CID Speaker Series: How Cheap Smartphones and Off-The-Shelf Machine Learning are Changing the Government in Pakistan


Friday, November 2, 2018, 9:30am to 10:30am


Perkins Room (R429) - Rubenstein 4th floor

umar saifSpeaker: Prof. Umar Saif, Chairman of the Punjab Information Technology Board

About the talk: In this talk, Prof. Saif will present a series of large-scale systems which use cheap smartphones and machine learning to inform policy in the government. Specifically, the talk will focus on three areas: (1) Agriculture: Their platform,, uses free multi-spectral imagery, smartphone-based ground-truthing and distributed volunteer-computing to make weekly crop yield predictions in Punjab. (2) Vaccination: Their system, eVaccs, uses smartphones to track mobile vaccinators and satellite imagery to detect population clusters, resulting in vaccination improvement from 43% to 87%. (3) Data Collection: Their platform, SurveyAuto, enables an uber-style market place for crowdsourcing local data and uses machine learning to automatically analyze the quality of crowdsourced data.      

About the speaker: Prof. Saif is Chairman of the Punjab Informational Technology Board (PITB), heading all public-sector IT projects in Punjab, Pakistan. He is also founding Vice Chancellor of ITU, a newly setup research university in Lahore. He holds a PhD from Cambridge University 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 in 2011 and a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum in 2010. He has received various accolades that include a Google Faculty Research Award, MIT Technovator, IEEE Percom Mark Weiser Award amongst others. In 2014, Prof. Saif was awarded Sitara-I-Imtiaz, one of the highest civil awards by the government of Pakistan, and he was named among the 500 most influential Muslims in the world in 2015-2018. Dr. Saif was appointed the UNESCO Chair for ICT for Development in 2018.