TEDxDhaka 2013 Session 2: Order and Disorder

During the second TedxDhaka session, speakers from diverse professions addressed heated issues now present in Bangladesh.

Using the story of the dreadful collapse of the Rana Plaza building, Mamnoon Murshed Chowdhury, an architect, shared his thoughts on how greed leads to destruction.  Next, MIT graduates Stephen Kennedy and Albert Ching lit up the event with their funky duet, describing the ways their Dhaka Bus Map–the first ever–could help make public transportation more transparent and less stressful, while helping to build a community of problem solvers and social entrepreneurs. Finally, lawyer and activist Syeda Rizwana Hassan touched on the importance of using environmental laws to protect the communities most susceptible to environmental hazards like flooding, waste dumping, overcrowding, inadequate sewage, and climate change.

“Buildings do not kill; it’s our greed”, said Mamnoon Murshed Chowdhury, of the Rana Plaza disaster. While a staggering 78,000 factory buildings are still at risk of collapse, Mamnoon has still managed to remain optimistic. He cites preventive solutions to Bangladesh’s architectural threats at a time when the country is racing into development and prosperity.

Maddening traffic is one of the first things that foreigners notice when they arrive in Dhaka. In 2011, the two talented Americans noticed this serious problem and leveraged their training in urban planning to an initiative aimed at making Dhaka a better place to live. While many experts have suggested a variety of solutions to the traffic problem, Stephen Kennedy and Albert Ching used just $15,000 raised through the crowdsourcing site kickstarter to create the first Dhaka bus map. What does a Dhaka Bus Map entail? Stephen and Albert pioneered the idea of “flocksourcing,” using a group of people armed with smart phones and a working GPS system to map bus routes as they happen. They hope that an accurate, easy-to-use bus map will make riding buses an easier, more pleasant experience and in turn, will reduce the number of people using private cars. Easier bus system = less cars = less traffic = a more livable Dhaka.

Taking up the complex subject of environmental laws in Bangladesh, Syeda Rizwana Hasan spoke her mind on the current status of Bangladesh’s environmental laws. The award winning activist discussed the apprehensive attitude of policy makers and influential people in Bangladesh towards environmental problems. She outlined some of the many cases she has filed on behalf of the environment and reflected on the fact that environmental change is not an easy a task when those who are best served by the system resist any meaningful change.


Written by the TedxDhaka social media team

TEDxDhaka 2013 Session 1: Trends and Transformations

TEDxDhaka 2013 kicked off with exciting stories of how the seemingly impossible can be turned into amazing potential. Speakers like founder of the Bangla keyboard script Mehdi Hasan Khan and founder of BDCyclists Mozammel Haque shared their inspiring journeys, while Google Southeast Asia representative Jana Levene shared her idea of spreading infinite knowledge beyond borders.

“I don’t believe in extraordinary people anymore”, declared Mehdi Hasan Khan, the founder of Avro keyboard, the first free Bangla writing software. “Rather, I believe in ordinary people doing extraordinary things because they are desperate.”

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And so, Mehdi, an ordinary 19 year-old boy, headed out to make the Bangla language writable on the Internet. What started as a one-man army trying to build the most efficient transliteration software, ended up attracting a host of bright youngsters, all lending their hands to make Bangla fonts easier to type on the computer.

As Mehdi explained, before the launch of Avro keyboard and its wide circulation, Bangladeshi people had to undergo tiresome training sessions to learn techniques of using Bangla text software that were heavily protected under patents. “It was like locking yourself up in your own prison”, explained Mehdi, condemning the suppression of innovation and accessibility so that a few could make money through patents.


It is not common for an active life promoter to admit that he does not like to exercise. But then again, Mozammel Haque, the founder of BDcyclists, is not like any other health conscious person.

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Mozammel’s journey began when he became frustrated with long hours spent in Dhaka traffic. His everyday journeys between home and the office took more than three hours by car. But Mozammel could not afford to spend so much time in traffic.

“Instead of being the problem”, he encouraged the audience, “be a part of the solution.” His take on the solution to the grueling traffic jam of Dhaka, was to start cycling to work. What started off with him wanting to bring about a healthy change in his own life, has now become a city-wide trend.

Cyclists on the main roads of Dhaka are now a relatively common scene, and Mozammel’s BDcyclists has a lot to do with it. More than a thousand cyclists showed up for one of BDcyclists’ biggest events, the Independence Day group ride.

A Googler working in developing new markets, Jane Levene, believes that the next billion users are going to come from developing nations like Bangladesh. She began by explaining how the world is imbalanced. Only a few small areas enjoy the infinite benefits provided by the Internet. She told stories of African fishermen and farmers who were able to start online businesses, raising their income up to 40%! Everyday citizens in Malaysia made their election campaigns more available and promoted a more transparent political culture through Internet portals. In Pakistan, the Internet was successfully used to tackle post-disaster management.

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Her speech ended with a question to the audience, asking them to ponder upon the infinite possibilities that the Internet could bring about if made available to the whole world.


“Anything I liked, imagined, I would draw it”, asserted a quirky Fatema Jannat Mony, who has just finished high school and is now working on her animated short film entitled “Moving On”. Now working in Ogniroth studios, Mony, talks about being blinded with inspiration the first time she was introduced to the Internet.

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Mony’s passion for art and drawing enthralled the audience. Her life story itself represented the words she ended her speech with — “Never let go of your dreams – be who you want to be.”

Written by the TedxDhaka Social Media Team


TEDxDhaka 2013 FAQ

faq announcement

We are coming across a few frequently asked questions about the TEDxDhaka 2013: “Problems as Catalysts” event, although most of them are already answered in many of our communications still, here are some Q/A answered for your ease:

    1. When’s the event? How long will it run?
      September 21st, Saturday, 2013. It’s a full day event. You have to clear your calendar for the entire day to attend the event. It will run from 10:30 to 18:30.
    2. Where’s the event?
      Really?! You don’t know yet? It will happen at the International School Dhaka (ISD) Auditorium. Check out the venue page for details.
    3. Who are speaking?
      Check out the full speaker lineup.
    4. What’s the theme of the event?
      Speakers are always from diverse disciplines at TEDxDhaka events. However the events generally have an overall broad theme. This time it is “Problems as Catalysts”, read more...
    5. How long is the registration open?
      As long as you can see the form in this page and it is written as ‘open’ there. Apply asap!
    6. Isn’t 2000 taka (25 $) a bit expensive for ticket?
      To many of you, yes it is. We tried our best to keep it low and this we found as the most feasible and reasonable to our capacity. Most of our sponsors or partners are in-kind supporters, mostly they are contributing to small things directly with supplies or goodies. Since we absolutely do not allow any advertisement on stage we hardly get any cash sponsor. We do not make TEDxDhaka a place of rigorous branding but of creative outreach and thoughtful engagements. All fund of TEDxDhaka goes back to developing the event itself.
    7. Doesn’t TED pay for organizing TEDxDhaka?!
      No. TED doesn’t pay the organizers anything. It is fully organized and funded locally and independently by unpaid volunteers, under license and following guidelines from TED.
    8. How do you select the attendees?
      It’s neither random nor first-come-first-serve. We read every single application and decide about someone’s entry to TEDxDhaka individually. We check your ‘openness and enthusiasm’ primarily and there are a few other parameters that we determine from what you write in the form. We also try to keep a balance of diversity.
    9. How do you select the speakers?
      We have a public nomination system open through out the year, check the Speaker Nomination Page. We also pull speakers from outside the nomination. The final selection is the Curator’s call and often based on the collective knowledge and intuition of the organizing team.
    10. I’m attending the event! What else should I know?
      CHECK EMAILS! And you must read this PDF (Click to view).

Do-it-yourself in the Internet era: a TEDxDhaka talk by Nash Islam

“With the rise of the Internet, individuals now have unprecedented access to information. And if you are one of those lucky individuals that has access to the Internet, you are more empowered than ever before to learn almost anything you want. You are more empowered to do almost anything you want. And when so many can do anything they want, that can change everything.”

Nash’s inspiring talk highlights the power of access to information. He begins with the story of William Kamkwamba, a Malawian inventor, author, and TED Fellow. William was forced to drop out of school because his father was unable to pay school fees, which led William to a nearby library, where he learned the skills needed to create a windmill that powered appliances in his family’s home.

After William’s story was discovered, he was eventually invited to speak at TEDGlobal 2007 in Tanzania, where, for the first time, he was introduced to a world of modern technology and to the internet. “Where was this Google all the time that I needed it?!”

Nash then moves on the importance of search literacy — the ability to find information and determine good information from and information — and of the value of being auto-didactic, of being able to learn without a teacher or formal education. This is applicable not only to individuals, but to organisations, too.

Nash winds up his talk with the message that the do-it-yourself movement is here, and that it starts with you.

Nash Islam is an entrepreneur & advocate for mobile, cloud & internet as socio-economic development tools. He is the co-Founder & CEO at Mangoes Mobile, Inc., a former Google employee, and one of the core organizers of Google Business Groups, Dhaka.

