Building a World Free of Barriers: Vashkar Bhattacharjee’s Story

We recently shared Part One and Part Two of Vashkar Bhattacharjee’s story. Vashkar is the National Consultant, Accessibility, A2i, Prime Minister’s Office of Bangladesh, and the Program Manager, Young Power in Social Action (YPSA). Here is Part Three.

Our research at Young People in Social Action (YPSA), Bangladesh revealed that developing multimedia talking books would not be enough to ensure proper learning among students. For that to happen, the students required access to rich vocabulary libraries for proper understanding of language. (We have been supported by a2i program’s Service Innovation Fund to develop Bangladesh’s first accessible dictionaries in English and Bangla available in both online and offline modes.)

People are amazed to see persons with visual impairment using computers and smartphones. This has been made easy thanks to the open-source screen-reading software that can convert text to speech. People with visual impairment can also use the standard QWERTY keyboard just like everybody else as it has become second nature. Among the 50 people working at YPSA, 32 have a disability. ICTs have helped them overcome physical barriers.

In the role of a2i’s national consultant for disability, I am working on making different websites accessible for all following W3C’s Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 standard to achieve sustainable goals by 2030 where no one would be left behind. Among these websites, the most significant one is the National Portal which is a harmonized system of public websites that reduce the hassle, time, and costs incurred by citizens in accessing and availing themselves of government information and services.

I am also leading an initiative as part of a2i to encourage the Bangladesh government to take the steps necessary to ratify the Marrakesh VIP Treaty to facilitate access to published works for people who are blind, visually impaired, or otherwise print disabled. The Marrakesh VIP Treaty is an international agreement that will help an estimated 285 million blind people worldwide have greater access to books published in accessible formats. Implementing the Marrakesh VIP Treaty would remove restrictions on the ability of Bangladesh to import legally-produced audio and Braille books without specific permission from the publishers.

Now that I look back at my life, I cannot help but be amazed. While I did not have any teachers at school trained to teach blind students, here I was, about 15 years later, teaching blind people how to access content using the power of ICT and the Internet. For the last 20 years, I have been closely working on promoting accessible technology and information for people with disabilities. In the process, I have engaged in multiple dialogues with leading think tanks and policymakers who are promoting the agenda of accessible information for all, including the Internet Society, APNIC, the DAISY Consortium, ITU, the Accessible Books Consortium of WIPO, and the Global Alliance of Accessible Technology and Environments (GAATES).

Lastly, I tried to inspire people in my community to move forward to use “accessible technology” for the betterment of all and to create a community so they can take another big step towards living their lives with blindness. I am ever grateful to YPSA for trusting my abilities. I acknowledge Access to Information (a2i) program for their overall support in implementing initiatives for the empowerment of persons with disabilities. I strongly believe that together we can build a world free of barriers.

Vashkar Bhattacharjee will be attending the Internet Governance Forum (IGF) later this month as an IGF Ambassador, where this year’s theme is Shape Your Digital Future. He welcomes other attendees to reach out to him to learn more about his work.

In the meantime, you can read the W3C Introduction to Web Accessibilityand learn about the DAISY Consortium and the Dynamic Coalition on Access and Disability, two organizations working to ensure equal access to information and knowledge.

The Internet Society strives towards a future where “The Internet is for Everyone”. Visit the Accessibility Toolkit page to learn how every person in the Internet community can contribute to a more accessible Internet.

Learn how you, too, can help shape tomorrow!

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I’m heading to the smartest building in the world

Although I try to minimize business travel between Thanksgiving and Christmas, there are always events that I see as critical. The evolution of “smart building” technology is interesting to watch, and this year, I am heading to what could be one of the smartest buildings in the world. I am heading to TRIMax, hosted at the Crystal City Gateway Marriott in Arlington, VA later this month. So, you’re probably wondering – what makes it so smart?

Bringing together the smartest for 3 days

The Crystal City Gateway Marriott will transform into the “smartest building” in the world for 3 days. Buildings and facilities management leaders from some of the most transformative facilities in the world will come together to learn and network.  Representing billions of dollars in facilities and real estate, these leaders will converge on November 29th through December 1st to share the secrets of their successes.

For those who are not familiar with TRIMax, you will want to check out the agenda here. It is the penultimate event for Maximo and TRIRIGA clients, business partners, and IBM leaders. These are leaders of asset-intensive industries, who manage thousands of costly buildings, plants, stores and the plethora of assets that make their operations possible.  They leverage technologies to help them optimize cost, reduce efforts, and engage employees or clients through smarter facilities and services. They’re basically superhuman individuals.

