Updated: Oct 4, 2020
Arfa Kareem (2nd Feb 1995 – 14th Jan 2012), a prodigy, the world's youngest Microsoft professional at nine.
Who knew Kareem would become a technical whizz soon after her father bought her a computer as a child to send emails!
It is not easy to attract the attention of the world's most accomplished entrepreneur like Bill Gates. Technical proficiency is required to become a Microsoft Certified Professional in many areas, including .Net and Windows Server 2003. After qualifying the test at such an early age, Bill Gates was so impressed that he invited her to praise her for her intellect.
Kareem was determined to seek a career in technology, with goals of studying at Harvard.
In an incredibly sad turn, Kareem experienced a cardiac arrest in 2012 at sixteen while studying for her A-Levels in Lahore. While she received the best of medical care, she passed away shortly after.
Arfa's short life mirrors Pakistan's burgeoning battle with information technology, an industry that holds hope for youth alienated by unemployment and a lack of opportunities. Indeed, the young girl worked hard to make a Kamyab Pakistan, representing Pakistan worldwide with her incredible aptitude and skill.
Karim received the Fatimah Jinnah Gold Medal in Science and Technology, presented by the Prime Minister of Pakistan in 2005, and was also the President's Award for Pride of Performance.
In November 2006, she was requested by Microsoft to be a part of the keynote session at the Tech-Ed Developers conference in Barcelona. She was the only Pakistani among over 5,000 developers in that convention, themed 'Get ahead of the game.'
A permanent monument is also erected in her honour.
Pakistan's IT world felt her loss.
The IT Media City in Karachi was renamed after the computer prodigy, and will now be known as Arfa Karim IT Media City, Karachi, according to local media reports. Her father, Col Amjad Karim, says she was particularly concerned about using her skills to help the young, those under-served by IT, and those from villages.
"It is generally understood that computers are for very hi-fi people or rich schools, but nowadays one can be purchased for a few thousand rupees by the poorest of poorest," he told the BBC.
Arfa was intelligent beyond her years. Her passion and vision were truly remarkable for someone so young, Jehan Ara, Pakistan Software Houses Association.
"Arfa's center of gravity was wanting to improve human resource development by focusing on education."
Shoaib Malik, country manager for games company Mindstorm, said:
"It's unfortunate. What was unique about her was that she had a clear vision; she wanted to set up the industry.One thinks only kids who have studied from abroad would have a vision, but it was remarkable. I think whatever God does, does for the better, but had she been alive, she could have played an important role in the IT industry."
Software houses were scattered all over Punjab's various commercial areas. Keeping in mind the global practice in the IT industry, Arfa Software, and Technology Park project was initiated in 2012. Back then, the project's name was Lahore Technology Park, but it was later renamed to honour the memory of late Arfa Karim, a Pakistani computer prodigy who became the youngest Microsoft Certified Professional at age nine in 2014. ASTP is the country's largest Information and Communications Technology Park. Its seventeen-story building is the first such international standard facility in Pakistan. Another motivation for the project was disseminating the Government of Punjab's IT vision to the general public and businesses.
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