Ideas galore

Ideas galore @ the 3rd Annual Social Good Summit-2012

On September 24, UNDP Bangladesh and Access to Information (A2I) Programme (housed under the Prime Minister’s Office) jointly hosted this event to discuss how ‘new media’, technology and the unbridled imagination of young minds can create grass-root level solutions that boost economic and social development. Young leaders/entrepreneurs from Bangladesh working in the fields of technology, social services, e-governance, social media, and new media were present in the panel and in the audience. Also in attendance were members of civil society, government, development organizations and business groups.

The event was jam-packed with exciting ideas, info on innovative initiatives and great insights into the remarkable progress that the country has made on the ‘ICT’/digital front. I was just blown away by how much cool and important work is already being done in Bangladesh by Bangladeshis! Here are some of the best.


  • The internet subscriber base in Bangladesh (excluding mobile) currently stands at just over 1.5 million – that’s up from 617,000 in 2009.
  • However, total desktop internet users may actually be far greater than that number- perhaps as much as 8 million – driven by heavy usage in offices, internet cafes and multiple users accessing the internet from a single household connection.
  • The figure for mobile phone subscribers stands at just over 92 million and mobile internet access at over 25 million.
  • The cost of using the internet has come down from Tk. 27,000 in 2009 to Tk. 8,000/Mbps in 2012.
  • Global internet penetration in 2010 stood at 1.9 billion people and is expected to grow to 5 billion by 2015.
  • A2I has established over 4,000 ‘information and service centers’ (ISCs) at the union level to help people get online.

Cool sites/initiatives:

  • Amar Desh, Amar Gram: A virtual marketplace that catalogues goods produced by rural farmers, SME entrepreneurs, and underprivileged women, and makes them available to buyers living in cities using BRAC Bank’s online payment service.
  • Institute of Informatics and Development (IID): An independent policy think tank that works on data visualization to make better meaning out of numbers. BRAC Advocacy for Social Change is engaging with them to simplify complex policy choices and promote informed public opinion.
  • The site hopes to become a platform for building virtual communities of women in Bangladesh to help them get hold of information on pregnancy, breast cancer, child nutrition, etc., and share their experiences with each other.
  • The ‘young campaigners’ of this Save the Children initiative invited over popular bloggers (ones with over 150,000 followers!) from outside Bangladesh and accompanied them on field trips across the country. The posts they published generated massive buzz, awareness, and financial support for Save the Children’s efforts in Bangladesh.
  • Zakat Connect: Identifies needy people, gives them a platform to showcase their individual needs, and invites/conveys donations to address them. Works to channel Zakat funds towards sustainable causes. This initiative is a great example of just how versatile and powerful social media sites can be.
  • Nagorik Kontho: A platform that is equipped to receive citizens’ opinions and reports on the quality of public utility services via a range of options using mobile phones and the web. The initiative is inspired by another great site called
  • Aponjon mHealth Service: An initiative in Bangladesh by USAID under the auspices of Mobile Alliance for Maternal Action (MAMA). BRAC Health Programme’s ‘MANOSHI’ project is helping with the execution. Read more about it here.

The event was viewed online by 34,000 people. It was filmed and sent back to the summit’s epicenter in New York, from where it will be shared all over the world.

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