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South Asia

How can “Fab Lab” help boost innovation and entrepreneurship in Bangladesh’s universities?

Saori Imaizumi's picture
fab lab innovations
Student’s project for the blind person (left), analogue fabrication lab (right)

Recently, an undergraduate engineering student from Khulna University of Engineering and Technology (KUET) in Bangladesh showed me his mobile app that helps a blind person navigate while enabling family and friends to track their whereabouts. I was impressed with his capacity to apply electronics, geographic information system, and programming knowledge to develop a real-life solution.
 
Like this student, the ability to innovate harnessing existing talent and infrastructure already exist in Bangladesh. Leading universities, like Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (BUET), KUET, Bangladesh Agricultural University, and University of Dhaka already have analog fabrication labs for molding, casting, wood and metal workshops and robotics. The BUET even has a 3D printer, although it is an early version. What is missing is a transformation from analog to digital to improve precision, design, and speed of fabrication and prototyping, a market-oriented product development, and multi-disciplinary teaching, learning, research, and entrepreneurship to advance innovation.
                                         
A local innovation ecosystem has also been emerging. Last year, the first hardware startup competition called “Make-a-thon” (website and video) connected young entrepreneurs, industries, and professors to jointly make solutions. BRAC has also organized a 36-hour hackathon event called “Bracathon” to provide a platform for the youth to make mobile applications for social innovation.
 
To foster innovation and university-industry partnership, the Higher Education Quality Enhancement Program (HEQEP), have been supporting Universities with an Academic Innovation Fund (AIF). To accelerate this effort, the project team organized a workshop on the digital fabrication laboratory (Fab Lab) potential to introduce Fab Lab concept.

How can South Asian countries make the most of urbanization?

Ede Ijjasz-Vasquez's picture
The World Bank recently completed a comprehensive study that looks into the specifics of urban development across South Asia, and provides policy recommendations to help countries in the region build more prosperous, livable cities. One of the most innovative features of this South Asia Urbanization Review is that it relies extensively on geospatial mapping and satellite imagery, especially night-time light data. This approach allowed World Bank experts to overcome the lack of reliable, cohesive urbanization data across South Asian countries, and to measure the footprint of urban settlements in a consistent way. They quickly found out that urban expansion in South Asia remains largely unplanned, and often spreads to areas that are not officially considered urban - prompting them to describe urbanization in the region as "hidden" and "messy". In this video, Peter Ellis provides a more detailed overview of the main findings, and describes how South Asian countries have a unique opportunity to get urbanization right as their cities continue to grow.

Everyone needs tech skills, not just youth

Piotr Lewandowski's picture
We need to make sure that older workers and those already in the work force have the skills to take advantage of technological change. The ongoing debate on how advancing technology impact the demand for labor sets up a dichotomy. The future will be a utopia or a dystopia; as work reduces, society will face either unprecedented abundance or deepening inequality. But these transitions will not occur suddenly, nor will they be binary. And they will happen in very different ways depending on which firms adopt technology, and how workers might be able to respond. It is not just about youth in education; countries need to develop lifelong learning to ensure existing workers do not fall into a skills gap.

Shining some light on public procurement in India

Shanker Lal's picture
 Photo: © Simone D. McCourtie / World Bank

In large, developing countries the government spends much of its budget on social safety net programs and building infrastructure, which involves procuring goods and services. But the ways in which these goods and services are purchased – the procurement process – can sometimes be inefficient and opaque to citizens. The procurement data is not easy to find or easy to understand; the policies are not always clear. In short, taxpayers often don’t know how their money is being spent.

In India, with help from the World Bank, there’s a promising initiative that is trying to address this problem, which is fundamentally one of transparency and accountability in government. But it is entering a critical new phase, in which it will need to become more self-sufficient and wean itself off of the initial World Bank seed funding.

Emergency response in the Whatsapp era!

Deepak Malik's picture
Cyclone Hudhud.  Photo Credit: NASA Earth Observatory
On October 12, 2014, Cyclone Hudhud, a category 4 cyclone with wind speeds exceeding 220 km/hour bore down on to the city of Vishakhapatnam in the state of Andhra Pradesh on the eastern coast of India. The city, with a population of over 1.8 million people and neighboring districts suffered massive devastation. The World Bank’s South Asia Disaster Risk Management team jointly undertook a post-disaster damage and needs assessment with a team from the Asian Development Bank and with the Government of Andhra Pradesh with the support of Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR).

 
Whatsapp Messages
Whatsapp to help restore connectivity. 
During field visits, the assessment team interacted extensively with the community and local government officials.  The one story that seemed to resonate consistently was the efficiency in clearing roads blocked by fallen trees and debris to make sure connectivity was restored at the earliest. Following any major disaster, such as cyclone Hudhud, restoring connectivity is amongst the most challenging and critical activities. Restoring connectivity allows for more efficient flow of much-needed emergency relief, medical supplies and helps foster early recovery. We decided to dig deeper to find out what had been done differently here.
 
