Innovation can unlock Bangladesh’s development challenges

Sep 24, 2013

Youth from different places gathered and shared their innovative ideas in Social Good Summit-2013. Photo: UNDP Bangladesh.

Speakers, discussants and participants at the second annual Social Good Summit agreed that ICT led innovation could unlock Bangladesh’s development challenges.

The event on 25 September was organised by the United Nations Development Programme in partnership with BRAC, Ericsson and BASIS brought together development practitioners, community mobilizers, innovators and a large cross-section of the youth to Dhaka University’s Nabab Nawab Ali Chowdhury Senate Bhaban.

The far ranging discussions were kicked off by H.E. Dr. Shirin Sharmin Chaudhury, Honorable Speaker of the Parliament of Bangladesh who spoke at the event via a live stream from the parliament.

“Today, thanks to technology, we are able to save millions of lives from natural disasters by sending out early warnings through SMS’es.  We are on track with the Millennium Development Goals, especially with Goal 2: Education for All with e-learning centers, reaching the hardest to access children across the country,” said Dr. Shirin Sharmin Chowdhury.

She went on to say that the youth are at the heart of the digital transformation of Bangladesh and they are bold enough to challenge limits to find innovative solutions and market linkages.

Pro Vice Chancellor of Dhaka University, Professor Nasreen Ahmad also spoke at the event and highlighted the convergence of technology and education as a catalyst for development in Bangladesh.

“In the last couple of decades, especially with the rise of mobile technology, we have witnessed waves of change in Bangladesh where we are finding ways to improve our quality of life through innovations. The Government is taking the initiative to convert all public school text books to digital talking books for the visually challenged,” said Professor Ahmad when highlighting the union between technology, innovation and development.

UNDP Resident Representative Neal Walker also at the event with a prerecorded message where he spoke about the power of human-centric technology - simple, available and accessible technology that has saved millions of lives.

Ms. Pauline Tamesis, UNDP Country Director talked about the importance of the summit and how it offers the youth of a nation a chance to be heard. She said, “It is the youth who will have to take on the challenge of transforming Bangladesh. This conference is our way of recognizing the power of simple, low cost solutions which can have a tremendous impact on the lives of millions across the world.”

Gary Dewing, Managing Director of Ericsson in Bangladesh, said the timing of event could not be better with the introduction of 3G round the corner. He challenged the participants to come up with ideas that would change Bangladesh when he said, “What do you think Bangladesh will be the in networked society? Can you combat traffic jams, education for all, jobs, citizen rights better with every device connected to each other? The Social Good Summit is where we should discuss these ideas.”

Asif Saleh, Senior Director of Strategy, Communications and Capacity Division of BRAC said, “Our first priority needs to be to get the majority of young people connected. We must not forget that just introducing a technology is only the first step - managing the change process is a far bigger task.”

The summit included two sessions, one on responding to crises where amongst others actor and community organizer Iresh Zaker spoke. The second session looked forward to Bangladesh in 2030 where among others Snigdha Ali of BRAC and Anir Chowdhury, Policy Advisor, a2i spoke. Over 600 students, development practitioners, activists and innovators attended the summit.