I have recently completed my PhD in Computer Science / Language Technologies from Language Technologies Institute, School of Computer Science at Carnegie Mellon University, advised by Roni Rosenfeld.

My research focuses on the use of Speech and Language Technologies to aid socio-economic development all around the world by enabling dissemination of speech-based, development-related information and communication services to low-literate telephone users; without the benefit of explicit user training. My work shows that speech-based simple entertainment services can be used as powerful motivators to induce self-training and viral spread among low-literate masses. Such services can further be used as vehicles for delivering core development services and as experimental test-beds for performing randomized controlled trials and demographic studies.

My doctoral thesis: Polly employs 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 2014, Polly became viral in India where it was launched in Bangalore collaboration with Babajob.com and Microsoft Research India to spread information about jobs appropriate for low-skilled workers. Polly was also successfully used in Jharkhand and Bihar in collaboration with Jharkhand Mobile Vaani to cross-sell their citizen radio-over-phone platform.

In March 2015, Polly was launched in Guinea in collaboration with the US Embassy in Conakry to spread authoritative and reliable information about Ebola. Polly and its new variant Polly-Sante' (Polly-Health) are currently live in Guinea and are receiving a sustained daily call traffic.

My Resume


I am currently an Assistant Professor in the department of Computer Science at Information Technology University, Punjab, Pakistan


  1. Nikolas Wolfe, Juneki Hong, Agha Ali Raza, Bhiksha Raj and Roni Rosenfeld, Rapid Development of Public Health Education Systems in Low-Literacy Multilingual Environments: Combating Ebola Through Voice Messaging. In SLaTE (Workshop on Speech and Language Technology in Education), Satellite Event of INTERSPEECH 2015, September 4-5, 2015, Leipzig, Germany.

  2. My doctoral thesis: Viral Entertainment as a Vehicle for Disseminating Core Development Services.

  3. Yibin Lin, Agha Ali Raza, Jay-Yoon Lee, Danai Koutra, Roni Rosenfeld and Christos Faloutsos, Influence Propagation: Patterns, Model and a CaseStudy. In PAKDD2014 (The 18th Pacific-Asia Conference on Knowledge Discovery and Data Mining), May 13-16, 2014, Tainan, Taiwan.

  4. Haohan Wang, Agha Ali Raza, Yibin Lin and Roni Rosenfeld, Behavior Analysis of Low-literate Users of a Viral Speech-based Telephone Service. In ACM DEV-4, December 6-7, 2013, Cape Town, South Africa.

  5. Agha Ali Raza, Farhan Ul Haq, Zain Tariq, Umar Saif and Roni Rosenfeld, Spread and Sustainability: The Geography and Economics of Speech-Based Services. In ACM DEV, January 11-12, 2013, Bangalore, India.(Download Extended Abstract)

  6. Agha Ali Raza, Farhan Ul Haq, Zain Tariq, Mansoor Pervaiz, Samia Razaq, Umar Saif and Roni Rosenfeld, Job Opportunities through Entertainment: Virally Spread Speech-Based Services for Low-Literate Users, in Proceedings of the 2013 ACM SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems. April 27-May 2, 2013, Paris, France.(Download Extended Version) (CHI Best Paper Award)

  7. Agha Ali Raza, Mansoor Pervaiz, Christina Milo, Samia Razaq, Guy Alster, Jahanzeb Sherwani, Umar Saif and Roni Rosenfeld, Viral entertainment as a vehicle for disseminating speech-based services to low-literate users, in Proceedings of the Fifth International Conference on Information and Communication Technologies and Development (ICTD '12). ACM, New York, NY, USA, 350-359. DOI=10.1145/2160673.2160715 http://doi.acm.org/10.1145/2160673.2160715.

  8. Agha Ali Raza, Sarmad Hussain, Huda Sarfraz, Inam Ullah, Zahid Sarfraz, An ASR System for Spontaneous Urdu Speech, Oriental COCOSDA 2010 conference, Nov. 24-25, 2010, Katmandu, Nepal.

  9. Huda Sarfraz, Sarmad Hussain, Riffat Bokhari, Agha Ali Raza, Inam Ullah, Zahid Sarfraz, Sophia Pervez, Asad Mustafa, Iqra Javed, Rahila Parveen, Speech Corpus Development for a Speaker Independent Spontaneous Urdu Speech Recognition System, Oriental COCOSDA 2010 conference, Nov. 24-25, 2010, Katmandu, Nepal.

  10. Huda Sarfraz, Sarmad Hussain, Riffat Bokhari, Agha Ali Raza, Inam Ullah, Zahid Sarfraz, Sophia Pervez, Asad Mustafa, Iqra Javed, Rahila Parveen, Large Vocabulary Continuous Speech Recognition for Urdu, International conference on the Frontiers of Information Technologies, December 21-23, 2010, Islamabad, Pakistan.

  11. My masters thesis: Design and Development of an Automatic Speech Recognition System for Urdu, June 2009.

  12. Agha Ali Raza, Sarmad Hussain, Huda Sarfraz, Inam Ullah, Zahid Sarfraz, Design and development of phonetically rich Urdu speech corpus, Proceedings of O-COCOSDA'09 and IEEE Xplore; O-COCOSDA'09, 10-13 Aug 2009, School of Information Science and Engineering of Xinjiang University, Urunqi, China (URL: http://o-cocosda2009.xju.edu.cn).

  13. Agha Ali Raza, Awais Athar, and Sajid Nadeem, N-GRAM Based Authorship Attribution in Urdu Poetry, Proceedings of the Conference on Language and Technology 2009 (CLT09), Lahore, Pakistan, Jan 2009 (URL: http://www.crulp.org/clt09/index.htm).

  14. Agha Ali Raza, Zulfiqar Habib, Manabu Sakai, Interpolation with rational cubic spirals, Proceedings of the 4th IEEE International Conference on Emerging Technologies (IEEE Catalog No. CFP08617, ISBN: 978-1-4244-2211-1, Library of Congress: 2008901427), Rawalpindi, Pakistan, Oct. 2008.

  15. Agha Ali Raza, Asma Zaib, Sana Altaf, Zulfiqar Habib, On a Special case of path planning, Proceedings of the 7th CIIT Workshop on Research in Computing (ISBN: 978-969-8779-18-4), Lahore, Pakistan, June 2008 (URL: www.ciitlahore.edu.pk).


ITU, Punjab Assistant Professor, Department of Computer Science Jun 2015 - now
Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, PA Teaching Assistant of 15-211 Dec 2011 - May 2011
FAST-NU, Lahore Lecturer, Department of Computer Science Aug 2009 - Aug 2010
FAST-NU, Lahore Instructor, Department of Computer Science Jul 2005 - Jul 2009

Courses Taught