Hiren Pandit: Bangladesh completed 52 years. Those born with the birth of Bangladesh, may not be lucky enough to see 100 years, but if it happens in one’s life, then a wonderful thing will happen, or who is born now, when he writes about 100 years of Bangladesh, then he can write about two lives in the past 50 years and his own 50 years.
In the course of history, the information technology sector of Bangladesh can be divided into three parts. Then it will be easy to understand our position. Bangladesh mainly entered the IT sector in the nineties. Earlier in Bangladesh, IBM mainframe computers were used for special research purposes. It was not used for any major work of the common people or the government. Around the world, the use of personal computers began to increase. Bangladesh also started to feel its touch. Bangladesh Computer Council was formed in the eighties, but its work got some momentum in the nineties.
People of Bangladesh connect to the internet by dialing through the telephone line to get online internet at a very low cost. Besides, a huge market for data entry has been created all over the world. Bangladesh could not enter that market. The main reason was that Bangladesh was not yet ready to capture that market. Bangladesh has not been able to prepare the information technology sector as India did in the 1980s. As a result, the entire business of billions of dollars went to India.
During that decade, Bangladesh got an opportunity to join the submarine cable free of charge, which the then government did not take up. They thought that if connected to the submarine cable, all information would be smuggled. That we could think like this says a lot about a nation. Countries that have done well in IT have a different mindset. We have a lot of differences with him.
So different that we cannot understand it. Internet usage in Bangladesh increased slightly during this decade. The use of the internet is increasing all over the world and the rise of the internet is at that time. Giants like Cisco were built just to keep the growth of the Internet in mind. The company was then poised to become a trillion-dollar company.
The biggest technology of the decade was Voice over IP (VoIP). When the whole world is embracing this technology, Bangladesh banned this technology.
They felt that this would reduce the profitability of international voice calls. Bangladesh blocked this technology. The advanced countries of the world, including Europe, drew this technology closer; Bangladesh did not join the use of this technology at that time. The people of the country were not included. Skype was created by four programmers from Estonia, a small country in Europe.
This is a great example of how creative people can be, and how much knowledge can be advanced if technology is kept open. We still use that Skype. Skype is just one example. However numerous companies like Skype were introduced, which later contributed immensely to the IT sector. Communication platforms like WhatsApp, Viber, IMO, Messenger, Signal, etc., as we see them today, originated in this decade with VoIP technology. This is a prime example of what happens when a technology is stuck.
Many countries of the world connected their population with information technology, the benefits of which they are still enjoying. But Bangladesh could not do that. Information technology has come up again and again. Policymakers did not want to understand how to prepare a nation for the IT sector. Had the technology been kept open, the people of Bangladesh would have been much more prepared by now.
Could have given much more output. Bangladesh could not show that vision. In fact, Bangladesh has started to be associated with information technology in the last decade. The government has tried to bring many of its services to the doorsteps of common people. Besides this sector has been identified as an important sector.
As much as internet usage was at the beginning of the last decade, it has increased significantly in the latter part of the decade. But Bangladesh could have got this user in the previous decade if he could have made the right decision. In this decade, the people of Bangladesh have started getting services in the private sector as well. Internet-based services, digital payments, and e-commerce began to emerge – which many countries around the world had already done 20 years earlier. That means we are at least 20 years behind.
As we know, the fourth industrial revolution is the fusion of physical, digital, and biological spheres. Here physical is human, biological is nature, and digital is technology. It becomes difficult to separate these three. What is the result of this? What kind of changes are happening in society? This results in intellectualization, human-machine interfaces, and the merging of reality and virtuality.
Now if we are to prepare for our fourth industrial revolution, we need to inculcate things like emotional intelligence, physical intelligence, social intelligence, and contest intelligence into their heads. Then we can prepare everyone for the fourth industrial revolution in the future. But what will be created in the future is unknown.
There are a few things we can do to prepare our generation for this unknown future. Information is a powerful element of civilizational change. Since the dawn of civilization, man has been eager to spread his experiential knowledge.
In 2015, he took various effective steps including reducing the duty on computer imports and providing subsidies and incentives to hardware and software industry producers. As a result of the support of various government policies, currently, 20 local and foreign companies including hi-tech parks in the country are manufacturing mobile phones and laptops in Bangladesh and are meeting 70 percent of the country’s mobile phone demand with exports to different countries.
