Ensure Digital Access to All for Smart Bangladesh

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has been taking Bangladesh to a unique height by building Digital Bangladesh along the path that Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman has laid the foundation of science, technology and technology-dependent Bangladesh. Digital Bangladesh is a development philosophy of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, which has been proven in the course of more than an era.

Now Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is leading the Smart Bangladesh-2041 vision to establish Bangladesh as a knowledge-based economy and an innovative nation in the implementation of Smart Bangladesh by 2041. With the aim of building Smart Bangladesh by 2041, work is underway to establish Smart Citizen, Smart Economy, Smart Society and Smart Government in the light of 4 pillars.

Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC) released the latest internet connection statistics, which show that mobile users are 18 crore and 60 lakh. According to the report, the total number of internet users is 13 crore 27 lakh 13 thousand. Among them, 12 crore 3 lakh 91 thousand use internet on mobile and the number of broadband internet connections has reached 98 lakh 22 thousand.

Discrimination is a word we are naturally familiar with. We hear the words financial inequality, social inequality, or political inequality all the time. In this era of extreme advancement in technology, we are seeing a new inequality and that is digital inequality. There is no denying that technology has changed the lives of countless people. However, many people are being deprived of the benefits of using technology, which must also be accepted.

Normal life has been disrupted in almost every country of the world during this coronavirus last two years. Many countries have made their daily activities online to ensure personal and financial security. Educational institutions or office courts have to take the help of technology as an alternative in all cases. The discussion of digital inequality is now so widespread. There are many people in the world, who are deprived of various benefits of technology. For them, online classes, offices etc. are a nightmare name. Digital inequality is a global problem. Many countries in the developed world are suffering from this problem. As seen in America and Europe, many people are lagging behind in terms of technological facilities. Again, various social divisions are also associated with it. The region, gender, and socioeconomic status also play a role in digital inequality. It is easy to understand that the situation in developing countries like ours is worse.

To meet the challenges of digital technology, besides making the internet affordable and accessible, the initiative has been taken to make smartphones accessible to the common people at the lowest price, according to government sources. A single country of Internet has already been launched. It has also been claimed that the mobile phones produced in the country have already achieved 96 percent of demand.

Appropriate digital connectivity and digital devices are essential to building Bangabandhu’s Sonar Bangla. Internet and smartphones are like breathing. In the continuation of the establishment of Digital Bangladesh, the Internet is now an inevitable part of people’s lifestyles. The world’s largest library is the Internet. It is not right to deprive anyone of this.

From the need to develop students as human resources with digital skills, there is already a provision of reading through digital content without books at the primary level. If students are not given the opportunity to acquire digital skills, they will not be able to survive in the future world. In addition to increasing internet usage, people now expect high internet speeds. In 2006, the price of internet per Mbps in the country was 78 thousand takas, in 2008 it was 27 thousand takas and currently it is fixed at 60 taka. At that time only seven and a half Gbps bandwidth was used in the country which has increased to 38 hundred Gbps today.

The ICT Division is responsible for implementing self-employment-based training programs under the Digital Inclusion for Vulnerable Exception initiative to bring marginalized communities into the mainstream of development.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina announced Digital Bangladesh Vision 2021 on December 12, 2008. Digital Bangladesh Vision-2021 is a reality today. In this continuation, the goal is to establish Smart Bangladesh as a developed and prosperous country by 2041 through the transition to a knowledge-based economy.

Now there is no field where the application of internet technology is not required. Internet technology has created new economic opportunities in the country. Farmers, laborers, expatriates and garment workers are the main driving force of the country’s economy, joined by 6.5 million freelance IT young men and women. The Internet has been accepted by many countries as a basic right for us to look at it.

Many of us have heard in different ways – during the Corona period, many students had to go far away from home to participate in online classes; Many people had to go to class even after climbing the tree. These are just reflections of the problems created by the digital divide. We may see more negative aspects of digital inequality in the future. If we look at today’s big business media, it will be seen that a good part of them has become online dependent. We all know about Google, Amazon, Alibaba, Facebook etc. These companies are doing billion-dollar business depending online. Online shopping has also started in our country. Many people will advance in this century by using technology. However, there are many people, who will be deprived of technology benefits. There is no doubt that various economic and social inequalities will increase further.

Steps must be taken to eliminate the digital divide. A just society should be built. Steps like making the internet available, developing technology-related infrastructure, and making people tech-literate will play a good role in curbing digital inequality. The use of information technology as an aid to poverty alleviation also contributes to social justice by ensuring good governance, quality education, healthcare and security.

The Information and Communication Technology Policy calls for ensuring social equity and universal access to information technology as one of the strategies for the development of information technology; To bring disadvantaged communities, women and persons with disabilities and people who need special support to the mainstream of society through the use of information technology.

However, in the building of Smart Bangladesh by 2041, several limitations are also coming in front of everyone. Mainly the poor and disadvantaged population, those living in rural areas, who do not have the necessary digital devices or connectivity, or lack the necessary information and skills to access the services, are excluded or continue to lag behind.

At present, 55 percent of the country’s rural households do not have internet access. Also, 59 percent of rural households do not have a smartphone and 49 percent do not have access to a computer. Receiving services through the use of information technology such as smartphones, laptop, and internet connection is important, at the same time the simplification of services and skills in information technology are also necessary. In both these areas, the poor and low-income groups are deficient. Information technology accessibility has an idea but the complete idea is not yet available. Because there are divisions within families that don’t come to the fore in most cases. Just as there is a division between men and women in the family, there are also different positions according to age.

Participation in information and technology today is an expression of the capacity and empowerment of any population. Information technology is not only a means of communication but also opens up new fields and possibilities. We have seen some application of this during the corona period, though not universally and holistically. Among other barriers to participation in information technology is the cost of Internet access burden for the poor. Besides, the non-creation of various opportunities by government and private institutions in the use of information technology in various fields is also a big obstacle.

Inequality in technology exacerbates the existing inequality among the people of the country. It is already a difficult reality in our class-divided society that everyone does not get equal opportunities in public and private services. The information and communication technology policy formulated by the government is specifically mentioned in the section ‘Social equality and universal access. Now it is important to implement this policy and specific initiatives should be taken for this. First of all information technology should be taken to the doorstep of all people. For this reason, government initiatives should create the necessary infrastructure in information technology, private institutions should be encouraged. Besides, initiatives should be taken to make information technology available to poor people and women at a low cost.

It has been decided to implement 14 action plans to implement the government’s next vision ‘Smart Bangladesh-2041’. As the implementation of digital education, digital health care, digital agriculture etc. has been confirmed under the concept of Digital Bangladesh 2021, the main components under ‘Smart Bangladesh by 2041’ will be smart education, smart health care, smart agriculture, smart trade, smart transportation etc.

In the development of information technology, the government launched 5G internet services in the country in 2021 and in the same year installed cable or satellite networks in Haor-Beel-Char and hilly areas. A third submarine cable will be connected in 2023. Basically, the fourth industrial revolution is spreading through the connection of artificial intelligence with the Internet. According to stakeholders, the government has done most of the necessary preparations for digital connectivity to firmly tackle the fourth industrial revolution or beyond. The government is gradually moving towards the fourth industrial revolution by emphasizing the development of industries through the development of advanced technologies, the creation of a trained workforce and the preservation of the environment.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina emphasized developing skilled manpower for the fourth industrial revolution and urged for further increase in science and technology education and the research sectorto develop skilled manpower. The world is moving forward. New innovations in technology, we have to keep pace with them.

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