Duck Creek Technologies Recognizes Argyle Insurance and Coforge with its Standard of Excellence Award

The delivery of a record-breaking, full end-to-end small and medium-sized enterprises commercial line in under 60 days for Argyle Insurance was enabled by remarkable teamwork and technology

Boston, May 15, 2023 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Duck Creek Technologies, the intelligent solutions provider defining the future of property and casualty (P&C) and general insurance, is pleased to recognize Argyle Insurance and Coforge as winners of this year’s Duck Creek Standard of Excellence Award. Team members from Argyle Insurance and Coforge received the award during Formation ’23 in Orlando, Florida, which was earned for achieving the highest level of excellence through the implementation of Duck Creek solutions.

Argyle Insurance achieved a successful, sub-60-day go-live of Duck Creek Policy, Duck Creek Billing and Duck Creek Rating. The swift implementation was enabled by the deep domain expertise of Duck Creek’s team, combined with a skilled partner in Coforge being able to resource and support delivery end-to-end. Argyle Insurance selected Duck Creek’s full suite to enable their small and medium-sized enterprises (SME) broker clients more choices and competition through a wider range of insurers and products. Argyle’s story of a scalable, enterprise-grade system, which allowed rapid design and delivery of products into the market, demonstrated the impressive power and flexibility of the Duck Creek platform. The sub-60-day execution was achieved using an innovative Australian SME template built by the Duck Creek APAC regional product development team and made available on our content exchange.

“I am proud to say the unparalleled teamwork between Argyle Insurance, Duck Creek and Coforge enabled us to stand up a full end-to-end product with Duck Creek’s policy, billing and rating solutions in under 60 days,” said Matt Morgan, Co-Founder and Chief Operating Officer at Argyle Insurance. “This capability is critical for both start-ups like Argyle Insurance and incumbents to adjust and adapt to the rapid changes happening across the insurance landscape driven by regulatory changes and customer market dynamics, which can have a big impact on insurer success.”

“As a Premier Delivery Partner for Duck Creek Technologies, with 800+ Duck Creek SME’s globally, Coforge is proud to be a part of Argyle’s record-setting go-live journey. This partnership between Coforge, Argyle and Duck Creek Technologies is an outstanding case of seamless collaboration and has set a new benchmark in the industry,” said Rajeev Batra, EVP, Insurance, Coforge.

“Right from the beginning, to achieve the goal of going live in such an accelerated timeline meant remarkable teamwork was going to be critical,” said Mike Jackowski, Chief Executive Officer, Duck Creek Technologies. “All parties were hyper-focused on Argyle’s success during implementation and committed to helping the startup achieve its goals of partnering with brokers to build products that can capture profitable, large market share in a mature, stable market with the agility the Duck Creek platform provides. We focus on driving better, easier-to-understand insurance products tailored to policyholders’ needs and adaptable to their changing priorities.”

About Argyle Insurance
Argyle Insurance is a true digital underwriting agency with technology to meet customers changing insurance requirements. Argyle’s strength comes through innovation. It has delivered a new way to connect customers to their brokers digitally that comes with a suite of tools to interact in more meaningful ways.

About Coforge
Coforge is a global digital services and solutions provider, that leverages emerging technologies and deep domain expertise to deliver real-world business impact for its clients. A focus on very select industries, a detailed understanding of the underlying processes of those industries and partnerships with leading platforms provides us a distinct perspective. Coforge leads with its product engineering approach and leverages Cloud, Data, Integration and Automation technologies to transform client businesses into intelligent, high growth enterprises. Coforge’s proprietary platforms power critical business processes across its core verticals. The firm has a presence in 21 countries with 25 delivery centers across nine countries.
Learn more at www.coforge.com

About Duck Creek Technologies
Duck Creek Technologies is the intelligent solutions provider defining the future of the property and casualty (P&C) and general insurance industry. We are the platform upon which modern insurance systems are built, enabling the industry to capitalize on the power of the cloud to run agile, intelligent, and evergreen operations. Authenticity, purpose, and transparency are core to Duck Creek, and we believe insurance should be there for individuals and businesses when, where, and how they need it most. Our market-leading solutions are available on a standalone basis or as a full suite, and all are available via Duck Creek OnDemand. Visit www.duckcreek.com to learn more. Follow Duck Creek on our social channels for the latest information – LinkedIn and Twitter.

