It is high time Bangladesh made the rebirth of digital infrastructure in every sector more or less to reap a maximum benefit and stay competitive with the world.
At its 50 years of celebration of independence, the country has made tremendous transformation in terms of digitization in order to change people’s lives and livelihoods, staring at knowledge-based developed economy by 2041 from a merely data-driven economy.
Beyond its Vision 2041, the country looks to long-term ambition of acing the Green Economy by 2071 and Blue Economy by 2100.
Sensing the importance of technology in development, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, on 25 September 1974, said at the United Nations General Assembly, “Our goal is self-sufficiency. Undoubtedly, international cooperation and sharing of resources and technology will eliminate human sufferings. The new world is emerging, and we have to believe in our strength.”
During his reign, the visionary leader established a satellite ground station at Betbunia in Chattogram, formed T&T Board and took initiatives to make the country technologically sound that gradually culminated into today’s “Digital Bangladesh”.
To realise the dream of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, National ICT Policy 2009 was undertaken that aims to build knowledge-based human capital; promote innovation in economic and social systems; expand ICT infrastructure and its integration throughout the country; deepen utilisation of ICT services by government, private sector, Non-Government Organisations and citizenry; and to provide ICT services in every nook and corner across the country.
Experts say manufacturing industry as well as agro-processing and service sectors will reap full potentials through using ICT services, and it is time for Bangladesh to transform learning and education system as well.
To this end, efforts have already been made, with Bangabandhu Satelite-1 launched into geostationary earth orbit in May 2018, while preparation is underway to launch another.
In addition, the country is coming under 4G mobile connections while 5G is expected to be operational by next year.
“We have come a long way, and there are still many things to do. The infrastructure issue is a big barrier, which we are trying to overcome,” Telecommunication and ICT Minister Mustafa Jabbar told The Business post.
The internet price has been reduced to $ 1000 per Mbps to $0.01 in the last 12 years. For this, the number of internet users has increased to 130 million from 5 million in this period.
State Minister for ICT Zunaid Ahmed Palak said: “We are following four pillar models – building industrial infrastructures specialised for the ICT sector, empowering the grassroots through digital connectivity, digitizing public services and processes, and creating skilled human resources.”
With the help of digitization, the country’s economy has grown manifold; GDP is now $ 409 billion; per capita income is $ 2,554.
According to Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics, the country is blessed with demographic dividend having 45 per cent of tech-savvy population below 28 who are earning a lot through providing outsourcing services.
The government data says outsourcing services fetched $ 650 million last year. The country received $ 419 million in foreign direct investment in hi-tech parks and $ 147 million in startup investment.
The country ranks second in digital outsourcing, fifth in internet usage in Asia, seventh in terms of having largest data centre and 12th in terms of Smartphone usage globally.
Apart from that, Bangladesh is the 32nd country to join the Nuclear Club and 57th to launch its own satellite.
In digital commerce currently, the market size is $ 3.1 billion. More than 2,500 e-commerce and more than 50,000 f-commerce platforms are catering for services and creating jobs for more than 5,00,000 people.
The state minister said: “Strategic collaborations, policies and guidelines from the government have come to the aid of the recurring growth in the e-commerce sector. Orders from outside Dhaka have doubled over the last year. Grocery, Food, Electronics, Fashion and Life Style are the key sectors reaping benefits.”
“Of the digital transactions, 72 per cent are MFS (mobile financial services) used by more than 102 million individuals.”
The market size for digital devices is $1.5 Billion. Global and local manufacturers like Walton, Aamra, Symphony, Samsung, Sony and Hyundai are serving the tech-based manufacturing sector while many tech giants are sensing potential in Bangladesh market.
ICT Minister Mustafa Jabbar said: “Already 14 mobile manufacturing factories have been set up in the country. We encourage investors to build factories for Smartphone and digital devices here to make sure that digital device are readily available and affordable.”
“Internet connections are being provided to post offices to go digital. Telemedicine services have come as a great relief for people as it allows virtual access to healthcare for anyone in the country amid the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.”
With the implementation of 5G, doctors will be available to conduct operations even in remote areas of the country. This technology will boost IT-related business and services as well, the minister hoped.
According to Palak, there are about 52,000 websites for government departments; people can receive services through 8,000 union digital centers.
Automation and Robotics are likely to disrupt service sector for which workers need to hone up their skills, and there needs to be a total overhauling of educational system to stay competitive in the world market, suggested experts.
According to Access to Innovate (a2i), by 2030, 60 per cent people will lose jobs in RMG sector, 35 per cent in leather and 20 per cent in tourism sector. Around 1.4 million jobs relating to furniture making and 0.6 million jobs pertaining to agro-processing will vanish.
Bangladesh Association of Software and Information Services president Syed Almas Kabir said the country needs to focus on the 4th IR (Industrial Revolution) to enhance productivity and achieve sustainable development goals.
“The fourth industrial revolution will be empowered by big data, genetic engineering and quantum computing. It is all about cyber and physical connectivity,” he said.
Syed Almas Kabir explained that the 4th IR consists of technologies like artificial intelligence which makes machines’ ability to do human tasks; Internet of Things that will make digital devices interrelated with each other.
“Robot will collaboratively interact with humans; augmented reality and virtual reality will combine real and digital world while 3D and 4D printing processes will fabricate objects by building up materials,” he pointed out.
“But to reap the benefits and meet new challenges, policies and strategies will be needed for Robotics, Cybersecurity, Microprocessor Design, Blockchain, Artificial Intelligence and the Internet of Things,” the visionary held.