“I use ‘disruptive’ in both its good and bad connotations. Disruptive scientific and technological progress is not to me inherently good or inherently evil. But its arc is for us to shape. Technology’s progress is furthermore in my judgment unstoppable. But it is quite incorrect that it unfolds inexorably according to its own internal logic and the laws of nature.”
Iqbal Quadir is a Senior Fellow with the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs.
Iqbal Quadir has been teaching at Harvard and MIT since 2001. After teaching at Harvard Kennedy School for four years, he moved to MIT in 2005 where he founded and, for next decade, directed the Legatum Center for Development and Entrepreneurship. As an MIT Professor of Practice, he taught and mentored about 200 student entrepreneurs. He returned to the Kennedy School in 2018 as a Senior Fellow.
For more than 25 years, Quadir has been building and helping others build large enterprises to serve and economically-empower average citizens in low-income countries. The companies he created or co-created serve more than 100 million people today. Quadir’s efforts reflect his philosophy that this approach is the best way to uplift these countries and contribute to global peace and prosperity. In promoting this philosophy, he additionally, he co-founded and co-edited Innovations, an MIT Press journal focused on entrepreneurial solutions to global challenges which has now run for 12 years.
Quadir is credited with being the first to envision the potential of digital mobile phones to transform low-income countries. In 1993, he began a full-time quest to bring the power of these digital tools to all, including the poorest, citizens of his native Bangladesh. He did this by synthesizing his observations that connectivity is critical to economic empowerment, that such empowerment translates into an ability to pay for a connectivity service, and that there would be a dramatic drop in its cost. With these concepts, he created a consortium of organizations and, in 1996, founded Grameenphone, the game-changing mobile network operator. Today, Grameenphone has about 70 million subscribers and its network covers more than 99% of Bangladesh’s population.
In 2009, Quadir and his younger brother Kamal Quadir co-founded the US cpany Money in Motion LLC (MIM) to assemble expertise and other resources to create a mobile payment system in Bangladesh. Using MIM as its launch pad, Kamal then founded bKash Limited in Bangladesh and Quadir served on the bKash board during its formative ten years. bKash currently has in excess of 32 million registered customers who execute about six million transactions a day.
Quadir’s articles have appeared in many publications including the Financial Times, Forbes.com, Harvard Business Review, Nature, Newsweek, Science, and the Wall Street Journal. His work and thinking have been cited in more than 70 books. He holds an MBA and MA from the Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania, and a BS from Swarthmore College. Quadir has received two honorary doctorate degrees and other honors for his work.Last Updated: Mar 20, 2019, 4:27pm