Carley Bunch
Duck Creek Technologies
+1 201 962 6091
carley.bunch@duckcreek.com

GlobeNewswire Distribution ID 8839514

Duck Creek Technologies Recognizes Argyle Insurance and Coforge with its Standard of Excellence Award

The delivery of a record-breaking, full end-to-end small and medium-sized enterprises commercial line in under 60 days for Argyle Insurance was enabled by remarkable teamwork and technology

Boston, May 15, 2023 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Duck Creek Technologies, the intelligent solutions provider defining the future of property and casualty (P&C) and general insurance, is pleased to recognize Argyle Insurance and Coforge as winners of this year’s Duck Creek Standard of Excellence Award. Team members from Argyle Insurance and Coforge received the award during Formation ’23 in Orlando, Florida, which was earned for achieving the highest level of excellence through the implementation of Duck Creek solutions.

Argyle Insurance achieved a successful, sub-60-day go-live of Duck Creek Policy, Duck Creek Billing and Duck Creek Rating. The swift implementation was enabled by the deep domain expertise of Duck Creek’s team, combined with a skilled partner in Coforge being able to resource and support delivery end-to-end. Argyle Insurance selected Duck Creek’s full suite to enable their small and medium-sized enterprises (SME) broker clients more choices and competition through a wider range of insurers and products. Argyle’s story of a scalable, enterprise-grade system, which allowed rapid design and delivery of products into the market, demonstrated the impressive power and flexibility of the Duck Creek platform. The sub-60-day execution was achieved using an innovative Australian SME template built by the Duck Creek APAC regional product development team and made available on our content exchange.

“I am proud to say the unparalleled teamwork between Argyle Insurance, Duck Creek and Coforge enabled us to stand up a full end-to-end product with Duck Creek’s policy, billing and rating solutions in under 60 days,” said Matt Morgan, Co-Founder and Chief Operating Officer at Argyle Insurance. “This capability is critical for both start-ups like Argyle Insurance and incumbents to adjust and adapt to the rapid changes happening across the insurance landscape driven by regulatory changes and customer market dynamics, which can have a big impact on insurer success.”

“As a Premier Delivery Partner for Duck Creek Technologies, with 800+ Duck Creek SME’s globally, Coforge is proud to be a part of Argyle’s record-setting go-live journey. This partnership between Coforge, Argyle and Duck Creek Technologies is an outstanding case of seamless collaboration and has set a new benchmark in the industry,” said Rajeev Batra, EVP, Insurance, Coforge.

“Right from the beginning, to achieve the goal of going live in such an accelerated timeline meant remarkable teamwork was going to be critical,” said Mike Jackowski, Chief Executive Officer, Duck Creek Technologies. “All parties were hyper-focused on Argyle’s success during implementation and committed to helping the startup achieve its goals of partnering with brokers to build products that can capture profitable, large market share in a mature, stable market with the agility the Duck Creek platform provides. We focus on driving better, easier-to-understand insurance products tailored to policyholders’ needs and adaptable to their changing priorities.”

About Argyle Insurance
Argyle Insurance is a true digital underwriting agency with technology to meet customers changing insurance requirements. Argyle’s strength comes through innovation. It has delivered a new way to connect customers to their brokers digitally that comes with a suite of tools to interact in more meaningful ways.

About Coforge
Coforge is a global digital services and solutions provider, that leverages emerging technologies and deep domain expertise to deliver real-world business impact for its clients. A focus on very select industries, a detailed understanding of the underlying processes of those industries and partnerships with leading platforms provides us a distinct perspective. Coforge leads with its product engineering approach and leverages Cloud, Data, Integration and Automation technologies to transform client businesses into intelligent, high growth enterprises. Coforge’s proprietary platforms power critical business processes across its core verticals. The firm has a presence in 21 countries with 25 delivery centers across nine countries.
Learn more at www.coforge.com

About Duck Creek Technologies
Duck Creek Technologies is the intelligent solutions provider defining the future of the property and casualty (P&C) and general insurance industry. We are the platform upon which modern insurance systems are built, enabling the industry to capitalize on the power of the cloud to run agile, intelligent, and evergreen operations. Authenticity, purpose, and transparency are core to Duck Creek, and we believe insurance should be there for individuals and businesses when, where, and how they need it most. Our market-leading solutions are available on a standalone basis or as a full suite, and all are available via Duck Creek OnDemand. Visit www.duckcreek.com to learn more. Follow Duck Creek on our social channels for the latest information – LinkedIn and Twitter.

Carley Bunch
Duck Creek Technologies
+1 201 962 6091
carley.bunch@duckcreek.com

GlobeNewswire Distribution ID 8839514

Ethiopian Journalist Melkamsew Puts Women at Show’s Heart

Ethiopian journalist Melkamsew Solomon broadcasts a weekly radio program, Yimechish, which focuses on rural women in Ethiopia.

But for some listeners, Yimechish — an Amharic slang term which roughly translates to “You go, girl” — is too niche and too narrowly focused.

“We get told, ‘You keep talking about women all the time, what about men’s issues? Is it only women who have problems in this country?’ They say that we have a lot of other societal problems. Some people say it’s luxury to talk about this,” Melkamsew said.

