Umar Saif

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Umar Saif
Picture of Dr. Umar Saif from an event at Arfa Software Technology Park
Vice-Chancellor of the Information Technology University
In office
20 January 2013 – 12 November 2018
Chairman of the Punjab Information Technology Board
In office
November 2011 – 12 November 2018
Succeeded byHabib-ur-Rehman Gilani
Personal details
Alma materLahore University of Management Sciences
University of Cambridge
Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Umar Saif (Urdu: عمر سیف‎; born 1979) is a Pakistani computer scientist and academic. He served as the vice-chancellor of the Information Technology University from January 2013 to November 2018 and as chairman of the Punjab Information Technology Board from November 2011 to November 2018.

After studying computer science at the Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS), Saif received his doctorate from the University of Cambridge at the age of 22. He then moved to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) where he completed his post-doctorate degree. Saif returned to Pakistan in 2005 and joined LUMS where he taught as an associate professor of computer science between 2006 and 2013.


Saif attended Aitchison College before enrolling at Lahore University of Management Sciences where he obtained a bachelor of science degree in computer science[1] in 1998.[2] He received a doctor of philosophy degree in computer science from the University of Cambridge at the age of 22[3] in 2001.[2] In 2002 he received a post-doctorate degree[3] from MIT, also in computer science.[2][4] From 2001 to 2005 he taught at MIT[1] and worked at the MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) as a research scientist,[2] becoming part of the team which developed Project Oxygen.[3]


Upon returning to Pakistan in 2005,[5] Saif joined LUMS[6] where he worked as an associate professor of computer sciences between 2006 and 2013.[7] He became one of the youngest tenured professors at LUMS[5] in 2009.[7] While teaching full-time, Saif carried out several research projects.[5]

In 2010 Saif was named as Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum.[3] In 2011 he was placed on MIT's TR35 list, naming him as one of the world's top 35 young innovators[2] for developing a bittorrent client, BitMate, and a text message-based social network, SMSall.[6][8][9] The same year he became the first Pakistani to receive the Google's Faculty Research Award.[2][10] Upon learning of his achievements the Chief Minister of the Punjab, Shahbaz Sharif, invited Saif to head the Punjab Information Technology Board (PITB).[5] In November 2011 he was appointed Chairman of the PITB.[3][5] In his role as Chairman of the PITB Saif was made responsible for all public-sector information technology projects in Punjab.[3] In 2012 he established Pakistan's first technology incubator, Plan 9,[11] with financial support from the government[12] and became known for introducing the startup culture to Pakistan.[5] He also founded Pakistan's first start-up incubator, SCI.[13] In response to the 2011 outbreak of dengue fever in Pakistan PITB, under Saif's supervision, developed a smartphone-based early warning system to assist medical teams in curbing the outbreaks[14] which received extensive recognition.[15][16][17] He was also commended for computerizing the land records in Punjab.[18]

On 20 January 2013 Saif was appointed as the first and founding Vice Chancellor of the Information Technology University (ITU) by the Government of Punjab.[2] At the age of 34, he became the youngest vice chancellor of a university in Pakistan at the time.[3][5] In November 2016 he was inducted into the Punjab provincial cabinet of Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif and was appointed as an adviser to the Chief Minister.[7] In March 2017 Saif began co-hosting the reality television series Idea Croron Ka as a business expert.[19]

On 12 November 2018, the government of Punjab asked Saif to step down from the office of chairman of the PITB and Vice Chancellor of Information Technology University.[20][21] During his term as chairman of the PITB, more than 300 projects were carried out.[22]


In 2006, Saif received the Digital Inclusion Award from Microsoft Research.[13][23] In 2008 he received the MIT Technovator Award.[18] The same year he received the Mark Weiser Award and the IDG CIO Technology Pioneer Award.[4][13][24] In August 2014 Saif was awarded the Sitara-i-Imtiaz by the Government of Pakistan for his services in the field of education and information technology.[25] In 2015 and again in 2016 he was named as one of the 500 most influential Muslims.[18] In March 2017 he was awarded the Alumni Award in the professional achievement award category by the British Council.[26] In April 2018, he was appointed UNESCO chair for using Information and Communication Technology for Development.[27]

In May 2018, Bill Gates commended Saif for enabling Pakistan to use technology for immunisation coverage.[28][29]


