July 30, 2020
Mobility21 UTC welcomes Traffic21 Women in Transportation Fellow for 2020-2022, Hajra Shahab.
Hajra Shahab grew up in Karachi [Pakistan], one of the largest and most populated cities in the world. Growing up, she witnessed complex deep-rooted problems in the city such as weak institutional capacity, absence of public transit system and marginalization of vulnerable groups. During her undergraduate studies as an Economics major at Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS), she was able to apply economics and public policy frameworks to real-world issues. However, it was not until she got selected to attend an exchange semester at Waseda University, Japan, her interest in transportation and mobility solidified. Intrigued by a robust and efficient public transit system, Tokyo became a living laboratory for her urban planning interests and helped her trace factors that make cities sustainable and resilient in the long-run.
After finishing her undergraduate in 2018, Hajra worked briefly at a trading company before pursuing her research interests. She was able to take her research forward through a grant received from the Saida Waheed Gender Initiative (SWGI) at LUMS. Her team assessed women mobility patterns which got her interested in exploring multiple dimensions of an Intelligent Transport System (ITS) such as real-time information about bus delays or seat availability making women less vulnerable to harassment. In 2019, Hajra joined Technology for People Initiative (TPI), a research lab jointly funded by Google and the World Bank, as a Research Associate to work on child protection with UNICEF. As the project team lead, she helped in the design and implementation of a novel Information Management System (IMS) to be deployed in 4 provinces of Pakistan. Hajra carried out fieldwork in Balochistan, one of the most marginalized provinces in the country, and assessed existing digital infrastructure of the public offices, mapped possible system integrations and generated user requirements. Designing a bespoke system for people with low levels of digital literacy and different perspectives helped her understand the importance of context in policy design. She wants to further explore child-centric community planning such as transport connectivity especially in hotspot areas of child abuse that can mitigate the odds of school dropouts due to long commute; an issue that currently stands at 53% in Pakistan for females.
Her budding interest in data-driven policymaking also stems from her work on Pakistan’s 1st open data portal at the National Center in Big Data and Cloud Computing (NCBC) at LUMS in collaboration with Higher Education Commission (HEC). She supervised a group of researchers on large datasets, including crime, education, and financial inclusion. She strongly believes making data accessible to the public can also help in developing more democratic and participatory planning processes, empower people and help in meaningful civic engagement.
During her time at Heinz, she would like to continue to understand how users interact with cities and transportation systems, specifically. She believes Carnegie Mellon University’s MSPPM program will provide her with an opportunity to master her data and policy skillset, engage with interdisciplinary groups, and explore technological breakthroughs to develop smarter, and well-connected mobility networks in cities.
Hajra says, “It is an honor to have earned the Traffic21 Women in Transportation Fellowship. I strongly believe that this fellowship has brought me a step closer to my career aspirations in transportation and mobility. Traffic21 is steering discussion around transportation in the 21st century, and I believe this futuristic approach will provide me with unparalleled exposure to cutting edge research, mentoring, and technological advancements.”
Learn more about all the Mobility21 student leaders here: https://mobility21.cmu.edu/about/leadership/student-leadership/.
The Traffic21 Women in Transportation fellowship provides financial support to an incoming student who is entering either the Carnegie Mellon University Heinz College MSPPM (Public Policy and Management) or MISM (Information Systems Management) degree programs. Students who have demonstrated an interest and commitment to Intelligent Transportation Systems are eligible to apply for the fellowship. The fellow’s work supports the Mobility21 University Transportation Center’s activities.