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Microsoft Young Bangla Initiatives 2017-18 Internship to Start-Up Fund

Information and Communication Technology (ICT) is the backbone of any digital initiative. ICT covers the vast area of information technology, communication technology and telecommunication technology.

ICT is also a combination of physical backbone and intellect. Computer systems, network machineries, software, wire and wireless connectivity systems, broadcast hardware and many other hardware and accessories are the physical backbone. The trained humans behind the backbone are the intellect.

Digital Bangladesh is an idea that includes the use of IT for management, administration and governance to ensure transparency, accountability and answerability at all levels of society and state. To materialize the idea of Digital Bangladesh, development of countrywide backbone and expected number of human recourses are the basic needs. Over the last seven years, Bangladesh witnessed a strong surge of growth in most of the development indices-spanning from the economy to human and social development. Powered by the Government’s Vision 2021, which aimed to turn Bangladesh into a middle income country by 2021, the country has witnessed record economic development and poverty reduction since 2009. In the last several years, every year has seen new records in remittance earnings, foreign exchange reserves, export earnings and foreign direct investment.

One of the key tools for achieving Vision 2021 was the earmarking of the ‘Digital Bangladesh’ approach, the brainchild of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and her ICT Affairs Adviser Sajeeb Wazed, to utilize the usage of ICT as a tool for development and sustainability. The aim was to transform Bangladesh into a technologically advanced nation by 2021. To that end, the country has come a long way. Driven by widespread digitization in the public and private sectors, the country has seen exponential growth in its internet connectivity, mobile phone usage, IT export earnings and use of ICT in education and accessibility of public services. ICT training by the Government has opened a new horizon in youth employment through outsourcing. When the Digital Bangladesh efforts got underway seven years ago only 20 million of Bangladeshis were accessing mobile phone. Today that number has grown to more than 120 million and is still climbing. Joining as a helping hand, private companies and organizations has also set out establishing the dream. We’re glad to be a part of this nation building initiative.

Digital Bangladesh is surely one of the boldest dreams by Bangladesh of all time. One of the main aspects of Digital Bangladesh was to connect the academia with the corporates and Microsoft – Young Bangla Internship Program was one the main indicators. The door of opportunities was open for the students through this program and student’s objectives were fulfilled successfully.

In our county, it takes usually 16 to 20 years for one to acquire a minimum standard of education. After such a long period of academic learning students often falls short of practical learning and gets stuck in a 9 to 5 job with a decent 20 to 30 thousand salary per month. Then one day suddenly they realize that they’re bored and has no excitement for doing new things any more. They question themselves about their dreams, their passion as they already had a long time habit of learning more and more.

This is where Microsoft plays a vital role by saying that, “As the current world is evolving through technology and innovations, we are not certain about existence of the desired jobs for current students in future. So we want to empower these students and make them future-ready so that they could achieve more.”

This may sound awkward to a student that after 16-20 years of education in future you’ll find out that the job you’ve been targeting throughout this 16-20 year are no longer available because of new innovation or technology. But if we look around ourselves we have plenty of examples where old jobs are now being done by a technology called computer and so many more.

Under supervision of Center for Research and Information(CRI), Young Bangla, the country’s largest youth platform decided to join hand in this initiative and targeted to reach out maximum percentage of the youth through the platform.

The Microsoft – Young Bangla Internship was designed such that a student may find a real life problem that he/she thinks most of the people faces in our country including him/herself. Basis of common or similar problems, groups were formed to solve that problem using the technology which is available to us now. The judging panel had a close eye at the feasibility and sustainability of that solution and finally these groups pitched their plan as a startup business in front of the specialists from Microsoft Young Bangla Team.

Process of Microsoft – Young Bangla Internship Program

Registration: It’s very easy to apply for ‘Microsoft Young Bangla Internship’ using the registration form(link) provided through the ‘Young Bangla’ Facebook page. Necessary basic guidelines are also provided there. To emphasize on ‘cooperation’ instead of ‘competition’ the registration process is team based. To get enrolled in the internship program Any student of any background can form a team consist of total three members: Leader, Gate Keeper & Challenger and apply. As per the definite roles of the members, the leader leads the team from the front, challenger challenges each and every decision taken by the team and the gatekeeper ensure to pull back the team into reality through taking care of the sustainability and feasibility part. Team formation also preferred to be based on gender balance & departmental balance to make sure the team lacks minimum resources on the start.

Session-1:
“To find a real life problem that you want to solve using/innovating technology”
This is the first and introductory session of the internship which focuses on showing the myths existing around starting a business like: Investment or money is not the main thing you need, innovative ideas always solves a real life problem, choosing on the customer base and convince them to buy your idea, etc. This session also explains the idea of going ‘zero to one’ and the differences between technology and globalization. This session opens up the path from where a great idea comes from and also teaches how to follow the blue ocean strategy to avoid competition. The basic idea is to make them learn and understand how to choose your market, what the market needs and why it always works like this.

Session-2:
“To solve a problem and provide a feasible and sustainable solution for the users”
This session starts to take the interns into the world of business and technology. They already have a problem that they would like to solve using/innovating some technology. This session focuses on what is a MVP, why it’s necessary and how it’s made following up with the Lean Startup Methodology to reach perfectness in developing the product through testing in a small group to start and grow slowly. Interns are also taught how to “pivot” in case of a negative feedback and when to persevere in case of positive and expected results. This session almost ends up designing the whole acquisition plan of each and every them including the challenges they might face.

