Hiren Pandit: ‘Bangladesh is moving forward on the path of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Sajeeb Wazed Joy, Information and Technology Adviser to the Prime Minister, recently mentioned that we can lead the ‘Fourth Industrial Revolution’. Bangladesh has emphasized areas like artificial intelligence, blockchain, IoT, nanotechnology, biotechnology, robotics, microprocessor design. We have to work together on the path of innovation, then we will move forward. ‘
He noted that the three events were identified as the three industrial revolutions, as the invention of the steam engine, the use of electricity, and the invention of the transistor changed the course of human civilization through massive industrialization. It is now being said that the Fourth Industrial Revolution is leading the way in the ever-evolving digital technology, where the physical world, the digital world, and the living world are merging into one fusion of many technologies.
”39 world-class high-tech parks have been built in the country to increase investment in the IT sector. There are various opportunities for investment in these parks including tax exemption, 100% ownership guarantee for foreigners, income tax exemption.
There are many benefits for foreign investors. Those who want to take advantage of infrastructure by investing in factories or information technology can invest here. Several companies, including Samsung, have started production in the country. Bangladesh is the eighth largest consumer market in the world, with a large middle class. There are huge opportunities for startups here.
He believes that in the next 5 to 10 years, ‘Made in Bangladesh’ will be seen on hard drives made in Bangladesh, a mobile handset made in Bangladesh like Made in China or Vietnam. Bangladesh’s IT sector will one day surpass the garment export sector. Digital Bangladesh is working towards the target of exporting 5 billion IT products by 2025. ‘
The first goal of Digital Bangladesh is to bring its benefits to the remote areas of Bangladesh by building an inclusive and digital society. Everyone must work together to face the new challenges of the future. Must be self-sufficient as well as collaborative. We have to work together to solve the problem and innovate, then it will be much easier for Bangladesh to move forward.
Digital Bangladesh is the modern form of Bangabandhu’s Golden Bengal. Sajeeb Wazed Joy, Information Technology Adviser to the Prime Minister, is leading the way in implementing the Prime Minister’s vision. According to the declaration of PM Sheikh Hasina, the free flow of IT is one of the means to take Bangladesh towards a middle-income country.
The path of digital Bangladesh of the last 12 years has made us confident and created acceptance to the people. The youth of the country now not only dream but also know how to realize their dreams. The self-reliant and self-confident Bangladesh of Bangabandhu’s dream will soon be shaped in the indomitable journey of Bangladesh.
The 4IR is giving a new dimension to world civilization. The process and potential of this revolution are already being widely discussed around the world. Bangladesh is working tirelessly to create skilled manpower by making it suitable for leading the 4IR. 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 is becoming difficult to separate these three. What is happening as a result? What kind of change is happening in society? This results in intellectualization, the human-machine interface, and realism and virtuality becoming one. Now if we want to prepare for our 4IR, we have to put things like emotional intelligence, physical intelligence, social intelligence, contest intelligence in our heads.
Then in the future, we will be able to prepare everyone for the fourth industrial revolution. Information is a powerful element of change in civilization. This revolution is making a huge difference in the world of thought, in the production of goods, and the provision of services. Human lifestyles and the nature of the world are changing drastically.
The magnitude of this revolution, the technological modernity, and the complexities involved have put the world’s governments to the test. Especially when the government is committed to inclusive development with all, no one left behind, in the light of the SDGs. Sustainable development, reduction of inequality, safe action, and responsible consumption and production are key challenges in implementing and achieving the SDGs.
The journey of Digital Bangladesh started almost empty-handed. Over time, it has reached the heights of space today. Bangabandhu Satellite-1 is now a symbol of Bangladesh’s dignity. There is a touch of digital in every activity of daily life. The country has surpassed many other countries in the world in the use of information technology in factories, trade, and commerce or the management of the state. As a result, the ‘Digital Bangladesh’ announced in the election manifesto of the Awami League in 2008 is no longer a dream, but a real one.
