Hiren Pandit: Under the leadership of the father of the nation, Bangabandhu, on September 5, 1973, Bangladesh became a member of the important International Telecommunication Union-ITU among the 15 organizations of the United Nations. The Earth-Resource Technology Satellite Program for a socio-economic survey and meteorological data exchange was implemented under his direction. On June 14, 1975, Bangabandhu inaugurated the Satellite Earth Station at Betbunia. Giving importance to science, technology and technical education. A scientist like Dr. Muhammad Kudrat-e-Khuda led the education commission report and included the aim of using technology in education in the first five-year plan of Bangladesh as his very well-thought-out and visionary initiative. Just looking at the various initiatives and activities undertaken in the expansion and development of information and communication technology, it can be seen that the foundation of a modern science-minded technology-based Bangladesh was created by the hands of Bangabandhu, which shows the way for Bangladesh to participate in the digital revolution.
Digital Bangladesh to Smart Bangladesh. Basically, it is a concept paper and strategy – which is being implemented phase by phase and will be implemented by the current government. On December 12, 2008, Digital Bangladesh was announced as the foundation of ‘Vision-2021’. Comprehensive and multi-faceted development started with the formulation of one plan after another and its implementation by taking up multiple mega projects simultaneously. As per the election promise, the government has already provided broadband connectivity across the country and launched satellite Bangabandhu-1 into space. The second satellite Bangabandhu-2 is in progress. Currently, 18.6 million mobile sims are being used by 17 crore people, 13 crore people are connected to the internet through broadband and mobile internet.
Today’s era is the digital era. Digital Bangladesh implemented by the Government. Fiber optic has been provided to remote areas of Bangladesh. Digital system is most useful in our fight against Covid. Bangladesh’s digital activities have been accelerated by the launch of Bangabandhu Satellite-1. So, we have to use digital devices for everything now.
The technology that people are using today means that the whole world has come within the reach of everyone through technology. People are getting a chance to know the world. Bangladesh is no longer in the dark. Children of our country are contributing to the world now. It is the greatest contribution of technology. Bangladesh is advancing with technology. We have been quite successful in using modern technology. At the same time, Bangladesh has achieved considerable success in the importance given to the use of modern technology. The policy-makers said that the next goal of the government is to build a smart Bangladesh and a smart nation. There is no alternative to using advanced technology to achieve the goal of building a smart Bangladesh. Digital connectivity will be the main tool in front of us to turn the country into a ‘Smart Bangladesh’.
Digital connectivity is the key to building a smart Bangladesh. Digital connectivity is serving as the foundation for smart citizens, smart economies, smart governments and smart societies. The government wants to make Bangladesh economically prosperous by ensuring maximum use of digital technologies including artificial intelligence, the internet, virtual reality, augmented reality, robotics and big data. The young generation is now dreaming of building a ‘Smart Bangladesh’. After the launch of Bangabandhu Satellite-1 in 2018, the broadcasting and telecommunication sector has undergone a revolutionary change.
Bangladesh is earning a lot of foreign exchange by using the unused frequencies of satellites and Bangladesh is now the proud 57th member of the world’s satellite family. Steps have been taken to set up Bangabandhu Satellite-2 with multi-functional capabilities to realize the goal of building ‘Smart Bangladesh’. Bangladesh is going to lay the third submarine cable by 2024. Because the first and second submarine cables have already been laid. Bangladesh has achieved 3400 Gbps bandwidth capacity so far. By the end of 2023, the bandwidth capacity will be increased to 7200 Gbps. This will increase to 13,200 Gbps after the third submarine cable is laid. Bangladesh earns USD 4.81 million per year by leasing bandwidth to Saudi Arabia, France, Malaysia and India. Optical fiber cables have been laid all over the country up to the Union level. Meanwhile, 10 GB capacity has been assured in each union which is helping to provide high-speed internet to people and government offices. A total of 8600 post offices have been digitized across the country.
