One-line solution summary:
Creating opportunities for unemployed Bangladeshi youth by providing access to meaningful work online
Pitch your solution.
At 11.9% youth unemployment, Bangladesh has a population the size of Chile below the age of 24 and without a job. A young disengaged population is extremely susceptible to undesirable and criminal activities. With a youth population of around 52 million, Bangladesh stands to benefit from a ‘demographic dividend’. However, if a large segment of this population cannot find employment, they risk becoming a source of social and political instability—a ‘demographic time bomb’.
Addressing this, D2 has devised Shujog, a mobile application that connects unemployed young people from low-income backgrounds to meaningful work online. The income stream generated through Shujog enables these young people to access opportunities whose barriers were previously too high for them to scale. If scaled globally Shujog holds the potential to lift millions out of unemployment, and create jobs of a multiplying nature.
Film your elevator pitch.
What specific problem are you solving?
The unemployed youth in Bangladesh make up a staggering 79.6% of total unemployment (BBS 2017). Even if you were able to secure a job, it’s unlikely that you would make more than the national average wage of $145 per month. Globally, the youth employment figure sits at 15.4%. Unemployment also has a human cost. Besides the loss in income, people who are unemployed are more likely to suffer a wide range of medical and psychiatric problems. These problems are particularly acute among young workers just starting their careers. They are also more susceptible to undesirable activities such as human trafficking, crime, or worse.
Diving into the reasons behind this youth unemployment allows us to identify lack of access to finance, lack of female participation in the workforce, and lack of rural and peri-urban jobs, as certain key determinants (World Bank, 2012 & ILO, 2019).
Bangladesh is at a crossroads. On one hand, the country stands to benefit from a ‘demographic dividend’ with a youth population of around 52 million. At the same time, if a large segment of this population cannot find employment, they risk becoming a source of social and political instability—a ‘demographic time bomb’.
What is your solution?
Shujog by D2 (“Dignity and Data”) connects unemployed young people from low-income backgrounds to meaningful work that can be completed using inexpensive smartphones and an internet connection. Users register as a D2 agent by installing our Android app, Shujog (“opportunity” in Bangla), and creating a profile containing personal details, and preferred payment method. A registered agent can then discover and complete microtasks, currently limited to data collection, from the app.
The tasks are created by our enterprise customers looking to answer critical business questions that require capturing data directly from the ground. A multinational CPG company, for instance, can use our platform to verify the placement of products in store shelves, while a water and sanitation nonprofit could survey low-income households about their willingness to pay for safe drinking water.
After successfully completing a task, an agent is paid through mobile money or airtime. A typical D2 agent makes $12 per hour, 70% more than the national average. This income, generated through Shujog, is key to our agents being able to access opportunities, entrepreneurial or otherwise, which were previously unavailable to them. This boost hence enables our agents to provide jobs and spur further entrepreneurial opportunities in their respective communities.
Who does your solution serve, and in what ways will the solution impact their lives?
D2 targets unemployed youth from higher low income and middle income families, who reside in rural and peri-urban areas. A typical D2 agent is above 18, looking to generate income through part-time employment, or seeking work experience.
Our solution addresses many of the constraints revealed through research into our target demographic, particularly those pertaining to women. Tasks are matched to agents’ locations, eliminating the need to travel long distances for work. Additionally, all tasks on D2 are opt-in so agents can choose when and how long to work, creating flexible hours.
The recruitment process includes interviews and training sessions, during which the inputs provided by the agents have previously been used to make direct alterations to Shujog, making it the application that it is today.
Shujog is designed to allow income generation that could become seed funds for an agent’s future ventures, or supplement their investments into their current businesses. Fulfilling the financial needs of young people can empower them as entrepreneurs, leading to increased employment, income and economic growth (UNDP, 2018). D2 also provides agents with work experience which they can leverage for future employment opportunities.
Which dimension of the Challenge does your solution most closely address?
Support workers to advocate for and access living wages, social safety nets, and financial security
Explain how the problem, your solution, and your solution’s target population relate to the Challenge and your selected dimension.