When Digital Bangladesh was announced, people’s perceptions about it were vague. Many have laughed and joked about it. However, with its implementation, people’s perceptions began to change. At present, Digital Bangladesh has become an integral part of people’s socio-economic and personal life.
Agriculture was the backbone of Bangladesh’s economy. After the formation of the government, Bangabandhu brought the development of technology to the fore. He introduced technical education in the education system in 1972 when primary education did not spread across the country. During his tenure, Bangladesh became a member of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) on 5 September 1973.
In his address to the United Nations on September 25, 1974, Bangabandhu said that human suffering and development should be alleviated through technology. He inaugurated the country’s first ground satellite station at Betbunia on 14 June 1975. However, after the brutal assassination of Bangabandhu, its speed stopped. When the Awami League formed the government again in 1996, importance was given to technological development.
Then the withdrawal of tariffs on computers, new mobile phones to break the monopoly marketVarious steps were taken including licensing of the company. Then on 12 December 2008 the Awami League’s election manifesto ‘Din Badaler Sanad’ announced the vision for the formation of Digital Bangladesh by 2021 and when it came to power it was time to implement it.
In 2008, the number of internet users in the country was only 8 lakh. Back then bandwidth usage was 8 gigabytes per second (Gbps). On August 26, the country recorded a record use of 26,049 Gbps bandwidth. According to the latest data from the Bangladesh Telecommunications Regulatory Commission (BTRC), more than 120 million people in the country now use the Internet.
About 110 million people are mobile phone users and about 10 million are broadband and PSTN internet users. In 2006, there were about 57 lakh mobile phone users in the country. Now the number of active mobile SIMs in the country is more than 17 crore 80 thousand. At that time there was 2G mobile network in the country. And now after 3G and 4G, 5G network is going to be launched this year.
In 2007, the price of internet bandwidth per Mbps was taka 82,000. Now it is only 300 taka. The Info government project has brought 772 remote areas under internet service through fiber optic cable at the union level and through Bangabandhu Satellite-1. As a result, people in remote areas have become accustomed to mobile and computers in everything from personal communication to business, agriculture, education, health.
Bangladesh reached a new height on 12 May 2018 by sending its satellite into space. Bangabandhu Satellite-1 was launched from the Kennedy Space Center in the United States. Bangladesh is the 57th country in the world to launch its satellite. The government has begun work on installing another new satellite in the orbital slot rented from Russia’s Intersputnik in 2014.
Bangabandhu Satellite-1 has 26 KU bands and 14C band transponders. All regions of the country, including the waters of the Bay of Bengal, India, Nepal, Bhutan, Sri Lanka, the Philippines, and Indonesia are covered. The use of Bangabandhu Satellite in the country’s television channels and DTH services is saving a huge amount of foreign exchange every year.
Honduras, Turkey, the Philippines, Cameroon, and several television channels in South Africa are using transponders. A high-speed internet facility is being provided in the hills, haors and char areas of the country through this satellite. The satellite will work as an alternative even if the mobile network becomes inoperable during a major natural disaster.
The benefits of Corona Digital Bangladesh have been most visible. Even in lockdown, people do daily shopping, office-court online. The government’s Information and Communication Technology (ICT) department have used various apps and services to provide vaccine registration, education, emergency assistance, and even Eid gifts to the Prime Minister.
Stakeholders think that things would not have been so easy without the preparation of Digital Bangladesh.ICT department creates digital content for primary, secondary, madrasa, and technical students at the initiative of the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Primary and Mass Education.
They are broadcast on Sangsad Television, Bangladesh Betar, and Facebook. More than 6 thousand fires. More than 6,000 online classes were taken. Virtual class platforms are also being introduced at the university level. Due to these reasons, even though the educational institutions are closed in Corona, the students are still associated with their studies.
PM Sheikh Hasina has given Eid gifts of Tk 2,500 on the digital platform to about 9 million unemployed families in Corona. In the last two Eids, this assistance has reached the beneficiaries in a few phases. Judicial work is also underway on the Corona-era virtual platform. More than 16,000 bail hearings were scheduled and more than 11,000 virtual hearings were held.During the difficult times of Corona, the 333 helplines of the ICT department became a place of trust for the people. Many have received various assistance including food and medical treatment by calling this number.
