Select your localized edition:

Close ×

More Ways to Connect

Discover one of our 28 local entrepreneurial communities »

Be the first to know as we launch in new countries and markets around the globe.

Interested in bringing MIT Technology Review to your local market?

MIT Technology ReviewMIT Technology Review - logo


Now Available: Innovators Under 35 2013 See The 2013 List »

Umar Saif, 32

Improving connectivity in poor nations

Lahore University of Management Sciences

Credit: Warrick Page/Getty Images

In Pakistan, the bandwidth of an average landline is about 32 kilobits per second (as of 2011, the average broadband speed in the United States was 5.3 megabits per second). It can take more than 20 minutes to download a five-megabyte file—assuming the connection doesn't drop during that time, as it frequently does. To help relieve the frustration, Umar Saif developed ­BitMate. The software lets different users in the same area pool the bandwidth of their connections to reduce download times, typically by half. Released in February, the software has already been downloaded more than 30,000 times by people in 173 countries.

Saif previously created a service that linked mobile phones into groups so that mass SMS messages could be sent. Since its launch in 2008, it has been used to send nearly four billion texts to about 2.4 million users in Pakistan, and the service, now called SMSall, has been used to coördinate protests, find missing persons, and organize blood drives. This summer Saif began expanding SMSall beyond Pakistan to Nigeria, Iraq, Bangladesh, and the Philippines. "SMS is the door to the world for many people," he says. —Kristina Bjoran

2011 TR35 Winners

Bhaskar Krishnamachari (video)

Smarter wireless networks

Ajit Narayanan (video)

Affordable speech synthesizers

Umar Saif

Improving connectivity in poor nations


More Innovators Under 35: