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2004 World Technology Awards Winners & Finalists

Muhammad Ibrahim

Please describe the work that you are doing that you consider to be the most innovative and of the greatest likely long-term significance.

My current work in social entrepreneurship is mainly through Centre for Mass Education in Science (CMES), a NGO I founded in 1978 and has been leading as its Executive Director, since then. The aim of CMES has been to take the benefits of science and technology to the rural grass root in Bangladesh, through an empowering and practical mass education. This would contribute directly to the life and livelihood of the disadvantaged young people, mostly jobless and hopeless. We have been doing this through the following major programs, all of which I conceived and led.

Basic School System (BSS):

This innovative alternative education system provides to adolescent dropouts essential competencies along with technology skills for income, simultaneously practiced at the market level. Each unit of the system works through several Basic Schools and a Rural Technology Centre (RTC). Some 15000 learners are served in total at a time, in 20 different units.

The system is well integrated with the local scene and the local market. The campuses, much of which donated by local people, have arrangements for the training and practice of a variety of appropriate and profitable technologies. We transfer these technologies to the rural young people for their microenterprises through our adaptive research, pilot practices and training. Mushroom culture, bio-fertilizers through the action of earthworms, honey-bee culture, under-utilized fruit cultivation through innovative vegetative propagation, solar electricity for basic uses etc. are some of the more innovative ones. The livelihood activities of the graduates are assisted through our microcredit and business development scheme. The central theme of the program is to bring the world of education closer to the world of work, enriched with appropriate and emerging technologies.

Adolescent Girls’ Program (AGP)

This is a gender empowerment program which tries to overcome the repressions and discriminations imposed upon the girls in the rural traditional society. A major strategy followed is to provide the girls a grip on technology, and through that a progress towards economic self-reliance. This is done by changing their mindset, training them in life-skills and appropriate technologies, and encouraging them towards non-stereotyped livelihood activities. Girls organize themselves into local associations who meet every week in a ‘Gender Session’ and every month in a ‘Convention’, take up ‘Social Actions’, take trainings in a chosen technology prior to starting a business of their own.

Because of AGP, thousands of meek girls vulnerable to child-marriage and without rights within even their own family, continued in education and got empowered. Many of them are now working professionally, for example, as photographers; cultivating mushroom, honey-bees, intensive poultry or pond-fishes; running machineries; managing pharmacies? all in the remote villages and all on their own. Their examples and leadership are bringing changes in the attitude of the society at large. The program is being much replicated? UNICEF and Population Council being among the replicators.

R&D in renewable energy & other fields

With the main focus on the empowerment of the rural adolescents and youth, we have been conducting R&D to make appropriate technologies available to them. Renewable energy- mainly from the solar and biomass sources? have been one of our main areas of work. Of these the best success came in the shape of our innovative solar microutility which is electrifying village bazaars on the basis of small affordable tarrifs. Local young people trained by us are providing the maintenance services for the solar electric systems of which some accessories have been specially developed by us. Very basic and affordable village mushroom spawn production lab (by tissue culture), and earthworm nurseries have been some other such profitable innovations by CMES.

Brief Biography

DR. MUHAMMAD IBRAHIM

Date of Birth : 1 December 1945

Place of Birth : Chittagong, Bangladesh

Present Position : Professor of Physics University of Dhaka, Bangladesh; and Executive Director Centre for Mass Education in Science (CMES).

Education:

• Ph.D in Physics, University of Southampton, England 1972

• M.Sc. in Physics and B.Sc. (Honours) in Physics, Dhaka University, Bangladesh, 1966 & 1965.

Research:

• Post-doctoral research in semiconductors, Uppsala University, Sweden 1977-78

• Research in solid state physics, semiconductor devices, renewable energy, and appropriate technology? in laboratories & fields home & abroad (1968? present). 25 papers in scientific journals.

• Research in education methodologies, child & youth empowerment, and gender (1981? present).

Activities in People’s Science & Technology:

• I started in 1961, while still in high school, Bijnan Samoeeki? the first popular science monthly in the country, and has been its editor and publisher ever since, over the 43 years of its regular publication. This monthly has helped create a rich popular science literature in Bangla language, and pioneered a vibrant science club movement around the country including the rural areas, among other things.

• The science periodical became the core around which I founded Centre for Mass Education in Science (CMES) in 1978. This has grown into one of the major NGOs of the country, with a unique mission of its own (described in the answer for the previous question), that I conceived and led.

• I authored 37 books, and numerous articles published in periodicals, newspapers, and conference proceedings? mainly on various aspects of people’s science and appropriate technology.

• I have been a regular TV-person right from the inception of Television in our country in 1965. Most of the programs I designed and took part are on popular science and technology. My current regular program in Bangladesh Television is a quiz show named Desh-o-Biggan (Science and Our Country)? is going on for about a decade? almost continuously.

• I have been an occasional radio broadcaster for many decades. My favourite programs are on environment, current science and appropriate technology? mostly programs for the young people and with them.

Positions with International and National Forums:

• Schwab Foundation Social Entrepreneur? an associate of the World Economic Forum, Geneva and Davos, Switzerland (2001- present).

• Associate Member, Ashoka Innovators for the Public, Washington DC (1995- present).

• Associate Scientist, International Centre for Theoretical Physics, Trieste, Italy (1984-1997).

• Secretary Bangladesh Solar Energy Society (1990-2002).

• Vice President Bangladesh Solar Energy Society (2002-present).

• Country Representative, South Asian Network for Environmental Education, Chandhigar, India (2001-present).

Awards:

• WorldAware Business Award (on behalf of CMES), London U.K. (2004).

• Institute of Diploma Engineers’ Gold Medal for popularization of science Dhaka, Bangladesh (2000).

• Qudrat-E-Khuda Gold Medal for popularization of science, Chittagong, Bangladesh (1989).

• Agroni Bank Award for Children Literature, Dhaka, Bangladesh (1987).

Commissioned Studies in Technology:

• Team Leader for the study on Traditional Technologies in Bangladesh, commissioned by UNESCO (2002).

• Consultant in the South South North (SSN) Project-Bangladesh component, in the implementation of Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) (2002- present).

• Team Leader for the study on Policies and Legislations Affecting Wood Energy Production, Trade and Use in Bangladesh, commissioned by FAO (1998).

• Team Leader in the study for commercialization of Renewable Energy Technologies through Market Development, Enhanced Research Development and Demonstration, commissioned by UN-ESCAP (1998-99).