Yimechish, supported by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, has been running for the past four years, highlighting issues that can improve the lives of women in areas of health and education.

In Ethiopia, most women — like men — live in rural areas, and making space for their voices is important, says Melkamsew.

“We get the stories of these women to be heard,” she said. “We show how hard their life is, how they don’t have any help … how far they go to fetch water, how much they carry by themselves to the market, they don’t have any help. We also do stories on what they could accomplish if used this time working on something that can earn them money.”

People have that “aha” moment when they hear these stories, she says.

Yimechish has received positive feedback from male audience members amidst the pushback.

Bethlehem Negash, a member of the Ethiopian Media Women’s Association, says that women traditionally don’t have a voice in the media in Ethiopia.

“Mostly women are the subjects of the media, as victims and, you know, passive voices rather active ones who are, you know, who can contribute to the society,” Bethlehem said.

According to a 2021 research report that Bethlehem co-authored, 30 percent of the journalists employed by seven major media houses were women.

Bethlehem says media houses which offer a better work-life balance for women through providing daycare and improved maternity have been successful in growing women’s participation.

“I think, maybe, what we take from that is that, for us to advocate for, you know, more balanced and female-friendly newsrooms and also media operations. So, maybe we need to appreciate some of the work done by a few media houses and also try to advocate, you know, for other media houses to replicate that as well,” Bethlehem said.

Yimechish airs weekly on Sheger Radio in Ethiopia, whose owner, a veteran woman journalist, has supported the show in content production.

“She has advised me, based on her own professional experience, on who to speak to for the show, and then helped make those connections happen,” Melkamsew said. “She has helped me meet a lot of distinguished women.”

Shows like Yimechish are not common in Ethiopia, but media expert Bethlehem says including women’s perspective in media can be used to counter the same narrative that it is guilty of echoing.

Source: Voice of America

Beyond climate mitigation: the Pakistan floods showed there’s no turning back

33 million people were affected by the devastating floods in Pakistan in 2022, but this was just one of many recent climate tragedies. Pakistan is the eighth most vulnerable country to climate change in the world. Yet, while the country remains one of the most vulnerable, its impact on global emissions accounts for less than 1%. Climate mitigation alone will not get Pakistan out of the water, it’s time for the country to focus on climate adaptation, along with mitigation efforts.

3 things Pakistan got right since the 2022 floods

1. Making a global case for loss and damage

Soon after the floods in Pakistan, world leaders met in Sharm el Shaikh for COP27. Pakistan’s horrific climate-related devastation and its unwavering efforts during the COP led to ‘loss and damage’ being at the top of the agenda. The country was making a case for climate justice and rightly so. The unprecedented floods in Pakistan resulted in over 1,500 deaths and $30 billion in losses. After three decades of deadlock, developed countries in the Egption town on the Red Sea agreed and committed to paying ‘loss and damage’ funds to the poorer nations. An estimated $300 billion is required by 2030.

2. Developing Pakistan’s 4RF plan

While this is one of the deadliest floods in Pakistan’s history, monsoon floods are not a new phenomenon in the country and, as unfortunate as it is, it certainly won’t be the last. The government has worked on a plan, termed the 4RF Plan. Under this plan, the country will divert resources into a resilient recovery, rehabilitation and reconstruction framework. A key area in this framework is to restore the flood-affected households that will be climate resilient in nature. Pakistan’s Planning Minister, Ahsan Iqbal, termed this as the roadmap to “make Pakistan resilient.”

3. Garnering international support

In the aftermath of the floods, the Government of Pakistan formed an International Partners Support Group (IPSG). Launched in January 2023 at the International Conference on Climate Resilient Pakistan in Geneva, this group was designed to bring bilateral and multilateral partners to one platform and facilitate coordinated implementation of the 4RF. Through such prompt action, the Government raised over $10.8 billion received in flood assistance. The IPSG was also set in place to facilitate coordination and strategise upon the execution and implementation of climate-resilient projects. While the floods proved catastrophic, the Government’s swift response and call for immediate support from donors and partners proved to be promising.

Learn, adapt and replicate: lessons from the world

Floods and other climate-related disasters are a regular occurrence in a number of countries all over the world. Many have developed systems over the years that have prepared them to adapt to such changes resulting in limiting loss and damage. There are many examples of phenomenal development in this regard. Bangladesh, the Netherlands and India are all some examples that the world must look towards when it comes to best practices for adapting to climate change.

Bangladesh’s life-saving early-warning system

Bangladesh has been a pioneer in using innovative and grassroots power as early-warning systems for floods. Using human capital coupled with smartphone technology, the country collects data down to the village level to predict potential floods. In addition, Bangladesh uses text messages as awareness and warnings to those living on the path of a flood. This has significantly reduced the magnitude of damage in the country.