Currently, people are getting more than 300 types of public and private services through 8 thousand 800 digital centers across the country. Once the cost of internet bandwidth per Mbps was 78 thousand taka. Currently below taka 60 per Mbps. 55 thousand 500 government offices in the country are under the same network. High-speed (broadband) internet has reached 5 thousand 500 unions.
The number of mobile connections in the country is 18.6 million. About 13 crore internet users. A report by the World Economic Forum rightly mentions the reduction of the socio-economic gap in rural areas through mobile banking services. The inclusion of people in financial services through the use of information technology is astounding.
Online banking, electronic money transfer, use of ATM cards are not only playing a role in establishing e-government along with creating a cashless society but also expanding e-commerce. 194 countries in the world are ranked 53rd in the ITU and 37th in the National Cyber Security Index (NCSI) an index based on legal systems, technical expertise, organizational systems, capacity building and mutual cooperation. First among South Asian and SAARC countries.
Various initiatives of the government including Idea Project and Startup Bangladesh Company Limited are giving good benefits in the development of startup culture. The startup ecosystem is developing in the country. E-Government activities have been digitized. More than 52,000 websites are linked to the national database.
By 2025 when 100% of government services are available online, citizens will save time, cost and travel. At present, exports in the ICT sector are 1.3 billion US dollars. Bangladesh ranks second in the online workforce. About 650,000 freelancers are earning about 500 million US dollars from the outsourcing sector. Out of 39 Hi-Tech and IT Parks, 166 domestic and foreign companies have started business activities in 9 of them.
In this, the investment is 1 thousand 500 crores and employment has been 21 thousand, human resource development has been 32 thousand. 10,500 women have been trained. 20 lakh jobs have been created through information technology.
Various digital initiatives of the government have helped people during the coronavirus pandemic. Digital content is created for primary, secondary, madrasa and technical level students by the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Primary and Mass Education in collaboration with the Information and Communication Technology Division to continue the institutional education program of the students during the nationwide lockdown.
In order to protect the people of the country from the coronavirus pandemic, the vaccination management system ‘Suraksha’ website was launched with the aim of vaccination activities, storage of vaccination information, management and certification and the people of the country are getting the benefits. Increase ICT exports to 5 billion dollars and ICT-based employment to 3 million by 2025 and ensure 100% online availability of government services, 300 more schools of the future and 19,000 Wi-Fi connectivity, Village Digital Center and 25,000 Sheikh Russell Digital Labs
The government has a plan to do. By making full use of the expansion of information and communication technology through the implementation of Digital Bangladesh, the government has taken a plan to build a modern knowledge-based developed Bangladesh within the year 2041.
Bangabandhu Satellite-1 was launched on May 12, 2018, from the Kennedy Space Center in the United States. Bangladesh is the 57th country in the world to launch its own satellite. Bangabandhu Satellite-1 has 26 KU band and 14 C band transponders. All regions of the country, waters of the Bay of Bengal, India, Nepal, Bhutan, Sri Lanka, Philippines and Indonesia are covered.
The journey of Digital Bangladesh started with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s initiative to build a knowledge-based Digital Bangladesh. Now the people of the country are enjoying the benefits of digital Bangladesh in almost every aspect of daily life. The main goal of Digital Bangladesh is to deliver government services easily and quickly to the doorsteps of all people irrespective of social class, caste, profession and village city. In order to implement this objective, the government has developed an integrated e-service structure from the union level to the ministry. For this purpose, in collaboration with A2I, e-services are being provided on a large scale to almost all ministries and departments.
Aiming to build digital Bangladesh, A2I’s initiatives include Kishore Batayan, Digital Centre, National Information Batayan, E-Nathi, Ekshop, Ek Pay, National Helpline-333, Muktpath, Teacher Batayan, SDG Tracker, E-Mutation, Legacy Bangla, Digital Land Record Room, MyGov App, Digital Service Design Lab and I Lab and Innovation Lab etc.
With the aim of guaranteeing the right of people to receive information and guaranteeing the receipt of paid services from government offices, National Information Broadcasting is an integrated form of website or web portal for more than 55,000 government offices including all unions, upazilas, districts, divisions, directorates and ministries of the country.
So far 657 e-services and more than 89 lakh 44 thousand thematic content of various government departments have been added here. More than 100,000 citizens are receiving information services on average every day. Popular services of Bangladesh National Information Service include- Finance and business Services, Online Application, Education Services, Online Registration, Passport, Visa & Immigration, Recruitment Services, Exam Results, Agriculture, Utility Bills, Ticket Booking and purchase, Information Digital center with the repository, admission application, income tax, vehicle service, training and health-related portal courier, forms, treasury challan.
