engaging with teachers unlocks the potential of technology in schools: Evidence from Pakistan, Sabrin Beg, Adrienne Lucas, Umar Saif, VoxDev 2023

  • Engaging Teachers with Technology Increased Achievement, Bypassing Teachers Did Not, American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, Vol. 14, No. 2, MAY 2022

  • Quantifying the localized relationship between vector containment activities and dengue incidence in a real-world setting: A spatial and time series modelling analysis based on geo-located data from Pakistan, PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases 2020

  • Money matters: exploring opportunities in digital donation to mosques in Pakistan, Proceedings of the Tenth International Conference on Information and Communication Technologies and Development 2019

  • Voice-Based Quizzes for Measuring Knowledge Retention in Under-Connected Populations, Proceedings of the 2019 CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems 2019

  • Beyond the basics: Improving post-primary content delivery through classroom technology, National Bureau of Economic Research Working Paper Series 2019

  • Deep Landscape Features for Improving Vector-borne Disease Prediction, Proceedings of the IEEE Conference on Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition Workshops 2019

  • The internet of the orals, Communications of the ACM 2019

  • Leveraging deep learning and SNA approaches for smart city policing in the developing world, International Journal of Information Management 2019

  • Baang: A viral speech-based social platform for under-connected populations, Proceedings of the 2018 CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems 2018

  • Quantifying the impact of dengue containment activities using high-resolution observational data, bio Rxiv2018

  • Rapid Collection of Spontaneous Speech Corpora Using Telephonic Community Forums, INTERSPEECH 2018

  • Changing Perceptions of Citizens of India and Pakistan, Development Consortium: HCI Across Borders Workshop at ACM SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI) 2016

  • Fine-grained dengue forecasting using telephone triage services, Science Advances 2016

  • Iterative Design of an Immunization Information System in Pakistan, Proceedings of the 7th Annual Symposium on Computing for Development 2016

  • Speakmytext: A Platform To Support Crowd-Sourced Text-To-Audio Translations, Proceedings of the First African Conference on Human Computer Interaction, 2016

  • Real-time Automated Surveys among Low-literate Masses using Voice-based Telephone Services, Proceedings of the 7th Annual Symposium on Computing for Development, 2016

  • Villageapps: a platform to educate underprivileged communities in their mother tongue, Proceedings of the Seventh International Conference on Information and Communication Technologies and Development, 2015

  • Rescue base station, Proceedings of the Fifth ACM Symposium on Computing for Development, 2014

  • Characterizing dengue spread and severity using internet media sources, Proceedings of the 3rd ACM Symposium on Computing for Development, 2013

  • Job opportunities through entertainment: Virally spread speech-based services for low-literate users, Proceedings of the SIGCHI conference on human factors in computing systems, 2013

  • Spread and sustainability: The geography and economics of speech-based services, Proceedings of the 3rd ACM Symposium on Computing for Development, 2013

  • Viral entertainment as a vehicle for disseminating speech-based services to low-literate users, Proceedings of the Fifth International Conference on Information and Communication Technologies and Development, 2012

  • Automatic topic identification and classification of text messages in the SMSAll system, Proceedings of the 2nd ACM Symposium on Computing for Development, 2012

  • FluBreaks: early epidemic detection from Google flu trends, Journal of medical Internet research, 2012

  • Punjab-IDSS: Dengue surveillance, early detection and containment, 2012 mHealth Summit, 2012

  • BitTorrent for the less privileged, Proceedings of the 10th ACM Workshop on Hot Topics in Networks, 2011

  • A dynamic platform for run-time adaptation, Pervasive and Mobile Computing Journal, 2009

  • Collaborative technologies in international distance education, 2009 13th International Conference on Computer Supported Cooperative Work in Design, 2009

  • A peer-to-peer Internet for the developing world, Information Technologies & International Development Journal, 2009

  • Structured decomposition of adaptive applications, IEEE Pervasive and Mobile Computing, 2008

  • Internet for the developing world: Offline internet access at modem-speed dialup connections, 2007 International Conference on Information and Communication Technologies and Development, 2007

  • Poor man's broadband: peer-to-peer dialup networking, ACM SIGCOMM Computer Communication Review, 2007

  • Technique-based programming, 5th IEEE International conference on Pervasive Computing and Communications, 2007

  • Medium access control issues in sensor networks, ACM SIGCOMM Computer Communication Review, 2006

  • Reducing configuration overhead with goal-oriented programming, Fourth Annual IEEE International Conference on Pervasive Computing and Communications Workshops, 2006

  • Practical experience with adaptive service access, ACM SIGMOBILE Mobile Computing and Communications Review, 2005

  • Gigabit routing on a software-exposed tiled-microprocessor, 2005 Symposium on Architectures for Networking and Communications Systems (ANCS), 2005

  • Opportunistic file-associations for mobile operating systems, Seventh IEEE Workshop on Mobile Computing Systems & Applications (WMCSA'06 Supplement), 2005

  • A case for goal-oriented programming semantics, Workshop on System Support for Ubiquitous Computing (UbiSys’ 03), 5th International Conference on Ubiquitous Computing (UbiComp 2003), 2003

  • Service-oriented network sockets, Proceedings of the 1st international conference on Mobile systems, applications and services (MobiSys), 2003

  • Goal-Oriented System Semantics, MIT Tech Report 2002

  • Pebbles: A Software Component System, MIT Tech Report 2002

  • Architectures for ubiquitous systems, University of Cambridge Tech Report, 2002

  • Communication primitives for ubiquitous systems or RPC considered harmful, Proceedings 21st International Conference on Distributed Computing Systems Workshops, 2001

  • Internet access to a home area network, IEEE Internet computing, 2001

Awards and Honours

  • ITU Digital Innovation Board (2024)

  • UNESCO ICTD Chair (2018)

  • British Council Outstanding Alumni Award (2017)

  • 500 Most Influential Muslims in the World (2015 - 2023)

  • Sitara-i-Imtiaz by Government of Pakistan (one of the highest civil awards of Pakistan) (2014) 

  • ACM CHI Best Paper Award (2013)

  • Google Faculty Research Award (2011)

  • MIT Top 35 Young Innovators in the World (TR 35) (2011)

  • Young Global Leader, World Economic Forum (2010)

  • MIT Technovator Award (2008)

  • Mark Weiser Best Paper Award (2008)

  • IDG CIO Technology Pioneer Award (2008)

  • ACM/IEEE ICTD Best Paper Paper (2007)

  • Microsoft Research (MSR) Digital Inclusion Award (2006)

  • National Commonwealth Scholar, University of Cambridge (1998)

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