Dutch water management

The North Sea floods of 1953, which killed over 1,800 people, was a wake-up call for the Netherlands to up its game regarding water management. One of the prominent approaches that the Dutch took was widening and deepening its river channels, calling it the Room for the Rivers policy. The project focused on protecting the habitat adjoining the rivers from regular floods, primarily in the delta regions. It’s no wonder the world wants to replicate these highly effective, yet non-environmental threatening solutions. The Indian city of Kerela is the latest one to follow suit post its ‘century’s worst floods’ in 2018.

India’s climate resilient housing model

In Gorakhpur, India, where floods during the monsoon season affect over one million people, a community-based micro-climate resilience model has been implemented to help communities adapt to climate change. This uses climate-friendly construction techniques to build low-cost, sustainable houses with brick walls that require much less energy and resources than brick walls in conventional houses. In addition to being low-cost, local beneficiaries are involved in the construction process and are trained to help others who want to adopt the design in their respective communities.

Call to Action

While Pakistan has made significant progress since last year’s floods, it’s nowhere near enough to safeguard people from future floods in the country. Focusing on climate adaptation, along with mitigation is not a fight Pakistan should take alone. The unprecedented impacts of climate change across the world call for a high degree of multi-stakeholder collaboration in designing systems that serve as blueprints for countries that are most vulnerable to climate catastrophes.

Source: World Economic forum

How to mobilize private-sector finance for climate adaptation

Investment in renewable energy reached parity with investment in fossil fuels for the first time in 2022, marking a long-awaited shift toward climate-friendly financial flows. But while reducing emissions is crucial, it is only one aspect of comprehensive climate action.

As the latest report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change makes clear, the world is rapidly approaching a level of warming that will make it significantly harder to manage drought, heat waves, rising sea levels and other climate-related disasters. Along with scaling efforts to curb emissions, therefore, we must invest substantial resources in building climate resilience and adapting to the changes already underway.

But increasing private sector finance for climate adaptation presents unique challenges. While renewable energy is a promising sector with revenue models well understood by investors, the same cannot easily be said of adaptation measures. Few investors are experienced with adaptation finance, and even fewer are experts at it. This has led to uncertainty about whether the private sector can — or should — fund adaptation on a larger scale.

Still, under specific circumstances, private sector involvement in climate adaptation is possible. Indeed, a compelling case is emerging that the private sector can play an important role in helping fill the adaptation finance gap and making vulnerable communities more resilient to the worst impacts of climate change. Here’s what to know.

Current Adaptation Finance Falls Short of the World’s Needs

Adaptation finance refers to financial resources aimed at helping communities, companies, countries, and regions adapt to the impacts of climate change. Examples include financing the relocation of an infrastructure project away from areas with rising sea levels, supplying drought-resistant seeds for farming, or building a dam with a larger retention basin to account for increasingly variable rainfall.

Recent climate-driven disasters such as catastrophic floods in Pakistan, Nigeria and Chad, and the prolonged drought and famine in the Horn of Africa, highlight the urgent need for investment in adaptation. Developing countries require an estimated $160-$340 billion per year by 2030 to adapt to increasing climate impacts; this amount is projected to increase to $315-$565 billion by 2050. Right now, however, less than $50 billion — or just 10% of all climate finance — is allocated to adaptation. As emphasized at COP27, the amount of adaptation finance to developing countries needs to increase by 5 to 10 times.

While adaptation finance can come from both public and private capital, the vast majority so far has been public. Corporations and institutional investors provided just $1 billion, or 2%, of tracked adaptation finance in 2019 and 2020, compared to 98% from public sources. (This number accounts only for investment in adaptation projects with public benefits; spending by companies to make their own business models more resilient is not included.)

Why Is Private Investment in Climate Adaptation So Low?

Some adaptation projects may naturally attract private capital if they operate on a shorter time scale and offer proven cash-flow potential — for example, retrofits to water and sanitation infrastructure. However, many adaptation measures do not fall within this box and will have a more difficult time bringing in private investment.

Private investors may hesitate to invest in adaptation due to several significant barriers, including some that apply to climate projects in general, such as mispricing of natural resources and distortionary subsidies. The three challenges below are especially relevant to adaptation projects.

Perception that there is no money to be made: Private investors expect to earn competitive risk-adjusted returns from investments. Adaptation projects may be perceived as riskier due to the uncertainty and complexity of climate impacts, and often result in public benefits rather than direct financial returns.

