"... I was not alone in my struggle"

Investing in technology is the only way forward

Pakistan is a country with a massive youth population. Many young minds, who make up a key demographic, possess the talents needed to take the country forward. All they need the right tools and some support. The provision of resources and opportunities must become a focus for the policymakers. There is no dearth of talent in the country, but there is undoubtedly a lack of dedicated effort to build on the excellent human resource available.

Pakistani youth can easily compete at a global level. However, a lack of proper infrastructure, incisive education policies and ever-rising economic instability are massive setbacks. The country can fully benefit from its youth population if the authorities realise the need for swift action and adequate allocation of efforts and resources.

Muhammad Taimoor Hassan, a FAST University student, recently won the Microsoft Imagine Cup 2021 Nationals and represented Pakistan at Imagine Cup World Finals among 40 teams worldwide.

Microsoft Imagine Cup is a global technology competition held annually. The Imagine Cup brings together student innovators with passion and purpose to tackle social issues with technology. More than 650 teams from all over Pakistan participate every year.

Taimoor Hassan’s project QueryCity is an ed-tech project that aims to provide other students with answers to their questions.

The News on Sunday spoke to Taimoor Hassan recently. Excerpts:

The News on Sunday (TNS): How would you describe your project?

Taimoor Hassan (TH): QueryCity is an ed-tech project, which aims to make education accessible for all. It has an efficient Student’s Search Engine, which features thousands of questions and answers. The idea is to help students save money on books and other expensive resources. QueryCity aims to provide educational support that is accessible to every student at a low cost.

The whole project is based on the idea of a one-stop platform for students, teachers, and parents. They should not have to waste their time and money on trying and checking a lot of different resources.

TNS: What was the motivation behind this project?

TH: During my A levels, I faced problems looking for the right resources, tools to help with test preparation, especially when it came to self-study. So I thought about finding a solution to overcome the issue with an intelligent and efficient tool. I realised also that I was not alone in my struggle; others were facing similar problems. Therefore, I decided to create a tool that is user-friendly and can fit in a pocket.

TNS: How difficult was it to compile such an extensive question bank for the project?

TH: It was a hectic task. It continues because we have to add updated question banks for our users. Starting a colossal task is always exciting. We gathered questions and finalised their answers by taking feedback from students and teachers and updated the repertoire. After three months of dedicated efforts, we ended up curating 8,000-plus questions and their verified answers.

TNS: How effectively can QueryCity help students?

TH: QueryCity is a unique startup. The project is based on the idea of a one-stop platform for students, teachers and parents. They should not have to waste their time and money on trying and checking a lot of resources. QueryCity is a student’s search engine. It can help them find answers to their queries in a click; it works on student’s feedback. The material added is quality-assured and available at the lowest price in the market. On a single app, users can access notes, guides, resources with courses and lectures added by teachers.

TNS: Any takeaways from the Imagine Cup journey?

TH: Participating in such events provides one with considerable exposure. One gets to learn a lot. It is a chance to understand your startup’s strengths and weaknesses.

TNS: What is your take on the opportunities available to youngsters in Pakistan, or their lack thereof?

TH: It is unfortunate to see that neighbouring countries have more than 25 unicorn startups, and Pakistan does not have even one. As a young person, I am optimistic about the future. The government says it is trying to establish more development centres, technology parks and incubation centres. These ventures are bound to motivate the youth to deliver what they can for their country. We are blessed with some of the finest tech experts in this country and there is a lot of untapped talent.

The first few steps are the hardest, i.e., introducing yourself in the market and launching a project. Soon this too will become easier. Investing in technology is the only way forward, as far I can see.

The writer is a journalist based in Lahore

"... I was not alone in my struggle"