There are more than 600 e-services and more than 1,600 different government forms, that is, all service forms at one address. There are Kishore Batayan-Connect, Imam Batayan, Muktpath, All Services One Address Sevakunj, and National e-Database e-books are made for easy access to textbooks anywhere, anytime.
People can apply for a passport online at home through National Information. During the coronavirus pandemic, people can do their necessary work safely at home. Students can get the result of any public examination like SSC, Dakhil and equivalent examination at home through mobile phone. Now there is no need to visit the Election Commission office to update the information on the National Identity Card. All information can be updated through national data transmission.
Functions like registration of births and deaths and registration of new voters can also be done from this information. With the aim of expanding fast and easily accessible e-agriculture services at the doorsteps of farmers across the country, any advice and service related to agriculture have been made available through the digital platform “Krishi Batayan”. At present, information on 8.8 million farmers, 18 thousand agricultural extension officers working at the field level and agricultural information of 61 upazilas are connected to this database.
Besides creating religious awareness among the 3 lakh imam-muazzins of the country through Imam Batayan, they have been educated in technical education and employment has been arranged. Imam Batayan currently has 1 lakh 53 thousand 861 members and 13 thousand 724 contents. Kishore Batayan is an educational digital platform for teenagers with over 3.5 million students connected and over 51 thousand 383 quality content. Through this, teenagers are getting the opportunity to gain knowledge on various important subjects.
Teacher Batayan is an exceptional initiative for the professional development of teachers. It contains audio, video, animation, images, documents, publications etc. content on various technical and madrasa education topics. Using these contents, teachers can provide multimedia classroom instruction. The registered members of teachers batayan are about 6 lakh 49 thousand people. In order to ensure the rule of law in the country, judicial information is being disseminated with the information of the judiciary including the high and lower courts. This initiative aims to establish a transparent, accountable and people-oriented judiciary and reduce the distance between the court and the citizen. Currently, there are 64 District Courts, 5 Sessions Courts and 8 Tribunals with active judicial branch.
Inheritance Calculator is an automatic calculator. Through this, the availability of the deceased’s property to the heirs can be calculated. Inheritance transfer and app journey from the thought of getting rid of complexities of deceased’s wealth distribution system easily. So far more than 4 lakh citizens are using inheritance calculators.
Through the use of technology, a large number of people outside the scope of banking services are getting financial benefits from digital centers such as opening accounts, sending money, saving, taking loans, withdrawing remittances sent from abroad, withdrawing money from social security programs, paying various fees, etc.
Providing digital services and ensuring social security through the GTUP system by using a single ID based on National Identity Card is being provided to elderly, married women, widows and lactating mothers under the Social Security Program. As a part of e-office activities, the implementation of e-documents has been launched in various ministries/government departments of the government to bring work dynamics, transparency and accountability.
At present, more than 1 lakh officers of more than 8 thousand offices are associated with it. So far more than two crore files have been disposed of through the e-document system.
The Ekseba platform is designed to connect all services into a single platform. So far 8 thousand 151 offices have been connected with Ekseba and 634 services have been opened for all. Currently, the number of registered users in Ekseba is more than 94 thousand.
‘Amar Sarkar or My Gov platform has been launched with the promise of bringing all government services on one platform. If someone is in danger, open the app and shake the mobile phone, the phone will go directly to the number 999. At the same time, users can get various information and services by calling 333.
Application, submission of documents, payment of application fee post-application updates and other matters can be known through the necessary information. And the identity of the applicant will be confirmed with the help of a national identity card. The platform currently has 334 services open to the public. Already, around 641 services have been digitized under the rapid digitization of that platform.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s announcement of Digital Bangladesh is now an established a reality, starting from there towards Smart Bangladesh. The progress of the Bengali nation in the use of information and technology has caught the attention of the world community.
The overall service delivery process adopted by the government has been accelerated in the upgradation of citizen services. The day is not far away when Bangladesh will emerge as a developed country one step ahead of the ranks of developing countries as a true digital country, we will be proud citizens of that country.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said “We hope that this Global Digital Compact will have clear guidelines for the international community on the responsible and productive use of digital technology.”
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina mentioned the 4 pillars of Smart Bangladesh. She is repeatedly talking about the Smart Bangladesh Vision, whose goal is ‘smart’! The Prime Minister’s focus is on the ‘comprehensive digital transformation’ by establishing smart citizens, smart societies, smart economies and smart governments based on a knowledge-based society.
The writer is a, columnist and researcher