LAHORE: Dr Umar Saif has been asked to step down from the posts of Chairman of the Punjab Information Technology Board (PITB) and Vice Chancellor of Information Technology University (ITU). The announcement was made at Lahore’s Arfa Software Technology Park.
As chairman of PITB, Dr Saif headed all public sector IT projects in the Punjab province. The board completed more than 300 projects in this time period, and fundamentally transformed governance in the province. The PITB served as the essential driving force behind modernisation of governance techniques in various sectors including education, health, law and order, and governance.
After the dengue epidemic in Punjab, the PITB developed a smartphone-based tracking and early epidemic warning system. They also launched a system called e-Vaccs under which vaccinators in Punjab were equipped with smartphones containing applications to digitise their field work, monitor attendance and performance. In Punjab, the attendance of field workers increased from 36% to 94% and geographical coverage increased from 25% to 88% in just two years. The Board also helped replicate this programme in KP and Balochistan so the project is now functional in three out of four provinces in Pakistan.
To improve health services by ensuring presence and punctuality of doctors and other staff, the PITB launched biometric attendance devices in every DHQ, THQ, RHC and BHU in the province. These check-in devices are used daily by over 70,000 medical staff and have improved attendance from 53% to 87% in a mere span of two years.
The education system in public schools of Pakistan is plagued by many problems, including ghost schools, teacher absenteeism, bogus student enrollment and poor quality of education. To eliminate these issues, the Board launched an extensive school monitoring system in Punjab where random inspections of each school is carried out every month. The monitoring officers now had to upload geo-tagged reports with pictures of the attendance register and school headmaster onto applications on computer tablets, which helped solve the issues of ghost schools. More than two million inspections have been carried out using this system and all the data is available for the public at http://open.punjab.gov.pk. To solve the problems of poor learning outcomes and teaching standards, the PITB digitised all the textbooks in Punjab from grades 6 through grade 10 and augmented them with thousands of interactive multimedia components. This content is freely available at http://elearn.punjab.gov.pk and is being rolled out in over 1,000 middle schools in Punjab.
Pakistan’s 117-year-old arcane stamp paper system causes significant pilferage in stamp duty due to undervalued property transactions. In addition, there are also a large number of property disputes due to fake and back-dated stamp papers. The PITB replaced all (high denomination non-judicial, and all judicial) stamp papers with e-stamps — effectively solving this issue. Citizens can now buy e-stamps with a uniquely traceable verification number from a private bank, starting with the Bank of Punjab. Over Rs75 billion e-stamps have been issued throughout the province and a pilferage of over Rs10 billion annually has been eliminated.
In order to facilitate the public who have to visit government offices and often wait in queues to receive citizen services such as domiciles and birth certificates, the PITB helped set up e-Khidmat centers. The centers are now operational in many cities of Punjab with close to 20 different services being provided under one roof with a guaranteed turnaround time. To date, these centers have served over 1.8 million citizens.
His other achievements include being named a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum in 2010, a Google Faculty Research Award and the MIT Technovator Award for his work on grassroots technologies. Dr. Saif is a former faculty member at the Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS) and has a PhD in Computer Science from the University of Cambridge.