his Spotlight on Computing in Bangladesh article is the second publication of our “Spotlight on” series. Although perhaps less known, Bangladesh's ICT (information and communication technology) is advancing rapidly. The goal of this article is to showcase stories that provide insights into the rapid pace of digitization in Bangladesh, the growing digital economy, startup ecosystem, research in the field of computing, and some relevant government efforts. It is difficult to cover all the brilliant efforts and research in such a short article, however, we tried to pick a few to give a glimpse. We plan to follow up with more project highlights in future series.
We always want to improve our selection and curation process by including topics not covered in this shortlist. To that end, please send your feedback and suggestions to email@example.com! We look forward to your comments and guidance on how we can continue to improve ACM Selects together.
Read more about the ACM's ongoing efforts to provide resources for students and professionals through the ACM Learning Center.
IT/Software Industry & Startups
Bangladesh witnessed a boom in startups during the last 10 years. A number of them have been built from scratch to support the unique needs of the people of Bangladesh. Others have been created following the footsteps of startup/application ideas popular in the western world while adjusted to support socio-economic scenarios in Bangladesh. In the following, we highlighted a few of them.
Future Startup - information, knowledge, and insight about entrepreneurship, technology, and business in Bangladesh
Published in Future-startup.com, Last accessed on July 27th, 2021
“Future Startup publishes original articles on insights, analysis, and inspiration about the business, technology, and entrepreneurship in Bangladesh.”
The collection of articles covered by Future Startup talks about how different startups were created, their operations, and interviews of their founders in Bangladesh. We hope entrepreneurs and young professionals looking for ideas and motivations to create their own startup would find the following resource useful.
bKash Bangladesh: A Fast Start for Mobile Financial Services
First published openknowledge.worldbank.org in July 2014
Bangladesh has made huge progress in mobile payment services in the last decade and bKash is one of the leading ones. bKash is a mobile payment service using which a person in any part of the country can pay another person safely and instantly using the mobile phone and without the Internet. Unlike large mobile money businesses in other countries, bKash is not a mobile network operator and did not have an existing customer base to which it added mobile financial services. bKash acquired each client on its own.
Pathao - A ride-hailing startup in Bangladesh
First published in futurestartup.com on Mar 10, 2021
Although Pathao started in 2015, it is now one of the largest ride-hailing services in Bangladesh and it also offers other services such as Pathao Food, Pathao Parcel, Pathao Courier (B2B), Pathao Shop, Pathao Tong, and Pathao Pharma. “Pathao has raised a total of $12.8M in funding. Started with only 4 people, Pathao now is a company of more than 500 employees and considered one of the pioneers in Bangladesh's startup ecosystem.”
Rokomari, Digital e-commerce for Books in Bangladesh
First published in futurestartup.com on Dec 7, 2020
Rokomari came into being on 19th Jan’2012 as an online bookstore with a target to launch a minimum of 10,000 books. They had started with a team of 5-6 people with almost no back-end order management system. With the number of increasing orders, not only their business began to evolve from a fledgling tiny project to an organization, but also increased challenges pushed them to learn and adapt from their experience. Now they have reached such a position that they can cross the entire annual sales figure of 2012 in a day.
The most amazing part is, it is a 100% locally built and managed homegrown technology company with no external investment.
SureCash, a mobile banking and payment operator in Bangladesh
First published in prnewswire.com on Apr 22, 2015
SureCash operates an advanced mobile banking and payment platform that allows anyone with a mobile phone to deposit cash, send money, make purchases, and pay bills. While most mobile financial service deployments globally are single-bank models with limited scalability, SureCash's cutting-edge technology and superior architecture allow it to integrate multiple banks into its platform, enabling the consumer a rich and flexible experience for all payment categories including retail payments, utility bills, school tuitions, salary disbursements, and many more.
The software and platform have been built from scratch in Bangladesh.
Growth in Digitization and Government Initiatives
Bangla to the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA)
First published in tbsnews.net on Feb 26, 2021
In order to make Bangla one of the leading languages in the world, the Information and Communication Technology Division has launched bangla.gov.bd – ভবিষ্যত প্রযুক্তির শুরু এখানেই, a technology platform for language technology and artificial intelligence (AI), as well as a trial version of Dhwani, a software that converts Bangla to the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA). Within this project’s objectives, many services and resources of language technology (e.g., Speech to text translators, language to language translators, grammar correctors, sign language to text conversion, handwritten character recognition, sentiment analysis, Bangla brail, screen reader for blind people, dictionary, knowledge base and a search engine, and corpus) are being created, which should not only benefit Bangla-speaking people in the world but also members of minority ethnic groups and people with hearing difficulties.
Digitization in Agricultural Sector
First published in futurestartup.com on May 30, 2021
iFarmer’s Sofol app collects investments from retail investors and disburses them to farmers in the form of inputs such as seeds, livestock, fertilizers, and other farming essentials. “The company says it has since onboarded over 18000 farmers through Sofol. The app is part of iFarmer’s strategy to use human agents, mobile technology, and remote sensing to reduce the cost and complexity of working with smallholder farmers.” The Sofol app bridges the gap between farmers to the procurement of necessary tools for a successful farming process. Using the app, an iFarmer’s Field agent can collect and record data about a farmer, verify his/her National Id (NID) (integrated via Government's Porichoy API), save information for later follow-up, and onboard him/her on the go.