According to the ICT department, more than 61.6 million people have called this number so far on social issues, cyber-crime, and corona-related issues. Among them, food aid and 84 lakh telemedicine services were provided to 1 lakh 82 thousand people. Besides, after launching a 999-call center to get emergency services including police, fire service, ambulance, it also got quite a response. So far more than 6 crore people have called this number.
The ‘Suraksha’ app is another example of Digital Bangladesh’s ability to vaccinate against corona. So far, more than 60 million people have registered tickers through this app. First and second dose vaccination, center determination, vaccine card collection – all done through this app. Due to this a large number of people have been brought under vaccination in the fastest time in the country without any complications. On the other hand, e-commerce and mobile banking services play a huge role in keeping the economy afloat.
People become accustomed to shopping and financial transactions while sitting at home. According to the data of Bangladesh Bank, last May, a total of 71 thousand 247 crore transactions were recorded in this channel including bKash, cash, rocket, upayas. As a daily average which is about 2 thousand 298 crore taka.
With the launch of the National Information Window in 2014, the way of direct communication of the people with the government was created. Information of more than 51 thousand government offices including all unions, Upazilas, districts, divisions, departments, and ministries of the country, name-number-e-mail of officers, type of service, various forms, laws, notifications, etc. are added to this website. At present, there are 756 e-services and about 6 lakh content in the national information window. About 19,000 government offices have been brought under the same network.
To bring speed and transparency to government work, Access to Information (a2i) under the Prime Minister’s Office was introduced experimentally in 2016. It was officially inaugurated in 2019. Instead of paper files in e-documents, government officials can dispose of files using computers and mobile phones.
Documents disappear, dishonest officials are also blocked from resorting to dishonest means. So far, more than 14 million files have been disposed of using e-documents. The process of launching e-documents is going on in all the offices of the country. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is also disposing of various files in this system from different visits.
As a result, his office was closed during the Corona period but the work did not stop.
On the other hand, the ICT department of the government has set up high-quality video conferencing networks up to the districts and Upazilas of the country, making it easier to communicate with the field. From 2015 to 2019, the Prime Minister held 696 video conferences in different parts of the country. She participated in 475 online events in 2020 and 10,063 in August this year.
The Government has formulated and amended many laws for the formation of Digital Bangladesh. In addition, many rules, policies, strategies, and guidelines have been formulated. Several sections of the 2009 Information and Communication Technology Act were amended in 2013. The Hi-Tech Park Authority Act was enacted in 2010.
The One-Stop Service Act was enacted in 2018 and the Digital Security Act was enacted in 2018. Besides, three laws have been drafted in 2020. These are a2i Bangladesh Innovation Agency Act, Innovation and Entrepreneur Development Academy Act, and Data Protection Act. If the Data Protection Act is passed, foreign authorities, including Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter, will be forced to set up offices in the country and keep the country’s information in the country’s data center.
The launch of the Union Digital Center (UDC) has reduced the time, cost, and suffering of people getting services closer to home. Software and IT services made in Bangladesh are being provided in about 80 countries of the world including America and Europe. Exports have exceeded 1.3 billion dollars. With the completion of 39 high-tech parks and software technology parks, more than 3 lakh people will be employed.
120 companies have invested Tk. 327 crore in 5 parks. More than 13,000 IT skilled jobs have been created. To build a skilled human resource for the Fourth Industrial Revolution, 31 specialized labs of high technology in IoT, robotics, cyber security have been set up and various training have been arranged. As a result, Digital Bangladesh means the journey of the next developed Bangladesh.
In the face of the 4IR, the IT sector in Bangladesh has emphasized various infrastructural developments including the development of skilled human resources. Bangladesh is trying to be in the top 50 countries in the UN e-Governance Development Index for the next five years. 5 initiatives of Digital Bangladesh have been praised internationally. These are Digital Center, Service Innovation Fund, Empathy Training, TCV, and SDGs Tracker.
Hiren Pandit is a Research Fellow, BNNRC