As we understand it, the Challenge wants human-centered and technological solutions that promote good jobs and inclusive entrepreneurship. Our solution relates to the selected dimension because Shujog enables workers, especially youth from vulnerable populations, to access living wages and ensure financial security by providing them with a platform for income generation, which in turn enables them to access social safety nets and build entrepreneurial opportunities that facilitate upward mobility i.e. vertical movement through societal classes. With Shujog being a technological platform, we fulfill both the human-centered as well as the technological requirements mandated by the Challenge.
In what city, town, or region is your solution team headquartered?Dhaka, Bangladesh
What is your solution’s stage of development?
Pilot: An organization deploying a tested product, service, or business model in at least one community
Who is the primary delegate for your solution?
Razin Mustafiz, Founder and CEO
Which of the following categories best describes your solution?
A new application of an existing technology
Describe what makes your solution innovative.
In Bangladesh and across the developing world, inexperienced youth are often hired through informal referrals, without which they are unlikely to gain a footing in the labor market. This creates the familiar catch twenty-two situation of a job requiring experience, and gaining experience requiring the acquisition of a job. D2 enables people to gain work experience without the need for references, specifically targeting youth from the vulnerable population demographics that are unlikely to have access to such referrals from the start.
D2 sits at the intersection of two recent phenomena. First, falling smartphone prices and expanding mobile internet coverage are enabling billions of poor people to connect to the internet for the first time. Second, open source technologies are democratizing access to the computing resources needed to write sophisticated AI algorithms. Capitalizing on these two forces is the key to our innovation, making it possible for us to manage a distributed network of data agents at scale and implement measures to ensure quality and detect fraud.
Please select the technologies currently used in your solution:
What is your theory of change?
According to the most recent figures by the World Bank, youth unemployment in Bangladesh sits at 11.9%. D2 aims to provide a solution to alleviate youth unemployment in Bangladesh, as well as globally.
(i) The mobile app Shujog, which provides these unemployed youth with the opportunity to work for us as agents and perform microtasks for us, at their convenience.
(ii) Training provided to our agents which increases their digital literacy
Unemployed youth from low-income households get an opportunity to generate an income stream with which they may choose to support themselves or financially contribute to their families, thereby improving their standard of living.
The income steam from D2 enables these youths to:
(i) Engage in entrepreneurship using the generated income
(ii) Access better job opportunities by leveraging the experience gained as our agent
Decreasing youth unemployment, and increasing youth entrepreneurship in Bangladesh, and around the world.
According to the UNDP, “one way to generate decent work and inclusive growth is by empowering young people to innovate and respond to the needs of society - increasing youth entrepreneurship and social enterprise.” “Fulfilling the financial needs of young people can empower them as entrepreneurs or to serve as innovators, leading to increased employment, income and economic growth”. We have piloted Shujog with 270 agents till date. All of our agents have reported an increase in their standard of living, and several have used the funds generated from Shujog as seed funds or investments into their personal entrepreneurial endeavors, cementing our initial assumptions.
Select the key characteristics of your target population.
Which of the UN Sustainable Development Goals does your solution address?
In which countries do you currently operate?
In which countries will you be operating within the next year?
How many people does your solution currently serve? How many will it serve in one year? In five years?
Currently we have 270 D2 agents, 210 male and 60 female, across 25 of the 64 districts of the country. In one year we plan to increase this number to at least 3000. In five years we will be employing 50,000 hopefuls as our agents.
However, the number of agents we employ is not a fair measure of the number of people we serve. We do not have a maximum limit for the number of hires, and so effectively we provide the opportunity to become a D2 agent as an open call for all individuals who qualify.
Furthermore, the direct effects Shujog has on the lives of not just the D2 agents, but also their families, especially their dependents, must be considered. Invariably all D2 agents have corroborated that their earnings from Shujog have helped them financially support their family, either directly, or indirectly, by being used as investment into various entrepreneurial ventures. Nationally, the average household size is 4.5 people per household (Micheal Bauer Research, 2018). By providing the opportunity to access a higher standard of living Shujog is effectively having a meaningful impact on the lives of our agents as well as their immediate associations, which currently stands at approximately 1200 people, and should scale to around a quarter of a million people within five years.