Bangabandhu Satellite (BS-1), First Geo Communications Satellite of Bangladesh
First Published in International Journal of Networks and Communications on Aug 2018
Bangladesh launched its first-ever satellite in May 2018 with a vision to open new possibilities in its telecommunication sector. These satellite networks play a vital role in ensuring uninterrupted telecommunication services in Bangladesh by reducing its dependency on other nations even in emergency situations like natural disasters. They also support profitable services, including direct-to-home services, which can enable services like VSAT (very-small-aperture terminal) and connect people with high-speed broadband Internet in remote areas where cellular and fiber optic networks are not available. The satellite is expected to enable the nation to save approximately BDT1.08bn ($14m) spent on satellite rents a year.
Digitization in Healthcare
Daktar Bondhu, A Dhaka based health-tech startup
First published in futurestartup.com on Jun 10, 2021
Daktar Bondhu is a portfolio startup of the IDEA project by the ICT division of the Govt. of Bangladesh. Daktar Bondhu currently offers video consultations with 60+ specialist doctors across 20+ departments which include mental health, dermatology, cardiology, etc., through its mobile app. After commercial launch in Oct’20, more than 3000+ doctor consultations and medicine orders were made via app in the last 8 months and this number is increasing. About “50% of paying customers are recurring monthly as the app can save them up to 15% of their healthcare expenditures each month as well as save time on visits to specialist doctors”. The team is working on building a personalized AI health assistant and a medical chatbot that will be able to analyze a patient’s symptoms and try to suggest a probable diagnosis and financially viable treatment plans automatically.
Maya: an AI-Based Healthcare ecosystem to serve Bangla speaking population
First published in futurestartup.com on Feb 12, 2020
“Maya is a digital healthcare platform that provides an anonymous messaging service where users can post their physical health, mental health, psychosocial and legal questions.” It is dedicated to making it easier for women to get healthcare, especially for sensitive issues like reproductive and mental health.
Maya uses natural language processing and advanced machine learning for digital assistance which answers to basic health-related questions and decides if users need to be routed to human experts. Users can ask their questions in Bangla, English, or Banglish and receive responses from experts in the same language in 50 topics with 95% accuracy. It has about 10 million unique users and currently counts more than 300 licensed healthcare providers on its platform.
Maya announced on 10th Feb’2021 that it raised $2.2 million in seed funding, the highest-ever by a Bangladeshi health-tech company that will facilitate new products on Maya’s platform and help it expand internationally.
Dakter Bari: Introducing Intermediary to Ensure Healthcare Services to Extremely Impoverished People
First published in Proceedings of the ACM on Human-Computer Interaction, Vol. 5, No. CSCW1 on April 22, 2021
Bangladesh has a significant number of people dependent on alms for daily survival. These people are deprived of even basic healthcare. Their extreme levels of poverty, coupled with low literacy skills, and complete lack of access to technology mean that they are unaware of existing low-cost/free healthcare services (as arranged by local hospitals) available for them. A research study addresses this gap using a solution called Dakter Bari (a term in Bengali that translates to "Doctor's Home'' in English), which is contextually tailored to enable healthcare access to impoverished people. This study creates a pathway for availing lower-cost healthcare solutions using intermediaries for information dissemination.
A Benchmark Study on Machine Learning Methods using Several Feature Extraction Techniques for News Genre Detection from Bangla News Articles & Titles
First Published in 7th International Conference on Networking, Systems and Security on December 22, 2020
This research study presents a comparative analysis of different machine learning techniques for detecting news genres in Bangla. The study implements the categorization methods for both news article and news title classifications against ten mutually exclusive news genres. It concludes that ‘Bidirectional LSTM’ with ‘Word2vec’ feature extraction technique using ‘Skip-gram’ method is the most robust method for both classifications, compared to other models.
MultiResUNet: Rethinking the U-Net Architecture for Multimodal Biomedical Image Segmentation
Despite outstanding overall performance in segmenting multimodal medical images, a research study finds that the most prominent and the most popular architecture, the U-Net architecture, seems to be lacking in certain aspects. Therefore, the study proposes some modifications to improve upon the already state-of-the-art UNet model. The study further develops a novel architecture called MultiResUNet as the potential successor to the successful U-Net architecture.
SAINT: self-attention augmented inception-inside-inception network improves protein secondary structure prediction
First Published in Bioinformatics on September 01, 2020
A research study presents SAINT, a highly accurate method for the prediction of 8-class (Q8) resolution of secondary structure of proteins. It incorporates a self-attention mechanism (a concept from NLP) with the Deep Inception-Inside-Inception network for capturing both the short- and long-range interactions among the amino acid residues. “SAINT offers a more interpretable framework than the typical black-box deep neural network methods.”
Crowd-enabled Processing of Trustworthy, Privacy-Enhanced and Personalised Location-Based Services with Quality Guarantee
First Published in Proceedings of the ACM on Interactive, Mobile, Wearable and Ubiquitous Technologies on December 27, 2018
This research study presents an approach for enabling trustworthy, privacy-enhanced, and personalized location-based services (LBSs) to find nearby points of interest such as restaurants, hospitals, etc., in a crowdsourced manner. The approach selects knowledgeable group members for processing LBSs, and thereby, increases the accuracy and the confidence level of the query answers. It develops algorithms to process LBSs in real-time with enhanced privacy.
Furthering Technology Education
Revolution in Digital Learning
First published in futurestartup.com on Jan 12, 2021
Bohubrihi is one of Bangladesh’s leading educational platforms for online courses and professional training, which enables students and professionals to develop skills that are necessary to thrive not only in career but in life as well.