Fellow Since 2001
This profile was prepared when Shahidul Chowdhury was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2001.
The New Idea
Having grown up in a village, Shahidul knows that opportunities to learn about computers aren't so available to rural people in Bangladesh. This is particularly unfortunate, because it's these isolated communities that could most benefit from access to the digital revolution, so that villagers can design small businesses, market products, and virtually connect with the outside world. To extend opportunities for top-notch computer training to young people living in rural areas, Shahidul is working to build a network of affordable computer training centers. He has established a private institute that draws in people from diverse economic backgrounds, offers need-based scholarships to the poorest students, and finds free housing for students who travel great distances to attend classes. As students from rural places often need initial help in catching up, Shahidul's curriculum is flexible and offers special help to these students. Because he knows that excellent teachers will guarantee positive results, Shahidul offers teachers competitive salaries and brings in experts from Dhaka to help on a part-time basis. Now the challenge is reaching as many students as possible. To spread his idea, he is working through the existing network of fifty-two private polytechnic institutes in the country, forty of which he has already brought into the network. He also hopes to draw in a technology partner to cover at least some of the Internet fees of members of the networks.