  1. ^ a b "World-recognised scientist leading PITB". The Nation. 4 May 2012. Retrieved 19 March 2018.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g "Umer Saif made IT University VC". DAWN.COM. 20 January 2013. Retrieved 19 March 2018.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g "A Professor With A Western Past Remakes Pakistan's Entrepreneurial Future". Forbes. 3 February 2014. Retrieved 19 March 2018.
  4. ^ a b "Profile". Global Indus Technovator Awards. Retrieved 23 March 2018.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g "Umar Saif: rebel with a cause – The Express Tribune". The Express Tribune. 18 February 2017. Retrieved 19 March 2018.
  6. ^ a b "Meet the man propelling Pakistan into the digital age – The Express Tribune". The Express Tribune. 9 October 2015. Retrieved 23 March 2018.
  7. ^ a b c "New responsibility: Dr Saif now Punjab chief minister's adviser – The Express Tribune". The Express Tribune. 30 November 2016. Retrieved 23 March 2018.
  8. ^ "Black clouds and silver linings". DAWN.COM. 2 January 2012. Retrieved 22 March 2018.
  9. ^ "Innovator Under 35: Umar Saif, 32". MIT Technology Review. MIT Technology Review. Retrieved 22 March 2018.
  10. ^ "Dr Saif posted as IT Uni VC". The Nation. 20 June 2013. Retrieved 19 March 2018.
  11. ^ "Young entrepreneurs: Punjab IT Board to launch technology incubator – The Express Tribune". The Express Tribune. 29 August 2012. Retrieved 23 March 2018.
  12. ^ "Pakistan's tech talents find app success – CNN". CNN. Retrieved 23 March 2018.
  13. ^ a b c "Umar Saif". World Economic Forum. Retrieved 23 March 2018.
  14. ^ "Why Umar Saif is an extraordinary Pakistani - The Express Tribune". The Express Tribune. 13 April 2018. Retrieved 18 April 2018.
  15. ^ "The power of Android: How smartphones are swatting out dengue in Lahore – Hindustan Times". Hindustan Times. 25 November 2014. Retrieved 23 March 2018.
  16. ^ "Zapping mosquitoes, and corruption". The Economist. 1 June 2013. Retrieved 23 March 2018.
  17. ^ "How Smartphones Became Vital Tools Against Dengue In Pakistan". Retrieved 23 March 2018.
  18. ^ a b c "Alumni Award 2017 announced for Dr Umar Saif Punjab IT Board's achievements being recognized at home, abroad – PakObserver". PakObserver. 5 March 2017. Retrieved 23 March 2018.
  19. ^ "You're Hired!". Newsweek Pakistan. 18 March 2017. Retrieved 23 March 2018.
  20. ^ "Dr Umar Saif asked to quit". The News. Retrieved 20 November 2018.
  21. ^ "Dr Umar Saif steps down as PITB chairman | The Express Tribune". The Express Tribune. 12 November 2018. Retrieved 20 November 2018.
  22. ^ "Dr Umar Saif steps down as PITB chairman". The Express Tribune. 13 November 2018. Retrieved 12 December 2018.
  23. ^ "Microsoft Research Awards $1.7 Million in Academic Funding to Advance Research in Health, Education and Digital Inclusion: Company names 28 Digital Inclusion and Tablet PC RFP winners worldwide". Microsoft. 27 June 2006. Retrieved 23 March 2018.
  24. ^ "MIT honours Dr Umar Saif". Retrieved 23 March 2018.
  25. ^ "President confers civil awards for excellence in various fields". Retrieved 23 March 2018.
  26. ^ "Winners of UK Alumni Awards 2017 announced – Daily Times". Daily Times. 6 March 2017. Retrieved 23 March 2018.
  27. ^ "Pakistani computer scientist Dr Umar Saif appointed UNESCO chair for ICTD". Geo. 18 April 2018. Retrieved 18 April 2018.
  28. ^ "Bill Gates recognises Pakistan's use of innovative systems for immunisation coverage | Pakistan Today". Retrieved 12 December 2018.
  29. ^ "Bill Gates acknowledges Pakistan's use of innovative methods for immunisation". The Express Tribune. 10 May 2018. Retrieved 12 December 2018.