Grassroots and Development Category

Dr. Umar Saif

Prof. Umar Saif is Associate Professor of Computer Science at LUMS, Pakistan and a social entrepreneur. He received his academic training from LUMS, Cambridge and MIT. He did his BSc (Hons) from LUMS (1998), PhD from University of Cambridge (2001) and Postdoctorate from MIT (2002), all in Computer Science. Dr. Saif worked and taught at the MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) as a research scientist for four years, where he was part of the group (O2S) that developed system technologies for project Oxygen -- a US$28 million project sponsored by the US Department of Defense (DARPA) and an industrial Alliance of world-class companies including Nokia, HP, Compaq, NTT DoCommo, Phillips, Acer and Delta. While at MIT, Dr. Saif also managed the multi-million dollar collaboration on future computing technologies between University of Cambridge and MIT sponsored by the Cambridge-MIT Institute (CMI) and a consortium of high-tech British companies. Dr. Saif is a Fellow of the Cambridge Commonwealth Trust. He was awarded the Mark Weiser Award at IEEE Percom'08, Digital Inclusion Award from Microsoft Research in 2006 and the IDG CIO Technology Pioneer Award in 2008. His research has been featured in popular media, including BBC, New Scientist, MIT Technology Review, Distributed Systems Online, and Dawn News.

Dr. Saif currently leads the initiative ( for bridging the digital divide. Funded by Microsoft Research, USAID/US State Department, Higher Education Commission and the Punjab Information Technology Board, Dritte focuses on developing both hardware and software infrastructure, specifically designed for the physical, social and economic realities of developing countries. Dr. Saif’s recent work on Poor Man’s Broadband and are aimed at developing a radical new Internet architecture for the developing-world. Poor Man’s Broadband and enable users in the developing-world to access Internet at a much higher speed than is possible in the developing-world. Using Dr. Saif’s technologies, users can dynamically “merge” or donate the bandwidth of their dialup connections to help those with low-bandwidth connections to download data faster.

Dr. Saif has successfully commercialized some of his technology solutions for the developing-world. His venture ( enables a mailing-list style communication over the cell-phone SMS service. Often dubbed the Twitter of Pakistan, ChOpaal is currently the largest mobile social network in Pakistan and routes millions of SMS per month for many communities including political activists, rescue workers, health workers, NGOs, student groups etc. Likewise, Dr. Saif is a co-founder of See`n`Report ( -- Pakistan’s largest citizen journalism service, which became the de facto place for the civil society to report news and voice their opinions during times of political unrest, emergency and media bans in Pakistan.

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Dr. Shetal Shah

Dr.Shetal Shah graduated Magna Cum Laude from Princeton University with a degree in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology before attending medical school at Cornell University Medical College, where he graduated with Honors. After graduation, Dr. Shah completed a three-year residency in pediatrics at Duke University Children’s Hospital, where he first learned of the impact that transport has on premature infants and the resultant impact of inflammation on their lung development. Dr. Shah then returned to New York City to complete a three-year fellowship in Neonatal and Perinatal Medicine, where he collaborated with the physics and engineering departments to develop the transport monitoring device and conducted the first pilot studies. Dr.Shah is currently an Assistant Professor of Neonatal Medicine at Stony Brook University Children’s Hospital where he is working to unravel the basic molecular mechanisms behind the newly-discovered comorbidity – transport-induced lung disease. Dr.Shah is board certified in Pediatric, Neonatal and Perinatal Medicine, has been appointed to the Fulbright Scholarship Roster, has been named by the Association of Physicians from India (AAPI) as the “Most Distinguished Young Physician” and received a leadership award by the American Medical Association. Technology Review Magazine named Dr.Shah as one of the top young innovators in medicine in 2007.

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