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South Asia

Can Computers Outperform Humans?

Wolfgang Fengler's picture

The epic battle of man against machine has been fought on many occasions. One of the most memorable encounters was the chess game between IBM’s Deep Blue and Gary Kasparov. Deep Blue was the first computer to beat a reigning chess champion in 1996 (the machine still lost 2 to 4 after six games). A year later, at their “rematch”, the machine won on the overall score: 3.5 to 2.5.

However, it is surprising that, 18 years later, we still have not figured out the ultimate winning strategy in chess. Any game with limited combinations and full disclosure of information must have ‘safe strategies’ and can be ‘solved’ (as has happened with the game checkers in 2007). The solution, in chess, would from what we know today involve strategies whereby the white player would win or the black player would force a draw. Yet no human or super computer to date has managed to solve chess’ mathematical puzzle.  How much more computing power do we need to succeed?

Universities in Bangladesh Making Strides Towards Home-Grown Innovations

Shiro Nakata's picture

Professor Hasan and his assistant passionately illustrating contributions of their sub-project in the interview at BUET – Shiro Nakata
Thanks to our research program, we have been able to save the lives of at least 10 women by detecting their breast cancer at early stages,” enthusiastically says Dr. Md. Kamrul Hasan, a professor at Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering (DEEE), Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (BUET), Dhaka.
 
Dr. Hasan is the manager of the cancer detection research project, which is one of the sub-projects awarded with research grants from the Academic Innovation Fund (AIF) program under the Higher Education Quality Enhancement Project (HEQEP). Faculty members and research students of the department joined together for the research project.
 
Lack of access to research grants and proper research environment has long been a major headache for researchers in developing countries like Bangladesh, especially in fields of science and technology. Bangladeshi scholars, who go abroad for their studies, often prefer to stay back in the host countries out of concern for availability of research facilities and financial resources indispensable for pursuing their academic work.

Ask what a mayor can do for you

Maryse Pierre-Louis's picture

For the first time in history, more than half the human population lives in cities, and the vast majority of these people are poor. In Africa and Asia, the urban population is expected to increase between 30-50% between 2000 and 2020. This shift has led to a range of new public health problems, among them road traffic safety. Road crashes are the number 1 killer among those aged 15-29, and the 8th leading cause of death worldwide. The deadly impact from accidents is aggravated by pollution from vehicles, which now contributes to six of the top 10 causes of death globally.

Healthily Growing in Bangladesh: Cash Transfers Encourage Health Checkups and School Attendance

Johannes Zutt's picture

The biggest daily struggle for 28 year old mother of two Sima Begum, is feeding her young children and keeping them healthy.  Nutrition is a key challenge not only for Sima, living in a slum in Narayanganj, but for women across Bangladesh and South Asia.  In fact, wasting and stunting are among the most stubborn health challenges facing the children of this region.

For the last 15 months, Sima has started receiving nutritional advice as well as a small cash transfer to help raise healthy children. Through a pilot cash-transfer program supported by the Rapid Social Response Multi-Donor Trust Fund (MDTF), her 10 year old son Faisal, is eligible for a Tk 800 ($10) school stipend and her daughter Shakal, 5, for a Tk 800 income transfer.  Sima uses the stipends to feed Shakal a healthier diet and to pay for Faisal’s tuition, school books and uniform.

In order to receive these stipends Sima has to ensure that Faisal goes to school and that Shakal is brought every month to the community center near her house at New Zimkhana, where her growth can be monitored. The growth monitoring is simple:
 

Apr 11, 2014: This Week in #SouthAsiaDev

Liana Pistell's picture
We've rounded up 39 tweets, posts, links, and +1's on South Asia-related development news, innovation, and social good that caught our eye this week. Countries included: Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, NepalPakistan, and Sri Lanka. For regular #SouthAsiaDev updates, follow us on Facebook and Twitter

Tax, Electricity and the State

Richard Mallett's picture

Some Observations from Nepal

Power lines in Kathmandu I've been in Nepal since January helping out with the implementation of a household survey. Throughout February and March, we asked people in two districts – Jhapa, in the south-east of the country on the Indian border, and Tibetan-bordering Sindhupalchok to the north – about their livelihoods, the various taxes they pay, and their relationships with state governance. As part of this research, we've also been carrying out a number of more in-depth qualitative interviews.
 
When asked about the kinds of taxes that most affect their livelihoods on a day-to-day basis, one of the things that struck me about people's responses was the frequency with which electricity bills were mentioned. At first, I couldn't quite understand why this was coming up so much: that's not a tax, I thought, it's simply a payment made in exchange for a service. In my mind, I began to discount these responses, passing them off as information that missed the points we were trying to get at.
 
My assumptions were misplaced.

Is Dhaka Ready? Towards Urban Resilience in Bangladesh

Marc Forni's picture

Bangladesh, the most vulnerable country in the world to the impact of natural disasters is also a leader in emergency preparedness and disaster response, particularly for cyclones, tidal surges and floods.  This was achieved through 25 years of effort, which was catalyzed through two devastating cyclones, one in 1970 and 1991 that caused the deaths of approximately 500,000 and 300,000 people respectively.  Part of what makes Bangladesh so strong at cyclone preparedness and response is the fact that major cyclones seem to hit Bangladesh every 3-4 years.  Recurrence of this frequency is quite unique.
 
On the other hand, major seismic events that lead to major losses occur infrequently.  Cities like Dhaka and Kathmandu, which are susceptible to major earthquakes, haven’t experienced a major shake in more than a generation.  Unfortunately, a lack of frequency often leads to complacency amongst governments and citizens.  Even more problematic is the very rapid accumulation of assets and population in urban environments in South Asia, including Dhaka.  
 
Walking through the streets of Dhaka paints a picture of a city with significant structural vulnerabilities – where poor construction standards, lack of enforcement, and poor maintenance turn many buildings into potential hazards. When a building in Savar collapsed in April 2013 – killing over 1,100 people and injuring thousands more – it was a wakeup call for Bangladesh. The collapse was not triggered by an earthquake, it was the result of catastrophic structural failures, but it was a glimpse into what could happen in the event of a major earthquake.

Psychological First Aid for Sri Lanka

Ananda Galappatti's picture

Major crises like wars and disasters affect the lives of millions of people around the world. Sri Lanka itself has experienced the devastating consequences of a brutal 30-year war, violent insurrection and the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami.  Whilst mental health and psychosocial services have evolved to help survivors of these crises to cope with and recover from these impacts, it has often been a challenge to providing effective support at the scale required and in a timely manner.
 
For some affected people, the mental health and psychosocial consequences can be serious and long-lasting.  However, for others, access to appropriate material and social support can bolster their ability to cope with the losses and hardships created by disaster and conflict.  Given the limited specialized human resources available for mental health and psychosocial support in low and middle-income settings around the world – including in Sri Lanka – it is vital to develop approaches that can strengthen families’ and communities’ own capacity for resilience in the face of adversity.

Apr 4, 2014: This Week in #SouthAsiaDev

Liana Pistell's picture
We've rounded up 18 tweets, posts, links, and +1's on South Asia-related development news, innovation, and social good that caught our eye this week. Countries included: Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal, and Pakistan. For regular #SouthAsiaDev updates, follow us on Facebook and Twitter

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