Towards a digital Bangladesh

The golden jubilee of the independence of Bangladesh would be observed in 2021. The country has already fixed its target of achieving ‘Digital Bangladesh’ by that time. It is a timely expectation for proper positioning the country among other hi-tech countries globally. A country goes digital means it will be an e-state means all its activities of governance, commerce, education, agriculture etc., will be powered by computer and internet. Today information communication technology (ICT) drives the technological and economic advancement of the developed as well as emerging economies. The goal of establishing such digital country would bring success in the ICT sector, which cannot be ignored in this 21st century. Heading towards that target will link every device such as cell phone, internet, computer, e-learning, e-governance etc.

Both the ruling and opposition parties in Bangladesh, i.e. Awami League (AL) and Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) emphasized ICT development as a core issue. With the landslide victory of AL in the recent general election of December 29, 2008, the making of an ICT-driven society in Bangladesh is now a real possibility. The election manifesto of AL pledged with ICT commitment that cuts across the whole range of social, economic and governance development issues. The AL assured to build a ‘Digital Bangladesh’ where people will get a developed life, free from crime, corruption, misrule and face the challenges of the 21st century. The main opposition, BNP also mentioned a number of times that they started the programme in their tenure and would complete it earlier than 2021. Therefore, the destination for the new generation is correctly pointed out towards a ‘Digital Bangladesh’ and there is no disagreement on the issue among the parties.

Today the entire world is gradually becoming a Digital Planet. Almost every state is heading towards a knowledge-based society and Bangladesh cannot stay away from the advantages out of it. Though it is very easy to speak about such a dream, i.e. making a country digital, but at the same time it is very difficult to implement it. For implementation, it is basically the government who will take initiatives while the other political parties also need to play important role.

For more than decades we are in the user level of computer, but we failed to develop better ICT infrastructure and not able to provide digital devices to the common people. A very first step for ‘Digital Bangladesh’ would be to spread the ICT education throughout the country. Internet facilities should be made available to the remotest corner of the country at a cheaper rate. The speed of the internet must be made maximum to get the benefit of the time. Boosting up the ICT industry deserves huge investment as well as care by right ICT policy. A comprehensive plan and effort through a holistic approach needs to be made. Market needs to be broadened both in and outside the country for software, outsourcing and programming. Hardware plant needs to be established in the country.

Bangladesh as a country with 150 million population has huge potential, despite having many problems. It is very important to create skilled manpower educated in science and technology. Currently, the people of Bangladesh remain far away from using ICT, when the whole world is getting developed with the blessings of ICT. The people of the country face this discrimination only because of economic insolvency. Due to poverty and illiteracy, use of ICT is beyond imagination and some of them consider it nothing but mere a fashion. Despite having a lot of interest, most of the population remain out of the access of ICT because of high price. In the era of globalization, ICT is a cross-cutting issue as well as an essential tool for economic development. It can play an important role in creating employment, raising work skills and production. It can contain corruption and attain social development. The adoption of ICT can bring corruption-free, citizen-centric and forward-looking governance in the country. The life and livelihood of a large number of population, especially those living in rural areas, cannot be developed without utilizing the ICT scope for them.

Though late, but Bangladesh is already connected with SEA-ME-WE4 submarine fiber-optic cable connection. The government needs to adopt a viable ICT policy and set up a state of the art Hi-Tech Park with a view to flourishing the ICT sector. At present, the ICT sector falls under three separate ministries, namely post and telecommunication, science and technology and information. For obvious reasons, there is a need for bringing the ICT sector under a single umbrella to ease policy formulation and realize the potential. A holistic approach needs to be taken by all the stakeholders to reach the ICT facilities to the doorstep of the common people. It is the time to take initiative to hand over a computer to every child of the country. The broadband internet charge needs to be reduced at minimum level.

Therefore, it is the expectation of the mass people that the government will take all possible steps to create a SMART (simple, measurable, accountable, responsive and transparent) ‘Digital Bangladesh’ and establish a knowledge-based society within 50 years of her independence in 2021.

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