What to watch at TRIMax this year

This year, there are three critical areas that I will be watching the evolution of, through our customers’ eyes. These are:

  • Capital Planning and Lease Accounting;
  • Energy Optimization; and
  • Occupancy Experience

Lease accounting changes on the horizon

While the overall costs of managing a facility rose only 1% in 2017, according to BOMA, there were jumps in controllable expenses, in addition to escalating real estate taxes.  In addition,  the unprecedented impacts to the balance sheet expected in 2019 from lease accounting changes are cause for concern. Lessons from leaders like TD Bank, EDI, Chipotle, and Umpqua Bank (see speaker spotlight blog) will be critical to maximizing the building lifecycle. See the IBM webcast on this subject.

Cutting utility costs through energy optimization

On average, 29 percent of a buildings operating expenses is spent on utilities. Many occupants are demanding energy efficiency and/or alternative energy sources in their contracts.  Managing the interactions and integrations with building control systems is one area organizations are working on.  They are also striving for the ability to record sentiment using sensors and applications.

I will be watching how Tampa Bay Water uses Maximo Asset Health Insights in the Maximo keynote, as well as University of Massachusetts Amherst’s innovative integrations to manage all aspects of their campuses. There will also be several folks from IBM there to talk about how we used tools like TRIRIGA Real Estate Environmental Sustainability Manager to save over $ 5M in 2016.

Reshaping how people experience buildings

Lastly, the expectations of occupants and lessees continues to ramp up. As the cost per square foot continues to increase year over year, so do the expectations for the ties between space optimization and occupancy experience. This will be a key theme, with ISS, Boeing and IBM Real Estate Site Operations discussing how we “connect the dots” to client value during the keynote.

Mobility, analytics and cognitive play key roles in occupants experience as well. I am looking forward to learning more about these topics during talks from Fidelity, Utah Army National Guard, the Smithsonian Institute, and Verizon.

So much to learn in so little time

This is just a small subsection of 100+ speakers that will be at the event. There will be several hundred other attendees to mingle with, who are all driving change across their large real estate and asset portfolios. This is why I am looking forward to TRIMax 2017. Let us know if you too will be at the smartest building in the world!

There is still limited space available to attend TRIMax, for more details, please check out http://www.trimaxusergroup.com

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IEEE to present at IoT WORLD FORUM 2017

London – November 13th, 2017 – IEEE today confirmed its participation in the annual IoT WORLD FORUM 2017, LONDON  (http://iotinternetofthingsconference.com/) taking place in London on November 15th and 16th, at the Great Hall in Kensington. Lloyd Green, Director of Engagement Marketing and Creative Community Services, IEEE will be presenting a keynote . Please visit the IOT WORLD FORUM 2017 for full details. Click here to REGISTER NOW!

About IEEE Standards Association

IEEE Standards Association (IEEE-SA) is the home for collaboration and standardization. Our work drives the functionality, capabilities and interoperability of a wide range of products and services that transform the way people live, work and communicate.

As a globally recognised standards-setting body within IEEE, IEEE-SA develops standards through a consensus framework that engages industry and brings together a broad stakeholder community. IEEE standards set specifications and best practices based on current scientific and technological knowledge. IEEE-SA has over 1200 active standards and over 650 standards projects under development.

M2M Magazine

BT to present at #IoT WORLD FORUM 2017

BT IOT M2M

London – November 10th, 2017 – BT today confirmed its participation in the annual IoT WORLD FORUM 2017, LONDON  (http://iotinternetofthingsconference.com/) taking place in London on November 15th and 16th, at the Great Hall in Kensington. Chris Sims, Managing Director – Marketing and IoT at BT will be presenting a keynote . Please visit the IOT WORLD FORUM 2017 for full details. Click here to REGISTER NOW!

 

About BT

BT Group plc is a holding company which owns British Telecommunications plc, a British multinational telecommunications company with head offices in London, United Kingdom

M2M Magazine

I’m Planning to Change the World

Earlier this week, the Internet Society published the booklet Enabling Digital Opportunities in the Middle East. Using research created by the Internet Society, ESCWA, and Wamda, it shows what positive and practical steps can be taken to increase digital opportunity and spread its benefits to all of society. Layal Jebran is one person who’s helping to make a difference.


Layal Jebran is the type of person who can give an interview on the phone while giving directions to her friends while walking through the streets of New York City looking for Thai food. She’s the type of person who can start multiple companies while traveling the world giving motivational speeches and accepting awards. To call the 29-year-old woman, a multitasker would be an understatement. In the startup world, she’s more like a superhero.