What are your goals within the next year and within the next five years?
In the next one year, we plan on creating income generation opportunities for 3000 contributors, at least half of whom will be women, alongside expanding our network to encompass all 64 districts of Bangladesh. Our long-term goals over the next five years include employing 50,000 agents, with 300 to 1500 agents in each district of Bangladesh, alongside exploring operations in a second developing nation. In its second region, potentially Myanmar, D2 will develop two major pilot-based partnerships and commence the registration of a legal entity.
Furthermore we will be incorporating additional task types to the Shujog platform such as image annotation and audio transcription, thereby increasing the range of people to whom our solution appeals. Our expansion plan thus incorporates both vertical and horizontal growth.
We plan on implementing these changes by upgrading our current technological support, including the incorporation of artificial intelligence and machine learning algorithms to increase the efficiency and productivity of our data analysis process. Additionally, we will be partnering with NGOs and nonprofits working on unemployment and skills development to onboard their beneficiaries to our platform.
Our revenue stream is currently generated through enterprise customers, and we will continue relying on it in the future. We plan on supplementing this revenue stream by applying for grants, such as MIT SOLVE, aimed at boosting social businesses. Grants such as MIT Solve also expand our reach by providing access to an international network through which we may communicate with potential partners for our global expansion plans.
What barriers currently exist for you to accomplish your goals in the next year and in the next five years?
D2 faces numerous barriers when we consider our future goals, including, but not limited to, the following:
Cultural Barriers: The nation’s conservative society discourages women from participating in the labour force. “Society’s notions of impropriety often keep women off certain occupations including entrepreneurship” (Huq, 2012) . A 2017 job diagnostics report by the World Bank finds that women are expected to marry much earlier than men, and engage in unpaid household or agricultural work after marriage.
Financial and Market Barriers: We are a novel business, and one that introduces a new dimension of service, particularly in the context of Bangladesh. Thus, we are still in the early stages of the adoption curve for the data solutions we provide for our B2B customers. This stunts our demand generation. The lack of sufficient enterprise customers makes us unable to provide income generating opportunities for our contributors as frequently as we would like.
Technical Barriers: Challenges exist in automating the data analysis process. Our data quality checks are still a work in progress and will need more time to be fully fleshed out, which means at present we still need human intervention to make sure the data is up to scratch. The lack of qualified individuals in the fields of AI and ML, and their subsequent high demands, pose both a technical as well as a financial barrier to upgrading our technological base.
How do you plan to overcome these barriers?
Addressing the barriers individually, the following comprise of our plans to overcome them:
For the Cultural Barriers: We plan on conducting educational campaigns including training sessions, and seminars to raise awareness and start conversations regarding female employment.For the Technical Barriers: The funds generated through our fundraising campaigns, and potential subsequent increase in business will be directed towards talent acquisition in our IT department as well as towards our growing online infrastructure demand.
For Financial and Market Barriers: We plan on addressing these in the following ways:
- Increase business development efforts- Hire more salespeople to go and knock on more customers' door
- Improvements to our product efforts - Make our customer-facing software self-serve so that anyone can deploy a campaign without having to talk to someone at D2 thereby reducing time to value creation
- Build new products and services- In addition to project-based contracts, we are also looking into syndicated data where multiple customers could purchase and access the same dataset.
What type of organization is your solution team?
For-profit, including B-Corp or similar models
How many people work on your solution team?
Seven people currently work on our solution team, in addition to the CEO. We have four full-time employees, including 2 full-stack engineers, one research analyst, and one designer. There are also three part-time employees, who are all software engineers.
How many years have you worked on your solution?
2 and a half years
What is your business model?
