‘Game-changer’ phone app aims to end child marriage in Bangladesh

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Updated 07 May 2018
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‘Game-changer’ phone app aims to end child marriage in Bangladesh

  • Bangladesh has one of the world’s highest rates of child marriage, despite laws that ban girls under 18 and men under 21 from marrying.
  • Campaigners say girls who marry young often drop out of school and face a greater risk of rape, domestic abuse and forced pregnancies, which may put their lives in danger.

LONDON: A new phone app could be a “game-changer” in the fight against child marriage in Bangladesh, where more than half of all girls are married before they are 18, children’s charity Plan International said on Monday.
The impoverished South Asian nation has one of the world’s highest rates of child marriage, according to UNICEF, despite laws that ban girls under 18 and men under 21 from marrying.
The mobile app being rolled out by Plan and the Bangladesh government aims to prevent it by allowing matchmakers, priests and officers who register marriages to verify the bride and groom’s ages through a digital database.
“If we could get the people involved in the initial stages of marriage on side as well, then there would be no one to solemnize, no one to register and no one to arrange a marriage for a child,” said Soumya Guha, a director at Plan Bangladesh.
“The app could be the game-changer that we need,” he said, adding that it stopped 3,750 underage marriages during a six-month trial.
Campaigners say girls who marry young often drop out of school and face a greater risk of rape, domestic abuse and forced pregnancies, which may put their lives in danger.
The app, which has an offline text messaging version for rural areas, gives the user access to a database that stores a unique identification number linked to the three documents.
When one of the numbers is entered, it shows “proceed” if the person is of legal age and a red “warning!” if not.
All marriages in Bangladesh must be legally registered within 30 days of the ceremony, but many are not.
A hard copy of a birth certificate, school leaving document or national identity card works as age proof, but often parents who want to marry off their children often forge them.
The charity is training 100,000 officiants about the ill effects of child marriage and how to use the app, which it hopes to roll out nationally by August.
“I believe this app will help us achieve the commitment by our honorable prime minister to eliminate child marriage before 2041,” Muhammad Abdul Halim, a director general at the prime minister’s office, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
However, Supreme Court lawyer Sara Hossain said more needed to be done to educate girls about their right to consent and plug legal loopholes.
“People might just avoid the registration because it is not required for validity of marriage and there is only a minor penalty for not registering. It’s not a big thing,” Hossain told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
“We would be mistaken to think that something like this will be a magic bullet solution.” 


King Abdul Aziz City for Science and Technology unveils self-guided Black Shark boat at 38th GITEX Technology Week

The development of the Black Shark smart boat is part of a KACST initiative to localize and transform transport technology and logistics, to help achieve the aims of Vision 2030. (SPA)
Updated 20 October 2018
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King Abdul Aziz City for Science and Technology unveils self-guided Black Shark boat at 38th GITEX Technology Week

  • These trucks are equipped with electronic pairing technologies, which effectively improve the shipping and distributing of goods, reduce human error

JEDDAH: King Abdul Aziz City for Science and Technology (KACST) has unveiled its Black Shark self-guided boat at the 38th GITEX Technology Week in Dubai. The vessel, which can carry out coastal surveillance and many other tasks, was developed in collaboration with Taqnia for Robotics and Smart Systems.
The development of the craft is part of a KACST initiative to localize and transform transport technology and logistics, to help achieve the aims of Vision of 2030.
The boat includes sensor systems that allow it to monitor and create a 3D map of a 200-meter area surrounding the boat, and automated control technology that gives it the ability to navigate independently and avoid collisions without human input. It can also be equipped with a flexible range of weapons, acting as a firearms platform that uses gyroscopic self-balancing technology. It has the ability to survey beaches at a range of 15 kilometers, in addition to accurately identifying its precise location with a margin of error of less than 20 centimeters using differential GPS, as well as specifying, monitoring and tracking targets.
The Black Shark also has long-range radar that covers up to 150 kilometers, and a telecommunication system to track its location, monitor its status and connect to multiple domains through command centers that allow wireless communication and remote control. It is fitted with a digital camera powered by electro-optic and infrared technology that can produce HD-quality video, and also has night vision capability.
As part of its initiative to develop transport technology and logistics, KACST has also worked on automated control technology, included self-driving heavy-duty trucks, with the University of California, Berkeley. These trucks are equipped with electronic pairing technologies, which effectively improve the shipping and distributing of goods, reduce human error, preserve resources, and reduce harmful emissions and fuel consumption.
The same technology can also, for example, transform a four-wheel-drive vehicle into a remote-controlled vehicle equipped with video cameras, infrared technology, a microphone and a control device wirelessly connected to a command center, where an operator can guide it using images from the video cameras.