Information asymmetries and knowledge gaps: Investors may contend with limited access to information on climate impacts, future risks and likely adaptation outcomes. The impact of key approaches such as ecosystem-based adaptation has not been systematically measured; nor have the full range of potential environmental and social benefits been monetized and calculated. This makes it difficult to reliably calculate returns on investment and make informed investing decisions.

Investment horizon and size of adaptation projects: Most adaptation projects are inherently long-term, taking 10-20 years to implement. It is hard to make the business case for potentially large upfront costs today set against relatively long payback times. In addition, adaptation projects often have relatively small ticket sizes (around $30-$50 million) which may not appeal to traditional investors.

Can the Private Sector Scale Up Its Investment in Climate Adaptation?

There are very good reasons for businesses and the financial sector to be concerned about climate impacts and adaptation. Private investors face transition risks stemming from shifts in innovation, technology and regulation as well as physical risks from more severe wildfires, water stress, heatwaves and hurricanes. These climate impacts put up to $1 trillion at risk over the next five years for the world’s 215 biggest firms. Businesses are also increasingly under pressure to deliver on ESG expectations.

Given these growing environmental, social and economic risks, private actors may view investment in adaptation not only as a sound financial opportunity, but also an investment in their own long-term stability.

Of course, private capital is not the solution in all situations. Adaptation — particularly in the most vulnerable, low-income regions — often brings public benefits rather than opportunities for private financial return. Likewise, over-emphasizing the potential role of private investment could result in funds being directed to countries with stronger private capital markets, such as emerging and developed economies, rather than to the most vulnerable countries and communities with the greatest need for support. While most people recognize the need for increased adaptation finance, including from the private sector, these constraints mean that many adaptation investments will have to be covered by public funds.

At the same time, there are not enough public resources available to meet the full extent of adaptation needs — whereas private finance, barely tapped so far, may be able to play a much more significant role.

Ways to Involve Private Capital in Adaptation Finance

Private investors may finance adaptation-related projects on fully commercial terms if they are confident about risk-adjusted returns, such as a venture capital firm investing in start-ups that provide climate risk assessments. However, the uncertain financial value of many adaptation measures — such as protecting coral reefs to support coastal communities whose livelihoods depend on them — means private actors may need additional encouragement to finance these kinds of initiatives.

One way to address this challenge is through the use of public financial resources to de-risk investment opportunities for private investors. One such technique involves “blended finance,” which improves the risk-return characteristics of an investment by pooling capital with different financial and non-financial return expectations within an investment structure. Such an approach can help alleviate concerns about financial uncertainty and knowledge gaps, thereby mobilizing private capital which would not otherwise be available.

Here are a few examples that demonstrate how blended finance can support adaptation initiatives in practice:

Guarantees and co-financing

Public institutions typically finance public infrastructure critical for building resilience to climate impacts, such as water treatment facilities or seawalls. State-owned infrastructure banks, multilateral development banks and export credit agencies play vital roles in financing such projects. However, guarantees, co-financing or other methods of risk reduction can help attract private capital to adaptation solutions.

The Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA), for example, provides guarantees covering country and contract risks to encourage investment in developing countries. In Jordan, MIGA’s guarantee of $13.1 million protected equity investments by private investors, covering them for a period of up to 20 years against the risk of breach of contract. This allowed private investors to finance the expansion of an existing water treatment plant to account for more frequent and intense storms and drought, sea-level rise, saltwater intrusion and the needs of a growing population.

Risk-tolerant capital structures

Risk-tolerant capital is another tool for mobilizing private investment in adaptation. One example is the Global Fund for Coral Reefs, which provides growth equity to the “blue economy,” protecting coral reefs and investing in the activities and economies that depend on them. In this structure, the Green Climate Fund (GCF) agreed to assume the initial losses in an investment to encourage the participation of others who may not have otherwise joined. GCF’s first-loss equity of $125 million is expected to mobilize three times this amount from private and institutional investors, for a total investment of $500 million.

Another example comes from Lightsmith Climate Resilience, a private equity fund that focuses on climate adaptation and resilience and invests in growth-stage technology companies seeking to address the impacts of climate change. The fund uses donor capital to create a risk-absorbing junior layer, which carries a higher potential for loss and helps reduce the level of risk for subsequent investors. Through this approach, Lightsmith aims to attract an estimated $3.30 of direct commercial investment for every dollar contributed by public financial institutions. In 2022, the final closing of the fund reached $186 million in total contributions from both the public and private sectors. The fund has already invested in three growth-stage firms: a U.S.-based water tech company that provides renewable drinking water systems; an Indian food company that uses tech-based supply chain approaches to reduce food waste and improve farm output; and a Brazilian company that provides AI-based solutions for climate-resilient agriculture.

Strategic Partnerships Can Spark a Virtuous Cycle for Adaptation Finance

Beyond raising additional capital for climate adaptation, partnerships between the public and private sectors can offer significant non-financial benefits as well.

