The Royal Bengal Tiger of the Sundarban, the only family of tigers that live in a mangrove forest, is being poached at a shocking rate. In just two decades the population of the Bengal tiger has dwindled from approximately 500 to 110. The Bengal tiger is now considered an endangered species.
Now imagine the habitat of the Bengal tiger can be rigged heavily with cameras and audio sensors that detect illegal entry of poachers and immediately alert forest rangers. These very cameras and audio sensors can keep track of the tiger population and constantly surveil their health conditions as well.
This all may sound like wishful thinking but there is, in fact, a group of students looking to materialise such an idea.
Also, imagine there is no waste littered across the streets of a metropolis such as Dhaka. Perhaps an unrealistic and daring idea. However, a simple mobile game, that very much resembles the popular Augmented Reality (AR) Pokemon Go, can make that happen.
Another group of young people are aiming to develop a mobile app that uses live feeds from CCTV cameras set up all across the city to locate plastic waste lying on the streets. And then users of the app can put them away in waste bins. These bins would come with QR codes that the users can scan and earn points for being good citizens. But what is in it for them?
The top 10 users with the highest points would earn credits they can redeem by month's end and earn rewards. However fantastical, these are actual concepts developed by actual people; in fact by two groups: Team Jagadish and Team Flyers.
The concept of stopping the poaching of the Bengal tiger belongs to Team Jagadish while the idea of plastic waste removal off the streets belongs to Team Flyers; and each group is made up of eight distinctive young students.
Syed Doha Uddin, the spokesperson for Team Jagadish, a fourth-year student of Dhaka University, said, "No one cares about the Bengal tiger being poached illegally, our national treasure. So we thought of making the most out of the technology being handed over to us."
Team Flyers was represented by Kazi Arham Kabir, a fourth-year student from Ahsanullah University of Science and Technology (AUST). He said, "We would solve every pollution-related problem if we could. But we had to narrow it down. So, we thought of taking the plastic waste off the streets of Dhaka."
Sadia Karishma Kabir, Arham's friend and teammate added, "This was not our first idea for Seeds for the Future. [Earlier], we pitched an idea of a friendly robot that could accompany Covid-19 patients in isolation."
The concepts at hand were presented by both teams at a global contest initiated by Huawei, a well-known technological corporation from China. The company launched the idea behind this contest in the hopes of bringing the youth closer to understanding how technology works hand-in-hand with the corporate world.
Seeds for the Future is Huawei's brainchild in the form of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR).
Huawei thought out of the box and gave the idea behind a CSR project a more wholesome meaning. For the last 14 years, they have been running Seeds for the Future contests at a global scale, where the next generation of students are given precedence.
What is 'Seeds for the Future'?
Huawei launched its flagship CSR campaign under the name 'Seeds for the Future' back in 2008 in Thailand. The goal of this campaign is to help senior year university students from Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) disciplines adapt to the fast-moving corporate landscape. The contest has now become popular in 137 countries and regions and around 500 top-rated universities participate.
As Huawei deals mainly in Information and Communication Technology (ICT), they came up with this contest where university students like Doha, Arham and Sadia bring ideas to the table that make use of the latest technology propped up by Huawei, like their 5G or their artificial intelligence (AI) technologies.
There are three phases to this contest and it lasts for a span of three months. Huawei reaches out to any university that runs STEM programmes, state or privately run. The first step of the contest takes off with students taking a standardised exam set up by Huawei that tests the students' knowledge of ICT, from each country of all the 137. Students are also required to submit a resume along with the exam; and evaluated and selected based on their test results and resume.
Ramisha Raida Kabir, another fourth-year student from Islamic University of Technology (IUT) and a colleague of Doha's on Team Jagadish said, "Only two [students] are selected from each of the eight universities, one male and one female. From Bangladesh eight universities were chosen but that number is different in other participating countries. Hundreds of students apply from each university. Only about 30 per cent make it to the interview stage and that is only the beginning!"
When the two students from a university are selected, they move on to the next round, the Tri-nation stage. This stage of the contest takes place between three countries from the 137. Because it is not possible to have all 137 countries and regions compete against each other, three participating nations are selected randomly to compete amongst themselves.
At this stage, the 16 students handpicked from the eight universities are divided into two groups, with eight students on each team - and from this process, Team Flyers and Team Jagadish were created. To make things interesting, no participant can find out who from before is in their respective teams.
Fortunately for Sadia and Arham from AUST, they found each other on the same team: Flyers.
So, Bangladesh went up against Greece and Mozambique on the Tri-nation stage in last year's  session, which lasted for eight straight days. During these eight days, they received training not only on Huawei and China but also on Chinese culture.
However, it was all done online because of Covid-19 complications.
Ramisha said, "We were given a detailed tour of many places in China but we saw it all online. I really wish I could be physically present in China to watch it all."
Seven other teams from Greece and Mozambique competed along with Flyers and Jagadish.
Flyers, against all odds, came on top in the Tri-nation round, making them the first-ever team from Bangladesh to achieve this glory at Seeds for the Future, even though Bangladesh's journey with the contest began in 2013.
Flyers' concept of using CCTV camera feeds to clear litter off the streets did it for them. However, members of Jagadish could not celebrate that way as the financial viability of their concept was not as sound.
The letdown at the Tri-nation stage got Team Jagadish to upend their game and really consolidate the economic viability of their concept on the global stage, where all 137 countries and regions compete.
Following this defeat, in the global round they pitched their concept as a social enterprise. Doha explained, "The Sundarban and its Bengal tigers are all under the direct supervision of the government. So, us trying to save the tigers falls under that category as well. As a social enterprise, we would be funded by the government."
The final and the most gruelling round of Seeds for the Future, the global round, lasts a month. As luck would have it, Team Jagadish's collective effort helped their concept stand out from the crowd. Amongst all of the 137 countries and regions, Team Jagadish came out as one of the top 10 groups. Team Flyers however did not have the same luck on the global stage as it did at the Tri-nation round.
When asked about the overall prospect of Seeds for the Future Yuying Karl, Director of Public Affairs and Communications Department, Huawei Technologies (Bangladesh) Limited, said, "Huawei believes in collaborative achievement and always wants to create value in the communities where it works. We work as partners with the local governments and educational institutes to create a positive impact and always strive to give students opportunities to grow and become future leaders.
We have decided to develop one lakh ICT talents in the Asia Pacific region from 2021 to 2025 so that they can take the upcoming job opportunities in the ICT sector. The number of youth is a great asset to Bangladesh. We want them to contribute to the ICT stream of Digital World."
The only two teams competing in Seeds for the Future from Bangladesh, made an incredible mark in the contest (one of them made the Tri-nation champion and another made it to the top 10 in the same year) reflective of how resilient and talented Bangladesh's youth is and indicative of their potential when given the right tools and scope.