I am an Assistant Professor in the department of Computer Science at the Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS), Pakistan. I am a Fulbright Scholar. I have done my PhD in Computer Science and Language Technologies from Language Technologies Institute, School of Computer Science at Carnegie Mellon University, where I was advised by Roni Rosenfeld. I am also the founding director of the Center for Speech and Language Technologies (CSaLT) at LUMS (previously at ITU).
My research interests include Speech and Natural Language Processing, Speech-based Human Computer Interfaces, and Information & Communication Technologies for Development (ICT4D).
The aim of my research is to enable information access and social connectivity for under-connected and under-served populations (low-literate, low-income, tech na´ve, visually impaired, oral cultures, linguistically and socially marginalized, and geographically remote communities) throughout the developing world. My work shows that speech-based entertainment services and social networks accessible over simple and feature mobile phones can be used as powerful motivators to induce self-training and viral spread among under-connected populations. Such services can be used as vehicles for large-scale dissemination of development-related information, pulling information in the form of real-time surveys and for performing randomized controlled trials and demographic studies. These services provide target users with a voice and a digital social identity.
My doctoral thesis: Polly employed voice-based viral entertainment to familiarize low-literate and non-tech savvy people to telephone-based speech interfaces. Polly acts as a viral conduit for disseminating telephone and speech based development-related services to masses and to implicitly train the general population in the use of such services. In 2012 the use of Polly spread virally in Pakistan from five initial users to 165,000 users who participated in 636,000 calls, over a year. At its peak it was spreading at the rate of 1,000 new users every day. It also attracted 34,000 of its users to Polly-Jobs, a job-audio-browser.
In June 2015, I took up a faculty position at Information Technology University, Lahore, Pakistan and established the Center for Speech and Language Technologies. As of Jan 2020, I have moved to the Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS), Pakistan as an Assistant Professor of Computer Science.