“I started as an activist when I was 12 years old,” Jebran said. “And my first startup happened my second year in college.”

That successful startup used the Internet to connect freelance advisers to clients who needed them in the Middle East, but like many entrepreneurs, Jebran didn’t stop there. Lyl Big Designs led to other projects, and she continued developing several different ideas into reality, one after another after another. Why does she do it? Because she can, and because someone has to.

“Everyone told me I couldn’t do it. I come from a very small town, and no one believed in me, so I showed them,” Jebran said. She is a real example of success and achievement through the Internet in business in the Middle East, and she’s doing her best to make sure her home region soon catches up.

As countries around the world face a digital revolution, the Middle East has an opportunity to develop the Internet in a way that produces its content, services, and even infrastructure, if the countries in the region come together to make sure no one is left behind. In a new report, the Internet Society’s Middle East Bureau is reminding governments, corporations, tech experts, and society as a whole that we can’t underestimate the fundamental changes that faster, more affordable access to the Internet has brought and will continue to bring to humanity.

It sends the clear message that to build a prosperous digital future in the Middle East, humans need to be at the heart of the Internet.

Right now, people in the Middle East use the Internet more for socializing and entertainment than for commerce and business, but with the Middle East’s large population of well-educated but under-employed young people, some of the emphasis is on digital startups. In this arena, Jebran is an expert.

A mix of wanting to help the people of the world and wanting to prove herself has skyrocketed Jebran to success several times over in her short life. And when Jebran succeeds, she takes whole regions with her. For Jebran, it’s all about access.

Internet shutdowns, blocking, and other restrictions have slowed online growth in the Middle East, causing problems not faced by other regions.

“I fear the Internet will be regulated where it should be free and fair for everyone,” she said. “Even if they can access it, they might be monitored, and when you are monitored, you become a different person. Everyone has the right to be themselves.”

So Jebran thus uses her knowledge, sphere, and connection to build others up and takes on causes that preserve our Earth and its societies.

“You need grit for this,” Jebran said. “I’m persistent, and when I put my mind to something, I do it. I can also always pinpoint people who can help, and it’s nice to integrate with people from different backgrounds.”

While her background is in architecture and design, Jebran calls herself more business-oriented these days, a skill needed in her roles as CEO and COO of her two current companies, respectively. She’s in charge of negotiations, investments, and cash-flow. She delegates the coding and the fundraising to her hand-picked teams.

“I’m planning to change the world, bit by bit,” Jebran said. “To change that world, you must change the approach to education.”

She’s referencing inclusivity here, as so much online learning takes place in English. Her startup, Moubamrij.com, is a platform that teaches programming in Arabic, via online courses, specifically for Arab people living in non-English speaking countries. It just officially launched in January 2017, and Jebran said the program already has 5,000 subscribers in Russia alone.

This company helped earn Jebran a spot as a TechWomen Fellow this year, which is an initiative of the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. She also holds status as a Changemaker for the Changemaker Exchange in Dubai.

The titles and awards mean little to Jebran, however, when compared to the good she can do in the world. Layla is also a partner and COO for the smart location-sharing app Waynak, which has been simmering for the past year and a half and is about to go huge, with major investors jumping on board. The app works with network triangulation on the phone, and people can pinpoint their locations through that.

“If you order an ambulance from the app, the location gets sent to the Red Cross, and the dispatch sends the link of the map to the car, and they can pick you up from there,” Jebran explained. “Or if your car breaks down, you can click on our app, and they can pinpoint you and send help your way.”

To Jebran, starting companies is as commonplace as updating Facebook or drinking coffee. Any skill becomes normalized with practice, and Jebran breaks down her process as if showing people how to ride a bicycle.

“We build the product, make sure it has a landing page and gets subscribers, then build the whole website,” she said, matter-of-factly. “Then we build a cash-flow statement, go to competitions, interest investors, and you pitch your idea. Then you pray to God,” she laughed.

Her process works, though, and when the investors sign on, she uses those funds to hire people to grow the company and make it accessible to those who will need it. The funds also help create exposure and make the process move more quickly, both necessary in the age of the Internet. It is with the Internet that Jebran rests her hopes and fears, and through the Internet that she is making such grand change.

“I want the Internet free and available to everyone. Everyone has the right to learn on the Internet, money aside,” she said. “That’s how you truly change the world: with equal access for every person.”

Explore Enabling Digital Opportunities in the Middle East and learn how you can shape tomorrow.

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