Pakistani computer scientist Dr Umar Saif appointed UNESCO chair for ICTD

Islamabad: World-renowned Pakistani computer scientist Dr Umar Saif has been appointed as the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) Chair for using Information and Communication Technology for Development (ICTD).  Dr Umar Saif is also considered the man behind Punjab’s digital.

This is the first international UNESCO Chair in the field of ICTD and will help Pakistan become a centre of excellence in using Information Technology for development, especially use of technology to address the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), said a press release issued earlier.

Dr Umar Saif, who heads the Punjab Information Technology Board overlooking all public sector IT projects in the country’s most populous province, is a graduate of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Cambridge University. He is the first Pakistani to be named as one of the top 35 innovators in the world by MIT Technology Review (TR35) in 2011, and a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum in 2010.

Dr Saif is also the only Pakistani who has received the Google Faculty Research Award, Mark Weiser Award, MIT Technovator Award and Microsoft Research Digital Inclusion Award. He was also awarded the British Council Outstanding Alumni Award in 2017.

He was bestowed the Sitara-e-Imtiaz by Pakistan Government in 2014, and has been named among the most influential Muslims in the world in 2014-2018.

“This UNESCO chair is a huge honour for Pakistan and is a recognition of our work in using technology to solve problems of the developing world, including access to education, better healthcare, technology-enabled agriculture practices, rural Internet connectivity and digital financial inclusion,” Dr Saif commented on his latest accolade.

“This chair will help Pakistan become a global hub of ICTD… with this, ITU will establish collaborations with world-leading universities such as United Nations University (UNU), Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) and the University of Washington,” he added.

Many international experts congratulated Dr Saif on the award of the prestigious UNESCO chair. According to Dr Richard Andersen from University of Washington, “Umar Saif, as one of the founders of the ICTD field, is uniquely qualified to hold the chair with his thought leadership and record of entrepreneurial accomplishment.”

“Dr Umar Saif is a leading global expert in the field of ICTD and through this chair, he would have an opportunity to make Pakistan a centre of excellence in using technology to address the UN Sustainable Development Goals,” said Dr Roni Rosenfeld of Carnegie Mellon University.

Dr Michael Best of the United Nations University shared his thoughts: “Dr Umar Saif is an ideal person to hold this chair, with a strong international reputation for scholarship and policy impact across the ICTD discipline. Being situated in Pakistan, [the position] gives a powerful perspective on the potential IT has to enhance development, create positive social change, and improve peace and security.”

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