Today is a great day for Dritte. We're proud to announce that MIT Tech Review has selected Umar Saif as one of the top innovators under the age of 35 (informally referred to as the "TR-35 Award"). "The TR35 recognizes the world's top 35 young innovators that are radically transforming technology as we know it. Their work - spanning medicine, computing, communications, energy, electronics and nanotechnology - is changing our world", according to the Tech Review. This is the first time in the past decade that a Pakistani has been recognized by the Tech Review.

Umar has been cited for his works on BitMate and SMSall. Both technologies are aimed at providing better communication infrastructure for developing regions. SMSall is the "Twitter over SMS" that has been used to send nearly 4 billion texts to about 2.4 million users. BitMate, on the other hand, targets slow Internet connections in developing regions, and lets users pool their bandwidth together for faster downloads. BitMate has been downloaded more than 30,000 times by people in 173 countries.

The TechReview cites these two works probably because they were most recently in the news, but there are many other exciting projects that Umar is taking a lead on. He moved back to Pakistan, from MIT, with one goal in mind; use technology in innovative ways for improving the lives of people in developing regions. The MIT TR-35 selection will hopefully help in bringing more attention to this noble cause.
We recently gave a talk at Small Media Symposium 2011 in London, UK. The talk gave a brief overview of Dritte and covered some projects related to content distribution and group communication in developing regions. Below are the slides from the talk:

The Morning Show

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Umar Saif was recently interviewed on Express TV for their morning show. The interview has an interesting discussion about tech for developing regions:


As some of you are aware, I was named a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum earlier this year. Apart from attending the forum meetings, members of the forum run the WEF task forces on global issues.

This year, along with a group of other members, I started the task force on ICT for Development -- aimed at design and use of technology for the developing world with the aim to help alleviate poverty, enable better health care and access to education.

As part of this effort, we ran a small experimental course at LUMS during this summer to explore the use of mobile phones and SMS to provide basic Maths education. Two teams of students independently developed interactive "maths games" that emulate the experience of a student sitting through a real quiz in a classroom setting, albeit using cellphones and SMS. These SMS-based maths games enable a group of people to compete with each other as well as adapt the difficulty of the questions based on the estimated skill of the player. We found that SMS provides a powerful tool for both enhancing interactivity in distance education and for introducing under privileged children to basic maths and sciences.

As part of the course, our students maintained their own blogs, which include preliminary experimental results and video footage of experiments. Take a look at the blogs at:

At this stage, we are seeking more ideas, feedback and partners to develop this idea further. Pakistan has close to 100 million cellphone users -- your ideas on how we can leverage cell phones for education would be very welcome! 

NSDR 2010 (with MobiSys)

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nsdr09_sosp.jpg        After SIGCOMM'07, SIGCOMM'08, and SOSP'09 the NSDR workshop will now be held with MobiSys'10. The idea is that we first introduced the area to the networking community, then the systems community, and now want to involve the mobile computing community with developing regions research. The location (San Francisco) is ideal in many ways and we expect to host a very exciting workshop this year. The picture on the left side is from NSDR'09 at SOSP last year.

The deadline for paper submissions is April 9, 2010. Consider submitting your best works to NSDR. More information here.

Distance Learning Course

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Univ. of Washington, Microsoft Research (Redmond) and LUMS ran a collaborative distance learning course on "Computing for the Developing-world".  The video on the right shows how the classroom presenter technology and tablet PCs were used to enhance interaction between students across the three sites.    

NSDR 2009 (with SOSP)

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nsdr09_acm.png     After Kyoto, Japan and Seattle, WA (both events with SIGCOMM), NSDR is going to Big Sky, MT this year. It will be hosted with SOSP. The rationale is that we already introduced ICTD research to the networking community and now want to involve the systems folks. We are looking forward to a great third workshop. The submission deadline is actually quite close. So its time to start writing up! You can find more information here.

MIT GITA Award 2008

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Umar Saif won the MIT Global Indus Technovator Award for his work on Dritte and commercializing some technology solutions for the developing-world. This award is for South Asians, under the age of 40, who have made outstanding technological or entrepreneurial contributions. More information here. gita-mountain.jpg
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HashCache in MIT TR-10

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hashcahe.jpg     MIT TechReview released their, much anticipated, TR-10 list this week. For the not-so-tech-savvy readers, TR-10 is an annual compilation of the list of "top ten technologies that can change the world". It is exciting to see that technologies for developing regions got their share of the pie in TR-10 for 2009.

MIT TechReview has selected HashCache, a webcache for the next billion, as one of the top technologies this year. More information is here. You can view the full TR-10 list here.

"In most places, networking is more expensive--not only in relative terms but even in absolute terms--than it is in United States," says Vivek Pai, a computer scientist at Princeton University.

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One Million Green Little Laptops

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Negroponte is working with the ministry of defense in Colombia to spread OLPC. The Colombians view this as a strategic defense problem, not as a literacy problem - something that needs to be done in areas like Afghanistan and Pakistan. Fasinating talk.

"So think of it this way. Think of it as inoculating children against ignorance. And think of the laptop as a vaccine. You don't vaccinate a few children, you vaccinate all the children in an area."

- Nicholas Negroponte


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