Heroes of IoT - Mahboob Zaman
Mahboob Zaman BIO:
Experiences create stories. Our interview with Mahboob Zaman was only filled with so many stories and experiences he gained throughout the years as an industry leader in the IT sector of Bangladesh.
Mahboob Zaman, a valiant freedom fighter, is one of the forerunners of IT industry in Bangladesh. Graduating from Dhaka University, he served as the President of BASIS (Bangladesh Software & Information Services Association) since 2010 and had a vision to raise BASIS to the next level. He is the founder and managing director of DataSoft Systems Bangladesh Limited since 1998. Under his leadership, Bangladesh is proceeding towards becoming the next IT outsourcing destination.
IoT for BD: DataSoft has been a pioneer in Bangladesh ICT industry, the first ever 9001:2008 certified software product and services company in Bangladesh. What especially motivated DataSoft to focus on IoT?
Mahboob Zaman: We started with DataSoft Systems Bangladesh Limited back in 1998 which marks the 20th year of our company this year. If you notice the name of our company you can easily understand our focus which was working on data entry, software development and network systems of Bangladesh. Around 2000 there was a big technological revolution in the world. Even though, our neighbouring country India was ready to dive into the tech market, we were a little bit late. So, we came up with our company with the tagline “We make software, we make your computer meaningful” which is different from our current tagline “Changing lifestyles”. Our main target was developing software applications for the flourishing industries in our country. We made software for garments factories, hospitals, library management and kids’ entertainment. We even automated the micro-credit system invented by Muhammad Yunus. A few years ago, I went on a tour in Thailand. I visited a night safari there where they showed us a couple of frogs and spider webs of different species. Then, I wondered we have more varieties of spider webs in our very own “Lawachora National Park”. We just don’t have the necessary equipment to showcase them to tourists. It is relevant in almost every aspect of our life. So, I thought, if only we can grasp the power of IoT, we can upgrade the scenario of our everyday life on a whole different level. In today’s world, data is the new currency. If you cannot use the data you have, it will be meaningless to have them in the first place. Therefore, in order to make a change, you must gather the data, analyze them properly and use them for the welfare of society. All these factors influenced our focus towards IoT and its impact.
IoT for BD: DataSoft IoT products are now being globally recognized and widely used in different countries like Japan and Saudi Arabia. What have been the main factors behind such success?
Mahboob Zaman: The world is currently in its fourth industrial revolution. During the second and third industrial revolution, Japan was one of the pioneers in every sector like automobile, telecom and internet. However, they were quite lagging behind in the fourth industrial revolution. From 2008 to 2011, Mitsubishi Research Institute in Japan started a study to find an alternative of China to outsource their IT sector as China was moving towards higher technology. Bangladesh was one of their chosen ones and we were lucky enough to capture the market then. We proposed our solutions for IoT based smart home appliances and Healthcare for the ageing population. They were very impressed with our work on IoT and we have been working with them ever since. The same goes for Saudi Arabia as well. We have also established an IoT based toll management system in Congo. Currently, we are working on some security measures to prevent school shooting in Florida.
IOT for BD: DataSoft has been carrying out various endeavours to develop IoT skills among professionals. You have a state-of-the-art IoT laboratory. We would like to know about the current initiatives and long-term visions of the laboratory.
Mahboob Zaman: Since IoT is a very significant segment of technology revolution both in the current and future world, it is simply logical to proceed with an IoT laboratory in the office. We have a couple of projects running in our IoT laboratory. I would specifically mention “ChickCare”, “Smart Pisciculture” and our Automated Mushroom Cultivation System. ChickCare is an IoT based project that automates the process of taking care of chicken during their brooding period. Precise ambience during the first four weeks of hatching ensures the health of chicken. Here, we automated the whole process to maintain optimum temperature and gases. They can also be controlled through mobiles based applications and website. Smart Pisciculture is a similar project for the fish larva to ensure utmost growth and reproduction capacity of the fish. Our most fruitful project is the IoT based Automated Mushroom Cultivation System. Cultivation of mushroom is a very sophisticated process that requires exact temperature and humidity. With our IoT based system, we managed to increase the productivity of mushroom by more than 50% while decreasing the labour cost by 70%. We have already implemented a device in National Mushroom Development and Extension Center and more implementation is waiting in near future. Our goal is to make our agriculture system automated and IoT based so that we can strengthen our economy several times.
IoT for BD: Could you please share your views on the available IoT skillset in the people of our country?
Mahboob Zaman: Frankly speaking, the education curriculum of the universities of Bangladesh is not adequate enough to produce skilled workers. You cannot expect a fresh graduate to be proficient in the industry skills right off. Theoretical courses aside, they need some firsthand experiences inside the industries. While on the other hand, the students of the universities abroad do not lack so far behind. It is due to them having some credit hours doing an internship under various companies. In fact, I had decided to do a case study on the effect of the direct internship as credit points on young graduates with my very own tests. We, DataSoft, collaborated with the Institute of Information Technology, University of Dhaka, to provide a 6 credit hours’ worth internship to 6 of their final year's students. We provided project managers to look over their progress, provided them with 10 thousand Taka internship fees and at the end of the 6 months’ internship provided them with certificates. But that’s not all. At the end of the internship, they were so capable of working for us, that we offered them full-time jobs when they graduate. In fact, when they returned to their institutions, they were more experienced, capable and fervent. That is what a first-hand experience can do. Universities build the foundations; the experiences make them capable and skilled. That is what I suggest, to involve education with industries and only then, can the potent skills can be developed.
IoT for BD: Sir, you have been a valiant freedom fighter. You have also been a noble contributor in Bangladesh ICT industry. Would you give any advice to our young generation, who aspire to build a career in the IoT or ICT sector of Bangladesh?
Mahboob Zaman: I would like to invite the young generation in this field as long as they have a very inquisitive mind. “Internet of Things” is a huge and interesting field with lots of scopes for generating, developing and marketing new ideas. As long as you come up with fresh innovative ideas, you are very much valued globally. Thanks to the power of the Internet, the world is flat now. If you innovate something here in Bangladesh, it’s only a matter of minutes before it reaches the other side of the globe. Also, when you are entering the world of entrepreneurship you must remember, everything you are doing is for society. Earning money should not be your sole purpose. So, sharpen your logical mind and mathematical skills and contemplate the welfare of society with the weapon of technology.
IoT for BD: Thank you very much, sir, for your valuable time.
Mahboob Zaman: You are welcome.