From TEDxDhaka September 2012: Unveiling Bengal’s legacy of greatness

“If we think of our identity in terms of the nation-state construct, then we have no option but to place so much emphasis on 1971, and in doing so, we risk losing sight of a much grander narrative of what it means to be Bengali. While 1971 explains why we fought for our culture and identity, it doesn’t explain where our culture and identity came from.”

Samier’s fascinating talk, given during the TEDxDhaka September 2012 event, highlights the rich, cosmopolitan, ethnically diverse, pluralistic history of the area of the world known as Bengal, which encompasses Bangladesh.

He points to major archaeological sites of Buddhist centres of learning, to some of the world’s largest rivers that flow through Bangladesh on their journey to the Bay of Bengal, and even a coin recently found in Bangladesh, dating to around 300 BC, which has its origins in Greece, as evidence of this history. In doing so, he builds a strong case for a more open, inclusive and globally engaged Bangladesh.

From the website of The Pluralism Project, which Samier initiated:

The historical remnants of this past glory remain scattered throughout the terrain of modern Bangladesh; they exist as crumbling monuments, and endure in the language, art, and culture as unifying symbols of the nation; traces of this rich and diverse history are etched upon the facial features of its citizenry. This history cannot be ignored, and by piecing these elements together, it is possible to imagine a greater role for Bangladesh in this new globalized era where integration and cooperation serve as the principle forces behind the rise of Asia, and the future social and economic order of the world.

Samier Mansur is a research scholar, columnist, and photographer.

TEDxDhakaLive 2013: The first experience of watching a TEDGlobal Conference live in Dhaka


TEDxDhakaLive 2013 was the first TEDxLive event showing a TED Conference live video streaming in Bangladesh. The organizing team of TEDxDhaka were a little skeptic about the success of a simulcast event at first. But after the event they had to change their mind. The event was not flawless, however we surely call it a success! The attendees loved watching TEDGlobal live and they enjoyed the time all the way including the breaks.

We hand picked the attendees and around 80-100 showed up, which is somewhat an extraordinary turnout. And they were an amazing group of people with curated majority of young students. We hosted a small workshop during a break with interested attendees about ‘how to host a TEDx event’. The target was to encourage the students from different universities in town to host TEDxUniversity events in their own campuses. It was quite an informative and interactive session with participation from all directions. It included a lot of behind the scene stories of organizing TEDxDhaka from the Organizing Team’s experiences.

The venue EMK Center helped us in every possibility. Their volunteers and crew were efficient, generous and welcoming. And thanks to EMK Center for giving us the facility for free of cost since we did not charge anything for tickets from the attendees. The Ted Cafe adjacent to the main hall sold good snacks and drinks at a very reasonable price to the attendees. The internet connection for the live streaming was supported by Qubee with a 4mbps connection. It worked moderately well with no major glitches during the live streaming. Thanks to Qubee for their generous support.

We set up a separate screen for the live #TED twitter feed. Many among the TEDxDhakaLive audience joined the global conversation on twitter while watching the talks.

The breaks were full of waving hellos to strangers from different disciplines and backgrounds sparked enthusiastic conversations about the talks and beyond.

We look forward to keep organizing this type of smaller, intimate events around the TED simulcasts in the future.


TEDxDhakaLive 2013 on June 12th!


[Please note: Our main TEDxDhaka event is still scheduled for September 2013!]

For the first time we are going to host a TEDxLive event. TEDxLive events are simulcast events showing TED or TEDGlobal live on screen as it happens in main TED venues in Vancouver or Edinburgh.

This time we will show 4 sessions of TEDGlobal 2013 live from Edinburgh on June 12th, Wednesday.
We will show Session 4 to 6 running approximately 8 hours. Check out the program guide to find the details about the speakers of those sessions at TEDGlobal.

The event aims to encourage more of the students community of Bangladesh, while the rest of the community members may also join. There are ONLY 100 seats for this event with 70% allocation for students and 30% for the rest. You will hear from us by the first week of June as to whether or not you were accepted as an attendee. If selected (or not), we will confirm you over email and you will be picking up your badge on the event day at the entry.

VenueEMK Center, Check out the VENUE page for map.
Date and time: June 12th 2013, Wednesday, starts at 13:00 local time, runs until EMK Center kicks us out!
Ticket Price: Zero. This event is free to attend.

The registration is now OPEN. Visit the Regitstration Page to submit an application online.

Thanks for your kind support and interest at TEDxDhaka. We look forward to seeing you at the event.