The digital divide and price differential of broadband internet between rural and urban areas have been eliminated. The government has introduced a common tariff of one country, one rate across the country for providing telecommunication networks to remote and inaccessible areas. But we have to work to increase the use of the Bengali language in the digital world. The use of software and tools under the Bengali Language Enrichment Project of the Department of Information and Communication Technology will create an opportunity for the globalization of the Bengali language in the era of the fourth industrial revolution. Bengali language learning and translation will be easier and better on digital devices.
Countries that are ahead in the innovation and application of information technology are all using their mother tongue in technology. China can be a great example in front of us. Chinese characters are extremely complex, but they don’t stop there. Today, the number of Internet users in China has long exceeded 50 million due to the use of the mother tongue in technology. However, although the Bengali language is practiced in technology in our country, there is a lack of good content in Bengali at the moment. Therefore, keeping in mind the country’s more than 186 crore mobile phones, more than 13 crore internet users and more than 5 crore social media users, good content and mobile applications will be created in the mother tongue. If that is done, it will not only ensure economic activity and people-to-people communication, education and access to information and services but will also help to keep the mother tongue alive among the Bengalis.
Various dialogues and policy dialogues are being held in the presence of participants on the crisis and solutions of the use of Bengali script in the digital world. The role of the Unicode Consortium is behind the technical problems of the Bengali language and literature coming out in the discussion. This consortium has created such a complex situation in our language and instead of treating it as a separate language they have made our Bengali language follow Devanagri. It caused us heavy losses and posed a big challenge to the Bengalis. This is why we still have to fight with Nokta. But there is no dot in Bengali characters. If Unicode would have solved these problems by treating Bengali as Bengali, then the problems we are facing now would not have to be faced.
Policymakers recently announced that the wall between ASCII and Unicode has been broken down. Belatedly, Bangladesh joined the Unicode Consortium in 2010 under the leadership of the Bangladesh Computer Council. Still, the complexity of Unicode conversion is not the fault of Bengali speakers; this is Unicode’s fault. So, we are still fighting with Unicode. Concerned people and scholars think that the boys and girls of Bangladesh will win this war with their talent.
The government is working on the successful implementation of 4 pillars to build Smart Bangladesh. These are – Smart Citizens, Smart Economy, Smart Government and Smart Society. Apart from this, 2100 Delta Plans have been undertaken. All work in Smart Bangladesh will be done through technology. Where every citizen will be proficient in using technology.
Through it, all economic activities will be managed – with the ultimate goal of a cashless society. The government has already taken various initiatives in the field of skilled human resource development, ICT infrastructure and connectivity, e-government and industry promotion in the country. Satellite Bangabandhu-2 is preparing for launch. Aiming to provide 100% government services online by 2025. A startup ecosystem has been developed in the country. A separate fund has been allocated to the national budget for this.
Apart from this, grants are being given by creating Idea Project, Bangabandhu Innovation Grant (BIG), Centenary Shat Asha and Startup Circle. The government has formulated guidelines for the management of venture capital companies named Startup Bangladesh Limited for investment. Bangladesh ranks first among South Asian and SAARC countries in the cyber security index. The government is already moving forward with the policy of developing the country’s villages into cities with modern facilities. Where the nature and environment of the village are above all agriculture-fruit-vegetable gardens-farms along with gas-electricity-water and all information technology-based facilities can be found. However, every citizen has special responsibilities and duties in building and implementing Smart Bangladesh.
Every citizen needs to develop himself as a skilled human resource to meet the challenges of the fourth industrial revolution. Everyone has to be responsible from their position to family, society and state. Otherwise, the benefits of Smart Bangladesh will not be fully and fully achieved. The government wants to build the future Bangladesh as a smart Bangladesh, where every manpower will be smart. Everyone will learn to do everything online, the economy will be an e-economy, where the entire money management will be done on digital devices. ‘Our education, health, employability’ will all be through e-governance. Digital devices will be used in everything including e-education, and e-health. We will be able to do that by 2041 and work is going on with that in mind.
Hiren Pandit is a columnist and researcher