First, such arrangements can help ensure that private-sector adaptation investments generate the intended climate impact. Funding from public financial institutions means the investment must meet their criteria — such as governance and sustainability standards — along with climate risk screening, environmental and social safeguards, and monitoring and evaluation requirements. Second, these partnerships can help narrow the knowledge and unfamiliarity gap for private investors, since development finance institutions and donor countries have decades of experience and expertise working directly with developing country governments and understand their markets.

On the other side, private investment brings not only additional capital, but also entrepreneurship, efficiency and innovation. This can spark a virtuous cycle by building investor confidence in new opportunities and approaches. These collected benefits help lower the existing barriers to further private investment in adaptation.

With supportive financial structures in place, the private sector can scale up investment in climate change adaptation — and in fact could play an essential role in closing the substantial adaptation finance gap. This will require a carefully designed and balanced approach that leverages both public and private financing and resources. Over time, such partnerships can help facilitate a broad-based scale-up of adaptation investments to the benefit of communities and investors alike.

Source: World Economic forum

Six elements accelerating education for a Smart Bangladesh and a Smart World

When schools in Bangladesh closed during the COVID-19 pandemic, Ismat, a secondary school teacher from rural Ashuganj, knew that with each passing day, her students were falling behind more and more.

Instead of waiting for solutions to be handed down by her administration, she decided to “be the solution”. She experimented with ways of teaching using social media live, video conferencing and even visiting students’ homes on occasion—driven by a deep understanding of the digital context of their lives.

This story of Ismat was not unique in Bangladesh; many self-driven teachers innovated solutions to continue education virtually during the pandemic.

Schools were closed but thousands of teachers ensured that education was not.

How did teachers find the courage to pioneer such innovation? Partially through their decade-long experience of constructing and sharing digital content through a teacher-for-teacher social media platform.

During this time, various other educational innovations were also being launched by government and non-government actors through television, radio, phone and the internet.

From the ashes of the pandemic seemed to emerge the foundation for an education ecosystem with future-ready features. This led to the World Economic Forum piece 5 questions to ask now to shape blended learning of the future. This piece, in turn, inspired the formation of an interministerial National Blended Education Taskforce in Bangladesh, led by the Minister of Education, with ten other ministries spanning across education, health, skills development, ICT, telecommunications and even planning and finance and various non-state educational actors.

This comprehensive formation was a first in the country’s history to solve the problems of education: make it market-ready, future-ready, and aspiration-ready. It was to leverage cutting edge technologies and methods and do it together, involving whole-of-government and whole-of-society.

This empowered committee generated plans for an inclusive blended education ecosystem, which combined high-, low-, and no-tech resources to enable all learners to have greater control over where they learn, when they learn, and how they learn.

Six elements of education for a Smart Bangladesh

How could education be comprehensively planned with such diverse entities?

A simple sense-making framework had to be used: its result is the ten-year Blended Education Master Plan, costing around $20 billion.

The plan is guided by the following six elements:

1. Teaching learning practices: learning how to learn

Internet search engines mean that the days of memorizing facts are long gone.

If our learners are to thrive in an increasingly complex and ambiguous tomorrow, they must learn how to learn, ask questions and solve problems. There are six-figure jobs being offered now simply to give ChatGPT better prompts.

Problem-solving cannot be taught through mere lectures.

The ongoing national curriculum reform in Bangladesh focuses on experiential learning and problem-based learning (PBL) approaches in classrooms. Early signs show promise, demonstrating that suburban students are doing better than their urban counterparts because the latter are methodically trained by schools and private tutors to memorise and regurgitate.

However, the acceptability of these new approaches by teachers and families varies, given the radical departure from the conventional teaching-learning methods.

2. Educational content and resources: ensuring inclusion and personalisation

Ismat’s story would not be possible had digital content and resources not been developed to continue education virtually during the pandemic.

This took unprecedented collaboration between government entities, teachers, digital content creators, startups, EdTech companies and development partners.

As teaching-learning practices are to change, so must all content and resources — teacher guides, workbooks, school-based resources and learning content. Various public and private institutions are already putting up massive budgets to produce digital content: for instance, the approved budget of various digital content development initiatives of the ICT Ministry is around $800 million until 2027.

What is needed is careful coordination across all the public and private stakeholders producing digital content so that both duplication and gaps may be avoided.

3. Assessment: measuring the real-time of and for learning

To help Ismat’s students learn, traditional assessments of learning — mostly of a summative nature — are not sufficient.

More formative and continuous assessment for learning must be the way, which goes hand-in-hand with experiential learning and the emphasis on learning to learn.

Continuous assessment tools are being piloted in Bangladesh, empowering teachers to use a smartphone app to track student assessment and learning. AI plays a major role in this transformation.

