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Rediscovering the Potential of the World’s Oldest Highways - Bangladesh Waterways

Diep Nguyen-Van Houtte's picture
River crossing in Bangladesh
Boat passengers in rural Bangladesh. Photo credit: Erik Nora

When my team and I saw this boat passing by us in July 2013 in rural Bangladesh, near the border with Mizoram, Northeast India, and Myanmar, I felt immediately empathic.

How many people are on that boat? Eighty? Does it have a motor? Can those people swim, especially the women? No lifejackets! I wondered how long their trip was, and then I thought: What if they needed a bathroom break? Memories of my family's escape from Vietnam by boat in 1981 flashed back—34 refugees jammed into a traditional fishing boat normally home to a family of seven, with no motor, no life jackets, and no toilets! We floated around the South China Sea and Pacific Ocean for 16 days. Most of us could not swim, certainly not the women and girls.

Got a Question? I've Got an Answer!

Joe Qian's picture

There’s an exceptional amount of ingenuity within the development community. Each day, brilliant minds devise elegant solutions to seemingly insurmountable challenges that are multiplied with limited resources and complex realities on the ground.

An example of this creativity can be found in the Questionbox, devised by the non-profit organization, Open Box, which brings global intelligence into a small solar powered audio box that works to empower residents with knowledge even if the area lacks reliable access to electricity or if the user is illiterate.

Residents use the device by pushing a green button and asking their question through a solar powered microphone, the question is transmitted to an operator who searches for the information on the internet and then relays it back to the client.