Arfa Karim Randhawa, the computer programming prodigy who became the world’s youngest Microsoft Certified Professional at 9 years old, has passed away at the age of 16, according to reports out of her native Pakistan this weekend.
She had been in the hospital for nearly a month after reportedly suffering an epileptic seizure and cardiac arrest. Two weeks ago her outlook appeared to improve. In recent weeks, Microsoft had stepped in to help provide expert medical care.
Back in 2006, at the age of 9, Microsoft owner Bill Gates invited her to visit the company’s headquarters in the US. Software Development Division Vice President Somasegar also acknowledged her achievement in his blog.
She made an impression through a combination of charm, flattery and boldness uncommon for someone her age. For example, during Arfa's meeting with Gates, she presented him with a poem she wrote that celebrated his life story. But she also questioned him about what she perceived to be the relatively small proportion of women on the campus.
"It should be balanced -- an equal amount of men and an equal amount of women," she explained afterward.
About 75 percent of Microsoft employees are men, according to company data. Recounting their conversation, Arfa said Gates acknowledged her concerns and talked about the broader industry's struggles to increase the proportion of women in technology-related fields.
Arfa was studying at the Lahore Grammar School`s Paragon Campus for her A Levels. She also received numerous awards and gold medals from private and government institutions for her achievement.
She received the Fatima Jinnah Gold Medal in the field of science and technology in 2005, besides the Salaam Pakistan Youth Award.
She has also received President’s Award for Pride of Performance. She was invited to Microsoft Headquarters again in November 2006 as a part of the keynote session in the Tech-Ed Developers conference held in Barcelona.
May she rest in peace and be an inspiration for us all to respect youth development and gender equilibrium.