Tech can help solve issues like rapid urbanization, climate change

The Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands and the Netherlands Enterprise Agency organized #DhakaTalksInnovation, a hybrid event to discuss urbanization challenges and how entrepreneurs might be able to provide solutions on Wednesday. 

Urbanization is here to stay, and challenges will only increase, specifically having more vulnerability being a deltaic plain.

However, local start-ups and entrepreneurs can play a crucial role in addressing those challenges that come with rapid urbanization and climate change through innovation.

The Netherlands Enterprise Agency’s Orange Corners team is currently in Bangladesh to understand the business environment for startups and young entrepreneurs in Dhaka and Chittagong. The team has done similar mappings in several countries in Africa and the Middle East (see, for instance, their Orange Corners programmes). 

“I hope that our future generation comprises entrepreneurs who will foster a culture of sustainable and inclusive knowledge in Bangladesh. As our honourable Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said, one country cannot go it alone. This is a global village. Let us work together to make the world a better place,” Zunaid Ahmed Palak, Bangladesh’s Minister of State for Information and Communication Technology, via video message to panelists and audience 

He also stated that the government has already taken several initiatives in developing startups through its A2i wings in regards to innovation as well as funding. 

Palak said that the government is also using the ICT wing to collaborate with other ministries such as that of the power ministry in attempts of creating a smart power grid that operates sustainably.  

Bangladesh can also engage in knowledge transfer and innovation with the Netherland counterpart, another deltaic plain, to propagate innovation and entrepreneurship that is focused on addressing those challenges.

“Bangladesh’s population is going to double in the next 30 years with rapid urbanization, and the government and the private sector need to look at this as a resource that will need massive upscaling,” stated Anne Van Leeuwen, the ambassador of the Embassy of Netherlands.

“Being a deltaic plain that has been leveraging technology and innovation with the same spirit of entrepreneurship, the Netherlands can support Bangladesh through knowledge transfer and engagement to shape start-ups and develop innovation amongst entrepreneurs,” added the ambassador.

It was also highlighted that the current population of Dhaka alone stands at 21 million, which is projected to reach 35 million, making it the 3rd most populous city in the world by 2050, with a projection of 11% of land to be lost due to sea-level rises.

However, Bangladesh has been projected to be the 28th biggest economy by 2050, which can be even more if innovation and entrepreneurship are developed by upscaling skills across the demographic dividend and leveraging technology, speakers said.

The discussion was moderated by Theodore Klouvas, who invited the audience to bring their questions to the panel, which consisted of Anita Ghazi Rahman, Abdul Bari, Sonia Bashir Kabir, Siffat Sarwar and Shazeeb Khairul Islam. The event was also graced by a video message from the Honorable State Minister Palak. 

“By understanding the ecosystem, we hope to be able to propose to the Embassy in Dhaka how we can empower the future generations of this country. We want to understand how the generation is affected or supported by the education system, from a governance perspective, and from the perspective of local service providers. We want to know that there are individuals who are nurturing these bright ideas,”  said Theodore A Klouvas, policy officer, Youth, Education, and Work, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands 

They also discussed the following bold statements, designed to make panelists and audience members think critically about their roles in bettering Dhaka’s future: Entrepreneurs can make Dhaka disaster-proof, Investing in green climate-related innovations is the only way forward for Dhaka 3 and the high-density and human capital will make Dhaka the smartest square km in the region.

As the Netherlands and Bangladesh near their 50-year anniversary of bilateral relations, this event underlined the boost in the economic relationship between the two countries. 

“I like to observe what people are doing, and where there are problems to be resolved. I want us to promote a culture of experimentation. By that, I mean that people should be more accepting of failure. I think, as a culture, we are always promoting success stories and applauding success stories. But the real success comes after hundreds of failures. We need to encourage a more experimenting mindset across the country,” said Siffat Sarwar, Co-Founder, ShopUp

During the event, speakers, panelists also emphasized the importance of upscaling and developing start-ups, entrepreneurs as well as the masses from a bottom-up approach for a sustainable innovative start-up market that addresses problems of global scale.

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