One evening, while returning from a field visit to Srikakulam district, we posed this question to Mr. V. Ramachandra, Superintendent Engineer of Public Works Department (PWD), what had been done differently. Mr. V. Ramachandra’s face lit up and he pulled out his smart phone. He showed us a “closed group” that the PWD engineers had created on Whatsapp.  For the first three days after cyclone Hudhud, there was no electricity and no mobile connectivity. As the connections were restored, the PWD closed group became functional and that acted as the main tool of communication for information sharing. For any breach of road, the Engineers shared information through the Whatsapp group with a clear location and a short explanation of the problem. The person responsible for the area responded with a message stating how long it would take to clear the block. Even requests for tools and JCBs were made on the group. This helped identify and access required resources. The action taken was narrated on the group discussion page once the problem was solved. An updated photo showing restored road connectivity was uploaded to the group.

No meetings and no discussions at the district headquarter level had to be organized. The District Magistrate joined the group and gave instruction to the department through the closed Whatsapp group. Most roads were functional within three to four days. The whole department worked to provide its services through a messaging system, without any meetings and formal orders.

Social media has become a part of our daily lives and is a very powerful tool for emergency management if used properly. Social media and pre-designed apps are effective when written reports and formal meetings are not required. It is important to learn from such experiences and institutionalize them for effective and efficient use during periods of early recovery and emergency response.

Indian labor regulations take small steps in the right direction

Devashish Mitra's picture
India’s outdated and restrictive labor regulations act as a serious constraint on the expansion of formal-sector manufacturing employment. They are an important reason for its large informal sector. Prime Minister Modi’s Make In India campaign cannot be successful without major reforms of India’s labor regulations.  Recent changes to the Industrial Disputes Act and Factories Act at the state level by the Indian state of Rajasthan as well as the Indian Central Government’s move towards a web-based system of self-reporting by firms of compliance with labor regulations are small steps in the right direction. The Central Government’s ambitious plans of bringing about further labor reforms, announced last year, have been halted, hopefully just temporarily, by recent protests by labor unions. This blog provides reasons for why that might be bad news for the creation of good jobs in India.

Myth or fact? New WDR examines the potential of digital technologies for development

Maja Andjelkovic's picture


Pop quiz: Which of these statements do you agree with?
 
  1. If you build “IT” they will come.
  2. Poor people don’t need mobile phones. They need clean water and food instead.
  3. Digital skills are only relevant for people who work in the ICT sector. The rest of us don’t need them.
 

Local content in extractive industries: a tool for economic diversification and sustainable development

Anita Marangoly George's picture
Photo by Dominic Chavez / World Bank

When you ask young people from developing countries what they want for their country, they often say opportunity. The next generation wants jobs and knowledge; they want to be connected to the global economy.

Extractive industries can foster these types of opportunities through investment in skills training and transfer of technology to local workers and companies. These technical skills are demanded in the global marketplace today and empower workers to expand their horizons and lower their risk of unemployment. 

We are discussing these issues today at a “Reconciling Trade and Local Content Development” conference we are co-hosting with the Mexican Ministry of Economy. This event aims to share knowledge on how investment in extractive industries can be leveraged to generate opportunities for economic diversification and employment.

When extractives companies include local business in their supply chain they foster sustainable growth and help end poverty. The most valuable contribution to long term sustainability comes from the ability of extractive industries to generate benefits through productive linkages with other sectors. The International Finance Corporation (IFC) helped make this happen in Barmer, India, where we supported a Skill Development Center that trained 7,000 people to work in the operations of Cairn Energy. Not only did this training create direct job opportunities for the local population, but the acquired skills fostered the creation of an entire eco-system of small and medium-size enterprises that provided products and services to the oil company and related sectors.

Eyes in the sky help track rural electrification

Kwawu Mensan Gaba's picture
Front page of nightlights.io with an overview of India.
“Nightlights.io is a path-breaking platform that will transform the way the world solves the global challenge of energy availability. The tool will help us... provide energy solutions... to people who need it most.” — Tejpreet Chopra, President and CEO of Bharat Light and Power


Electricity is integral to people’s well-being across the world. With electricity, children can study at night, women can walk home more safely on well-lit streets, and businesses can stay open well past dusk.
 
However, more than one billion people still lack access to electricity today. Governments and electric utilities around the world are mobilizing vast sums of money to close the access gap, especially in rural areas that are home to those lacking electricity.
 
So, how can we determine and identify who has electricity and who doesn’t? What if we had the technology and tools to help us see lights from space every night, for every village, in every country? We could then closely monitor progress on the ground. We could even plan and optimize policies and interventions in a different manner.

Informality and formality - two ends of the employment continuum

Shanthi Nataraj's picture
Informal employment predominates in many low-income countries and is here to stay, possibly for a very long time. We need to recognize that informality and formality are two ends of a continuum. It is also critical to identify those specific aspects of formality that workers value most, that employers would be most willing to provide, and that governments would find most feasible to enforce.

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