Photo by GBC-Education. / Left, Zeeshan Usmani with colleague, Syed Tajammul Hussain, right, following U.N. Youth Assembly.
In a small lecture room at the U.N. 50-plus teenagers and young adults crowded around a projector as PredictifyMe co-founder Zeeshan-Ul-Hassan Usmani read off startling statistics revealing the real danger many children across the world face when going to school: There is a Suicide Bombing Attack in Pakistan every 6th day. There is an attack on school in Pakistan every 72 hours. As the designer and co-founder of the U.S.-based data sciences and predictive analytics firm PredictifyMe, Usmani was leading a workshop on using technology to save youth. It was the second day of the U.N.’s annual Youth Assembly, and just weeks earlier Usmani had rolled out the firm’s technology within the very first school in Islamabad, the capital city of Pakistan.
Though the figures were enough to leave the entire lecture hall reeling with fears of the future of Pakistan’s education sector, Usmani made it clear that similar acts of violence are not limited to the country alone. Colombia, for instance, documented 1,000-plus attacks on schools between 2009 and 2012 and 1,086 death threats targeting teachers. And in Afghanistan, there were more than 1,110 attacks on schools during the same time period, including arson attacks, explosions, and suicide bombings leaving staff threatened, killed, or kidnapped. Pakistan, though, where Usmani was raised as one of fourteen, is one of the most dangerous places on earth for children to go to school.
Originally conceived through his PhD in computer science, Usmani’s dissertation-turned-social-initiative, is able to predict the probability of a suicide bombing and subsequent damage and injuries in any given area in realtime. Through a partnership with Pakistan government, GBC-Education, the U.N. Special Envoy for Global Education, and UNICEF, PredictifyMe is offering its cutting-edge technology to help schools assess its risk to violent attacks and identify recommendations to make schools safer. The school in Islamabad was the first of 1,000 Pakistani schools that will pilot Usmani’s software to make accessing learning safer for children.
After the most recent meeting with Fawad Hassan Fawad, the Additional Secretary to Pakistan’s Prime Minister, in late July, Usmani confirmed that the second half of their pilot may move much more quickly than originally anticipated. Considering the quarter million schools in Pakistan that could benefit from this technology, PredicitifyMe also plans to train an in-country team of law enforcement agencies, education department officials, and National Disaster Management Authority officials among others to continue PredictifyMe’s rollout. Following the success of this pilot, Usmani says they hope to expand across Pakistan before exploring the potential of using PredictifyMe software in other countries to make Safe Schools, especially Nigeria and the countries affected by the Syrian crisis.