The innovative spirit of Pakistanis never ceases to amaze me.
Burhan and his team at the Punjab Information Technology Board built a smart-phone based monitoring system that lets the government track its dengue prevention efforts in real-time using location based pictures.
Sidra and Muhammed founded an internet e-commerce service last year and started selling handmade leather shoes to the world from a warehouse in Okara (they now employ 11 people); Qari Khalil from Rawalpindi uses Skype to teach Quran to students in the US and Farasat Iqbal, another Punjab government employee, makes clever use of Internet enabled phones to work out when rural health clinics need more medicines.
What do these people have in common? They’re overcoming the odds; making creative use of technology to grow the economy and make a positive impact on society. They’re our innovation heroes. They work through electricity shortages, infrastructure deficits, and regulatory barriers.
Next week we’ll launch an Innovation Punjab campaign, with the support of Google Inc, to put innovation and technology on top of our agenda. The aim of the campaign is to shape Punjab government policies across key governance issues.
It’s a clarion call to Pakistanis at home and abroad to help us enable thousands more heroes across Pakistan make use of technology to boost our economy, drive social innovation and improve society.
Working across sectors with government colleagues, entrepreneurs, industry and civil society, we can harness our tech-savvy youth to drive the development of an information technology ecosystem that is optimised for creativity and originality.
The campaign, to be launched on August 16 in Lahore, focuses on how the government can automate business processes, facilitate access to fast and cheap internet and e-payment mechanisms to open new avenues for entrepreneurs, seek feedback from citizens to improve service delivery and identify corruption, open a data platform to bring transparency to the government; work with industries and universities to cultivate the high-tech industry and create real-time access to the latest market prices to improve the livelihood of farmers.
We’re doing this because it shouldn’t be too hard. We want to lower the barriers to entry to enable all citizens of Punjab to benefit from technology.
Today, there are too many barriers. One barrier is cheap, widespread and fast access to the internet; another is the lack of an easy-to-use online payment system.
A good start to improve the regulatory framework for innovation is simply to highlight the barriers that are discouraging innovation and bring them to the top of the policy agenda.
Our vision for Punjab is for there to be many more people like Mohammed and Sidra, who are not only selling handmade shoes around the world, but also driving our economy and promoting Pakistan.
Dr Umar Saif is associate professor of computer science at LUMS and is currently working as the chairman of the Punjab Information Technology Board (PITB).
Published in The Express Tribune, August 12th, 2012.
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Thumbs up Dr. Umar Saif! & Thumbs up Punjab Government! Looking forward to see positive results of these programs.
so google will now be practically tracking our punjab government's every single move? AMAZING BLIZZARD :@
There is a gap between govt. and common ppl. Govt. should highlight issues and requirements, invite colleges and university students to work and do research on it. This will greatly help Govt. to find out quick solutions.
Thanks Allah, I live in Lahore..
This could really be big, I am sure this will change how startups born and grow in Pakistan.
I hope other provinces will follow this, we have large number of young folks in Pakistan which can be change their lives if our Governments support innovation.
At Hometown, we're have been and still are fighting with odds and creating ways to success. Now things are going to be even better if Govt is willing to support.
Great Work , Keep it up.
Hats off to the PITB Team. Some people really are motivated towards bringing a positive change in Pakistan.
Wish you all the success. Keep up the good work !!
Well done Shahbaz..
Great step Dr. Umar and thank you CM for listening to him. Alongside giving access to cheap broadband Internet and online payment systems we do need to motivate people to think about innovation and generate ideas which solve real world problems. We need to foster that culture among the masses, sharing success stories in English newspapers or through shared posts on Facebook and Twitter get you to only 10% of privileged top while that will definitely help but why can't Punjab Govt. reach a student of 6th grade in Dera Allah Yar Govt. High School and inspire him to become innovator and facilitate him to pursue his dreams? He may not be a top grade student to get into LUMS outreach program (or maybe unlucky to even hear about that) but he may think of 100 innovative ideas a day to earn money, there should be programs which tell that student "Ok dude, the dreams you see are not illusions - there are people out there who do these things everyday.. so you need to keep on thinking and do experiments in your computer/science laboratory and then there will be some competition in which you can present your idea and win recognition".
When you identify a fertile land and know local people don't know how to grow crops, you go.. gather them around and teach them how to sow seed and then teach them for a whole season when to irrigate and when to harvest - after one season you are done and can go up to create markets. Providing Internet access and payment systems are like the infrastructures you are laying for the crops to grow (which is of incredible importance as well at first place) but teaching the masses to think critically is another step.
I don't know who in Punjab Govt. came up with the idea of aero-modelling show at Minar-e-Pakistan but that is going to inspire some kids down in Iqbal Park today, the next step should be a competition in which we provide aero-modelling kits to Govt. schools who apply and then organize a competition for those kids, similarly next can be a lego robots competition for class 5 students in Govt. primary schools, you can pick 5 enthusiast volunteers from each district, teach them those kits and send them to each primary school with those kits to teach one of their teachers and then to students about how to build a lego robot - "inspire them" - then those 5 can be given the task to organize a local competition at their district level and then bring the winner to a provincial level competition.
That is just an example and I know minor details don't go in a policy document but my point is obviously that we are implementing an innovation policy but alone providing Internet access or payment systems or starting OCW's which no one get to know about - is definitely going to help innovate but we need to go a level down and really think about fostering a culture of innovation among masses.
Apart from that Dr. Umar, you are doing great in that seat, Plan 9 Incubation Program and Innovation policy is great - next thing you should go with your "Tech Stars" style program as well and get that Geo TV which beams into every corner of the province to do something good for society.
Hats-off to PITB leadership
Waiting for PTI SMT to criticize this project too :p
Read something really awesome after loooong time. It makes me glad when governments bring in smart ways of creating jobs with limited resources and ofcourse energy crisis Pakistan faces.
Its good news just 2 days earlier of Independence day. Congratulations to CM Punjab Shehbaz Sharif sb for realizing the need of the hour and getting it executed and ofcourse Chairman PITB Dr. Umar Saif for making it happen in short span of time.
Pakistanis should be hopeful and shouldn't always remain pessimist. Good things are happening and eventually will take us out from current crisis.
Fantastic. Government of Punjab is doing some neat work, with pretty competent people driving it. Kudos Dr. Umar Saif.
Another great initiative by the Punjab IT Board, wish you best of luck Dr. Saif. I hope you achieve what you have envisioned. Best of luck!
Sounds wonderful. Great work Umar Saif & Punjab Govt
Waqas and Sidra are stars and we are so proud that we decided to fund and mentor them through the [email protected] Social Innovation Fund. If we can create similar successes by supporting young people with brilliant ideas, Pakistan's economy will grow and a lot of problems that we face will be solved.