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Least innovative? Bangladesh?

  • Published at 06:36 pm September 22nd, 2018

Does Bangladesh deserve to be branded as the least innovative country in the world?

It is hard to swallow that Bangladesh has been deemed the “least innovative” country in the Global Innovation Index. Many have disagreed with the survey findings. 

As far as I understand, innovation is a continuous process. Adding value to the existing ways of doing things is how I believe innovation works. The value should have some meaning, of course, as we ask ourselves if we are changing the society around me for the better.

Take Google, for example, the company has all but democratized data with platforms such as YouTube. Various online schools across the world have taken education to the grassroots level; something governments around the world have been trying for decades.

WaterAid Bangladesh is also doing some good work, especially with their mobile app that locates the nearest acceptable public toilet in any given vicinity.

Of the reasons behind branding Bangladesh as one of the least innovative countries are perhaps our numerous failed attempts to curb our horrendous traffic situation. But that alone hardly warrants such a damning verdict.

Recently, we have also seen the rise of young entrepreneurs in this country -- a great example of the public and private spheres coming together. For example, parking space has been a problem for us for a long time, a new start-up company called “Park Kori” has come up with a solution to parking our vehicles.

Park Kori is an app-based parking space-sharing platform where people can get on-demand secured parking spaces and rent their unused parking space at the same time. It’s a very simple yet fiendishly effective way to combat a very real problem for vehicle-owners in a crowded city like Dhaka.

Then there is Easy Transport, yet another app-based platform that is aiming to digitalize the country’s public transportation sector by providing comfortable commute solutions in order to reduce traffic. The company has been transporting 400 female professionals in Dhaka to and from their workplaces, these women are getting a tension-free ride saving them from any incidences of sexual harassment, which is all but a given in this country.

Of course, there are the numerous stories of everyday innovations in Bangladesh. We have seen many success stories where some Average Joe has come up with a new way to generate power, or has developed an environment-friendly vehicle, or come up with new innovations in agriculture.

However, these everyday innovators get lost in all the noise. Which sends out the message that, no matter how unique your idea is, it will never be good enough for the mainstream.

Every year a large number of professionals -- in both the public and private sectors -- officially retire from their services. Where do these people go, and what do these people do after retirement? Are they leading a lonely and unproductive life afterwards? Could we possibly reuse their experience and expertise?

Perhaps we should consider a Ministry of Innovation to think and look after these ideas.

Why are some of our students in schools not so good at being students? Perhaps there is speace for innovation there? Why do people cheat in exams? How can we prevent the leaking of question papers?  These are all questions which cannot be solved by regular thinking -- we have to innovate to tackle them.

Ekram Kabir is a story-teller and a columnist. He can be reached at [email protected]

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