Session-3:
“To develop a business model based on the solution of that specific problem”
By this session interns learn that they all are here to build their own startup to shape the future. This session is where the real paper work starts. The target is to guide the teams in preparing their Business Proposal and pitch deck. Components of the proposal, how to prepare them, where to find the real data and its importance, market evaluation, different types of revenue models, break-even analysis, Logical Framework, SWOT analysis, Different Stages of a startup and their characteristics, Marketing Tips, Business development and official procedures are described in details in this session to make the teams fully prepared for any pitch.

Session-4: “Demo Pitching”
This session hosts a pitching for the teams where real judges evaluates the team’s work and shows them the gaps they have in their work so that those gaps can be filled up before the final pitch. Interns are taught to provide a clear scenario of three things in the start of a pitch, 1. the problem people are facing before using their solution, 2. the benefits people are enjoying after using the solution and 3. the scenario of market opportunities. The internship program officially ends in this session.

Final Pitch:
After completion of the internship selected teams are invited to pitch in front of investors, guests and professional judges. Top teams receives seed fund from Microsoft to build their MVP. Other teams also become a part of Microsoft – Young Bangla community through being a part of various initiatives taken by both Microsoft and Young Bangla. The certification of the internship is also done by the end of this part.

What We Have Achieved So Far

In 2017: More than 1600 students from science, arts and commerce background applied for the internship where 300+ were allowed to participate. Total 100 groups pitched 100 projects and each of that solves one real life problem. Top three teams were announced in the ‘Joy Bangla Youth Award -2017’ to furtherly receive seed fund worth BDT 5 Lakhs each.

These projects covered up a wide area and provided opportunities to work in sectors like: Medical, Education, Agriculture, Gaming, Community Build Up, Research, Road Safety, Female Security and Support, Banking & Finance, Virtual E-Commerce and Blood Banks, Children Safety and Parental Control, Energy, Vehicles and various Safety Devices.

Alternative energy source for remote areas, minimizing carbon di-oxide emission using algae, implementation of Microsoft technologies in Bangladesh army, providing motivation to workout in order to fight obesity through an online community build up platform, Patient Monitoring System using IoT, Various Technologies to support blind/paralyzed people and make life easier for them, Economical Spillage Cleaner, Smart Vehicle Solutions, Data Analyzing and Computing Portal and Energy & Cost-Saving solutions for household was a few of them.

However, Top three projects were selected to go on and build a Start-Up and Microsoft provided these three winners an initial Five Lakhs Taka each as Start-Up Funding. These teams are: Bio-Engineers(KUET), RMA Tesla(CUET) and Cryptech (BUET). These teams received the fund through as incubation process where Microsoft Young Bangla Team will mentor and monitor their activities with their simulating suggestions at every step.

In 2018: More than 610 students from science, arts and commerce background applied for the internship where 150+ students were allowed to participate in the internship and 60+ teams participated in the Microsoft Imagine Cup- 2018. For the first time two teams were from College (SSC Passed, Class-11) and one of them is in the short list. This inspires us to take this internship in schools and colleges very soon.

The projects covered up a good range and had more potential than 2017’s. The Internship was completed in less than a month and after 3-4 months we’re now publishing the results.

RMA Tesla (CUET)
RMA Tesla is a team from RMA Club, CUET (Chttagram University and Engineering and Technology). Their mission is to develop an alternative reading device for the blind people using the technologies that are available to us. They used a camera and a Raspberry-Pi where the camera captures the image and process it as an OCR to text.

Further, the Raspberry-Pi converts the text to speech. Blind people can use their listening skill to read anything through this device. This device will cost around $25 per piece and is very easy to operate. They’ve also developed a VR Box based device to measure one’s Hemoglobin Level in blood through basic image processing.

Bio-Engineers (KUET)
Bio-Engineers is a team which further was announced as a Bio-Engineering Club, KUET (Khulna University and Engineering and Technology). They aim to provide IoT based Wheel Chairs at the same cost as normal wheel Chairs which are available in market. They used Microcontroller to connect the wheelchair with an android app so that the user can just move his/her fingers on the mobile phone and the chair will move according to it. The other perspective was to create the application to operate multiple number of wheel chairs using the same mobile phone. This can be a great solution to the hospital management where several wheel chaired patient can be found and one single operator can operate all of their movements.

CrypTech (BUET)
CrypTech is a team from BUET (Bangladesh University and Engineering and Technology) aims to solve the hot topic of medical sector in Bangladesh. We often see patients suffering due to bad handwriting in the prescription provided by the doctor. High Court has also take this matter seriously by asking them to type the prescription or write it in bold letter. From the Doctor’s perspective, It’s a harassment as a single doctor has to write hundreds of prescriptions in our country daily. It’s hard to maintain bold letter and proper solution is not yet available to them for printing.

CrypTech will provide them an alternative printing solution which is much smaller in size & cost, and simpler to operate. The idea was to connect a thermal printer with a mobile/desktop application using a microcontroller. The whole set up will cost them less than the price of the mobile phones that they use. The thermal printer will be portable to carry whenever they go to visit a patient in hospital/house. However, the main solution ‘Upatto” is a mobile app that generates EHR in less than one minute and provides it as a text SMS to the patient’s phone. This solution can be Less Costly, Mostly Paperless Service and Feasible for the Grass root.