While many young tech wizards strive to invent the next iPad, Umar Saif is working to bring Internet-style networking to millions of Pakistanis who don’t have access to the Web. He could shake up the country’s politics in the process.
The trigger for his research was a 2005 earthquake in Pakistan, when rescue workers were having trouble coordinating. Saif, 32, devised a computer program that allowed people to send a text message — or SMS — to thousands of people at once.
Since then it has blossomed into a service called SMS-all used by 2.5 million people.
Saif has co-founded several startups playing an important role in supporting civil society during political turbulence and natural disasters in the recent times in Pakistan. He co-founded See`n`Report, Pakistan’s first citizen journalism service, useful during media bans to report eyewitness accounts using their cell-phones.
The MIT Technology Review named Saif among its list of the 35 “World’s Top Young Innovators for the year 2011 who are radically transforming technology — the first Pakistani to have made the list in the last decade.
(READ about the AP story in Boston.com)