This has enabled teachers to generate personalised reports for learners, reduce learner ‘wait’ time for feedback, lower teacher time spent on grading and strengthen data-driven decision-making systems for administrators.

It must be understood that formative assessment is a major paradigm shift for teachers, administrators and even parents. It must be nurtured carefully for adoption.

4. Teacher professional development: transforming ‘sages on the stage’ to ‘guides on the side’

Ismat knew how to execute during the pandemic. Imagine how much bigger her impact could have been had she been trained the right way — to be a facilitator and not a mere lecturer?

Dependence on face-to-face teacher professional development (TPD) is costly and resource-intensive, leading to a wastage in time and money and causing disruption in already teacher-starved schools. Bangladesh’s move towards blended TPD for its 1 million teacher workforce is showing great promise, enabling teachers to have more time in the classroom and supportive materials.

This transition to blended TPD is heavily facilitated by nearly 2,500 tech-savvy teacher ambassadors. These are ‘super-teachers’ acting as change agents within teacher communities.

Ismat, for example, was encouraged by teacher ambassadors over the years and she is becoming a teacher ambassador herself.

This very promising transformation of the teachers’ role from sages to guides requires mental rewiring and cultural disruption, which must go through consistent behavioural nudges by the teacher educators and educational administration.

5. Employment: learning to earn

The mismatch between supply and demand is an iconic issue for graduates from education systems in developing countries.

It is often facetiously said that education creates more unemployment than it creates employment, at least in the tertiary sector. This is because the archaic content and style of education fails to supply graduates with the appropriate knowledge and skills demanded by the market, domestic and foreign alike.

To address this, the government of Bangladesh developed a one-stop collective intelligence platform. This enables matchmaking among employers, job seekers and skills training providers. The platform also empowers policymakers to orchestrate the right coordination in a timely manner to ensure evidence-informed decisions.

The collective intelligence platform requires continuous and trusted collaboration among the 20+ ministries, 40+ industry associations and thousands of training providers for meaningful data analysis and informed decision-making.

6. Inclusive infrastructure: leaving no one behind

Without thinking about devices, digital platforms, electricity, data hosting and connectivity, access to blended education cannot be realised.

To raise the bar for what we mean by access, infrastructure has to be inclusive and meaningful, ensuring an appropriate device and high-speed broadband connectivity at affordable cost.

Curiously, with all the public and private expenditures on digital infrastructure, we are still very far from affordable universal broadband access for educational institutions, teachers and students. In Bangladesh, the cost of infrastructure is estimated to be about $8 billion. Global public-private partnerships are necessary to make this happen. Without it, the richness of the digital content, the maturity of TPD and the market-readiness of assessments do not reach the learners.

Working together as public and private sectors, local and global partners, we need to innovate disruptive business models to create public infrastructure for blended education for all.

Smart Bangladesh for a Smart World

At the World Economic Forum’s Annual Meeting 2022 in Davos, we announced Bangladesh’s participation in the Forum’s Accelerators Network, fostering public-private-people partnerships to continuously mature the country’s blended education ecosystem along the six elements.

In line with Vision 2041 for Smart Bangladesh recently unveiled by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, the resulting Smart Education Accelerator intends to:

Connect with local and global best practices

This will be done by establishing a community of purpose, consisting of a diverse range of actors (public, private and individuals). Physical and virtual spaces will be curated to facilitate connection and trust among the relevant actors. In the spirit of connection, the accelerator will play a part in clarifying purposes, convening the right people, cultivating trust, coordinating trust and collaborating generously.

Innovate to solve the country’s educational challenges

This will involve providing resources and support for rapid prototyping, research and development of inclusive blended education solutions. The types of innovation will be technological, pedagogical and financial.

Scale up the most impactful innovations, based on the evidence, to transform the comprehensive education ecosystem

The appropriate scaling strategy will need to be explored, whether it is through seeking government adoption, distributing through existing platforms, spreading the idea through open-source, etc.

We are confident that the model will inform similar transformative processes in other countries, both developing and developed, resulting in a smarter world where all its learners are equipped to ‘be the solutions’ for the challenges of today and tomorrow.

This is our commitment from ‘Bangladesh to the world.’

Source: World Economic forum

What is a genome and why is it valuable to our lives? An expert explains

Just weeks after the Human Genome Project celebrated its 20th anniversary, there’s been a new milestone in DNA mapping that promises to make medical research more equitable.

In an attempt to more accurately represent all of human genetic variation, scientists have created a draft “pangenome”, which sequences DNA from 47 people from Africa, the Americas, Asia and Europe and could help research into the links between genes and disease.

