Skilled manpower needed for a ‘Smart Bangladesh’

Hiren Pandit: The government has set a target to build a ‘Smart Bangladesh’ by 2041. Work has already started towards this end. About one crore Bangladeshis are working abroad in different countries of the world. About 7.6 million of them have no job training and the remaining have received training in any of the four categories of technical education, languages, computers, and driving. Among the expat Bangladeshis, the number of doctors, engineers, teachers and degree holders in vocational education is quite low.

Various developments in technology have brought about revolutionary changes in the economic, political and social structures of the whole world. Now the global value of technical know-how is easily understandable. It is possible to increase the inward remittance from the manpower sector several times.

The fourth industrial revolution is now coming to the fore in the world. Keeping this in mind, the government is developing skilled manpower. People of the country should be more skilled in technical and tech-based education and training, so that they can keep up with the changing world. Skilled manpower can contribute to the development sector of the country.

Changes in our education system is needed to create a more skilled human resource. Higher education institutions can play a major role in this regard. That is why reorganizing higher education is imperative to survive in an increasingly competitive world. Realizing this need for skilled human resources, the Ministry of Education and the University Grants Commission have started reorganizing the education system with the aim of developing manpower suitable for the fourth industrial revolution.

Bangladesh is continuously connecting with the global economy. Our communication channels are: export, import, investment, and temporary migration. Bangladesh’s imports are much more than exports. Therefore, increasing investment (foreign) in the country and exporting manpower are the main means of strengthening the economy. Foreign investment will increase only when the country has sufficient resources, such as mines or land, capital, or manpower. Unskilled manpower does not encourage foreign investment. In this case, only investment will be made in labor dependent sectors. In countries where labor skills are high, there is also more foreign investment. The same is the case with manpower exports. Workers are needed abroad. However, the demand for skilled workers is constantly increasing. Skilled workers earn about 10 times more than unskilled workers. The skill of the worker depends on the quality of education. So, changing the quality of education is important, and it will not be possible to change the education system through conventional thinking.

The fourth industrial revolution is giving a new dimension to human civilization. The processes and possibilities of this revolution are already being widely discussed worldwide. Discussion is going on in our country too. Through this discussion, the prime minister and the adviser on information and communication technology are working tirelessly to create awareness among the people and make Bangladesh suitable for leading the fourth industrial revolution.

As we know, the fourth industrial revolution is a fusion of physical, digital and biological spheres. It is 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. To prepare us for the fourth industrial revolution, emotional intelligence, physical intelligence, and social intelligence must be introduced.

There are a few things we can do to prepare this generation for this unknown future. Information is a powerful element of civilizational change.

The technological upheaval of the fourth industrial revolution is everywhere. This revolution is causing drastic changes in the world of thought, production, and service delivery. People’s lifestyles and the nature of the world are changing too.

Artificial intelligence, robotics, the internet of things, virtual reality, 3D printing, genetic engineering, quantum computing, and other technologies are part of the revolution. The scale of this revolution, technology-based modernity and its associated complex system are also presenting a major test for the ability of the governments around the world.

This is especially true when the government is committed to inclusive development by “leaving no one behind” in light of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Sustainable development, reducing inequality, safe work and responsible consumption and production are key challenges to implementing and achieving the SDGs. Platforms like ‘Kishore Batayan’ and ‘Shikshak Batayan’ have been developed in collaboration with a2i to make education easier.

As technology has become accessible to every citizen of the country, tech-based services are being made available to marginalized groups. Technology has become a trusted medium in all citizen services and lifestyles. In response to the fourth industrial revolution, the information technology sector of Bangladesh has emphasized various infrastructural developments, including the development of skilled human resources. Bangladesh is striving to be among the top 50 countries in the United Nations e-Governance Development Index in the next five years.

Five initiatives of ‘Digital Bangladesh’ have been internationally acclaimed. They are Digital Centre, Service Innovation Fund, Empathy Training, TCV (Time, Cost and Visit) and SDGs Tracker. With the help of information technology, young people are building small and big IT firms, e-commerce sites, app-based services and other organizations. Besides, some major achievements include Bangladesh’s first satellite in space.

If the data protection law is passed, foreign authorities including Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter will be forced to have offices in this country and keep the country’s information in local data center. Creating awareness among the people is going to make Bangladesh suitable for leading the fourth industrial revolution and creating skilled manpower.

Reskilling, upskilling and deskilling methods should be kept in mind. Existing learning programs should be accompanied by other digital-based systems, such as e-learning and online learning systems. That is, educational programs should be designed to develop technically skilled manpower.

We have to follow the technical education model of different countries including Germany, Japan, Singapore, Australia, China, South Korea, and Malaysia. The technical education rate in Germany is 73 percent. It is necessary to adopt a master plan to raise the education rate to at least 60 percent in the country. Countries like Malaysia, Singapore and China have developed technical education at the root of their development.

In preparation for the fourth industrial revolution, the Bangladesh government is going to include coding in the school curriculum. Investment in information and communication technology infrastructure in schools has increased under the Digital Bangladesh project. But the reality is that the education system of rural Bangladesh has not yet prepared our children and youths for the fourth industrial revolution. The rate of participation and use of technology has increased but the quality has not changed.

Uneven technology investments are difficult to sustain in the context of such a fragile public education system. It will further increase social inequality. Public technology investment in health, education, and trade is pushing Southeast Asian countries towards the fourth industrial revolution. Malaysia has been able to achieve great improvement in the field of education within just one year of technological reforms during the pandemic.

There is hope. Recently the five-year plan for the ‘National Artificial Intelligence Strategy’ has been undertaken by the government. But without solving the root problem, these plans will not bring much benefit.

Bangladesh has not developed enough human resources with innovative knowledge, high skills, deep thinking and problem-solving skills. Therefore, the government has to hire experienced and skilled consultants from neighboring and other countries in various development projects and foreign investment areas. According to economists, more than 5 billion dollars are going out of the country due to this.

Bangladesh’s increasing progress and success in socioeconomic development is globally recognized. Bangladesh’s agriculture-based economy is gradually changing to an industrial and service-driven economy. On the other hand, the most rapid change is happening in the technology sector.

Japan overcame all natural odds by converting its population into skilled manpower. This example from Japan is most relevant to us. If we can convert the vast young population of Bangladesh into skilled resources, it is not impossible for us to become a developed country.

Our curriculum is not very coherent with the kind of knowledge and skills required in the industry. Bangladesh is still far behind in artificial intelligence, IoT, and blockchain technology.

Hopefully, the government is giving importance to three things as the basis of the fourth industrial revolution. These are: development of the industry through innovation, creation of a trained workforce, and the conservation of the environment. The implementation of this announcement by the Prime Minister requires massive public-private joint ventures. Only then will we be able to reach our desired goal, we will be able to build the “Sonar Bangla” of Bangabandhu’s dream.

Our Ministry of Education, National Skill Development Authority, Bangladesh Economic Zone Authority, and Hi-Tech Park should unite and take short, medium and long-term plans for the development of technical education with the understanding of the fourth industrial revolution wholeheartedly, and the government should increase the development budget in this sector. Otherwise, we will lag behind in the competition and face challenges in attracting foreign investment.

Information technology has brought a new dimension to the economic activities of the country. The convenience of financial transactions as a result of mobile banking has made life easier for common people. Advances in information technology have led to a proliferation of startup culture. Women are also involved in information technology. The presence of women entrepreneurs is increasing. There are about 20,000 Facebook pages for shopping in the country. Work is going on efficiently. This is how our beloved Bangladesh will move towards Smart Bangladesh.

Hiren Pandit is a columnist and researcher.

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