D2’s business model is charging B2B customers for the services and data offered. D2 has identified its customer segments as the private sector (FMCGs, businesses), NGOs, and academia. D2 can support businesses by supplying data needed to better understand outcomes of their sales and marketing efforts or better understand customers’ needs and behaviors when developing new products. NGOs can avail D2’s services to collect data needed for monitoring and evaluation of development projects (such as baseline surveys, end-line surveys etc.). Academics are also a target customer of D2 because D2 can conduct surveys needed for their research.
These customers purchase D2 services at different levels, "Starter", "Professional", and "Enterprise". Each package operates at a different price point and offers different level of services.
Do you primarily provide products or services directly to individuals, or to other organizations?
What is your path to financial sustainability?
We have already achieved financial sustainability, and are currently running a profitable business. Our approach to increasing our revenue includes:
Increasing business development efforts - Hire more salespeople to go and knock on more customers' doors.
Improving our product efforts - Make our customer-facing software self-serve so that anyone can deploy a campaign without having to talk to someone at D2 thereby reducing time to value creation.
Building new products and services - In addition to project-based contracts, we are also looking into syndicated data where multiple customers could purchase and access the same dataset.
Why are you applying to Solve?
Our motives for applying to Solve are manifold. Primarily the nine-month program that Solve offers would be an ideal platform to have our solution, which we have been working for the last couple of years, reviewed by a wide range of experts and Solver peers. The MIT and Solver networks are vast, and global, providing us with opportunities to seek funds and partnerships which would be particularly useful for our international expansion plans.
Furthermore, the media exposure received from Solve would be enormously helpful in our advertising campaigns to attract more B2B customers which, as mentioned in a previous answer, is a current market barrier that we face. We are also looking forward to the mentorship that the Solve network provides, which could help in the strategic organization of our campaigns towards raising awareness to combat the cultural barriers we face.
In which of the following areas do you most need partners or support?
What organizations would you like to partner with, and how would you like to partner with them?
D2 would like to seek out partnerships with youth-based groups and organizations such as ActionAid’s Activista, Nari Pokhho, Bangladesh Youth Leadership Center, Volunteer For Bangladesh, UN Youth and Students Associations, and university or college based clubs/groups. Partnering with such organizations will help us reach a wide range of potential agents.
Additionally, we will be partnering with NGOs and nonprofits working on unemployment and skills development to onboard their beneficiaries to our platform.
Do you qualify for and would you like to be considered for The Andan Prize for Innovation in Refugee Inclusion?
Do you qualify for and would you like to be considered for the Innovation for Women Prize?
Explain how you are qualified for this prize. How will your team use the Innovation for Women Prize to advance your solution?
Bangladesh’s conservative society discourages women from participating in the labor force. “Society’s notions of impropriety often keep women off certain occupations including entrepreneurship”, states Afreen Huq in her 2012 paper on gender labeling and entrepreneurship of women in Bangladesh. Women are expected to marry early and engage in unpaid household or agricultural work afterwards. Mobility constraints and lack of flexible work hours also remain major reasons for female unemployment.
D2 addresses these constraints using existing, widely available technology as the key ingredient. Our solution only requires an inexpensive smartphone and an internet connection on the agent’s part. Tasks are matched to agents’ locations, eliminating the need to travel long distances for work. Additionally, all tasks on D2 are opt-in so agents can choose when and how long to work, creating flexible hours. A stellar example of how Shujog empowers women is found in the case of Ms. Eysmein Akter. Working with us since 2017, Akter invested the funds received from Shujog into her homemade food business. Combining the reach of the D2 agent network with the training we provide on team management has enabled her to influence several other female D2 agents to become part of her team.
With the funds received from the Innovation for Women prize we would fund our awareness campaigns that address and attempt to alleviate the cultural barriers women face when entering the labor force. By the year 2022 we plan to have a workforce that is 3000 strong and gender-equal in nature.
Do you qualify for and would you like to be considered for The GM Prize on Good Jobs and Inclusive Entrepreneurship?
Do you qualify for and would you like to be considered for The Gulbenkian Award for Adult Literacy?
Do you qualify for and would you like to be considered for the AI for Humanity Prize?
Do you qualify for and would you like to be considered for the Future Planet Capital Prize?