The Human Pangenome Reference Consortium, which was launched in 2019 and published its research in Nature, builds on the work of the Human Genome Project. It sequenced the human genome, almost in its entirety, for the first time in April 2003 – but was mostly based on the DNA of one person.

The Human Genome Project took 13 years and was a global collaborative effort that cost around $3 billion and involved researchers from 20 universities and research centres from the US, UK, France, Germany, Japan and China. Together these groups became known as the International Human Genome Sequencing Consortium.

A genome – the “book of life” – is the entire set of genetic information about a person or organism. Mapping an individual’s DNA can help scientists to study gene mutations that cause diseases, including cancer, and could allow doctors to prescribe personalized precision medicine in future.

Magdalena Skipper is a geneticist and Editor-in-Chief of Nature, the scientific journal which published the draft human genome sequence in 2001.

Here, she explains what the original project has taught us about ourselves and how it’s developed our understanding of genetics over the past two decades.

What is a genome and why is it valuable to our lives?

The simplest way to explain it is to think of it as a set of instructions to build a certain biological entity. These instructions are open to interpretation, which means a genome doesn’t exist in a vacuum – it exists in the context of the environment. Let’s compare it to different people reading a poem. A poem is written in a certain way, made up of letters and words. But if you get different people reading that poem, it may provoke different emotions and may have different dynamics.

In my analogy, the different people reading it will be the different environmental conditions in which that poem of the genome is read out. The genome is a set of instructions, and of course, it is made up of genes. But there is so much more to a genome beyond the genes. There are instructions on how to read those genes and many other elements which, incidentally, we are continuing to explore and understand their full meaning and full functionality.

The sequencing of the human genome took place some 20 years ago now, and this really was a collaborative international effort. Today, sequencing of genomes has become much simpler. It’s now applied in the context of the clinic, in the context of understanding the complexity of the human population, in the context of understanding our history.

So genomics mixed with the medical profession, palaeontology, archaeology, gives us insights into those other disciplines which we could never really arrive at without that particular contribution. It’s not just information about disease susceptibility or the nature of diseases, but it’s also information about the most effective treatment that an individual or a specific population is most likely to respond to well, or indeed not have any adverse effects.

How has our understanding of genetics changed since the project?

We intuitively understand aspects of genetics. We all have relatives, parents, perhaps children, siblings. We know we are similar to members of our family and different from others and of course, the reason for it lies in our genes, the fact that we share our genetic information with our family members. And yet it’s a discipline that is often misunderstood, for example, under the guise of genetic determinism.

It’s been fascinating to watch how, with the availability of the human genome and this genomic information for other organisms, we have begun to chart the map that defines us as a biological entity and other biological entities around us. It’s fascinating that more than two decades since the first human genome sequence, we have learned an enormous amount about ourselves and that “book of life”, as it’s sometimes referred to.

The more we learn from it, the more we realize that the issue is extremely complex. Our genetics unfolds in the context of the environment, and it’s that interaction between our genetics and our environment which is incredibly complex. For example, whether we develop certain diseases, let’s say certain types of cancer, is indeed a combination of our genetics, but also our environmental exposures, our habits, what we eat, how we behave, what we drink and what perhaps hazardous materials we come across.

Today we think about genome engineering, although in the context of medicine, it’s still a future prospect rather than a current reality. So much of today’s medicine has already been influenced by our understanding of genetics and genomics, in terms of susceptibility to disease and medication. Depending on one’s genetic background, different drugs may be prescribed for a specific ailment over a different period of time. We also understand so much more about how genetics mixes with our genetic ancestry. So we know that certain drugs work in some populations, but not others, and that knowledge comes from our understanding of genetics.

What’s next for research around the genome?

There’s so much that we understand about our genomes today. We understand genetic susceptibility. We know of mutations within our genome that can cause certain types of diseases, or indeed responses or reactions to certain drug treatments.

At the same time, there’s an awful lot that we still don’t understand. Genetics can be incredibly complex traits such as, for example, body mass or height or cardiovascular disease. Many different elements in the genome collectively contribute to how tall someone is or how likely it is they’re going to develop a heart condition.

We understand quite a lot about how different elements in the genome interact to bring about a certain outcome in a given individual. What we are much less good at understanding, just because of the degree of complexity of the problem, is how that genetic component, if you like, plays out against the environment.

In some cases, it’s a little bit simpler than in others. Take the example of height: it’s not surprising that in addition to that genetic component of height, there will be an important nutritional component to it. If somebody is malnourished, they’re unlikely to reach their full potential to reach a height that they could otherwise. But other examples are much more complex than that.

We are still so far from fully understanding and being able to predict how a certain genome will behave in different sets of environments. This is probably one of the greatest and most interesting challenges that lies ahead of human genetics today.

Source: World Economic forum