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Keep digital space safe for future generation: Palak

Staff Correspondent
05 Jul 2024 19:20:44 | Update: 05 Jul 2024 19:38:18
Keep digital space safe for future generation: Palak
— TBP Photo

State Minister for Posts, Telecommunication and Information Technology Zunaid Ahmed Palak has said there are 5 to 6 crore Facebook users in the country now, and it is their responsibility to keep the digital space safe for future generations.

“We must work together to stop cyberbullying, remove negative content, and raise mental health awareness. To achieve the vision of Smart Bangladesh, we must protect the mental health of our children,” he said.

While speaking as the chief guest at a roundtable, Palak said partnerships among government, private sector, NGOs, academia, and media are essential, reads a press release.

“Training teachers as mental health first aid providers and offering counselling in community clinics with technology can raise awareness. By educating our 350 members of parliament on digital harm and mental health, we can enhance nationwide awareness of this critical issue,” he further added.

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Bangladesh and the Bangladesh Computer Council (BCC) under the ICT Division jointly organised the round table discussion titled “Leveraging ICT for Advancing Mental Health Services” as part of the Partnerships for a More Tolerant, Inclusive Bangladesh (PTIB) project.

The event, held at the BCC Conference Room in ICT Tower, on Thursday, brought key stakeholders like government officials, mental health professionals, ICT experts, representatives from civil society, and international partners to discuss strategies for enhancing mental health services and combating digital harms through the innovative use of information and communication technology (ICT) and promote a more tolerant and inclusive digital environment.

Earlier, Faisal Bin Majid, Research Analyst for the PTIB Project, UNDP presented the outcomes of the “Integrating Mental Health and Psychosocial Support (MHPSS) to Address Digital Harms” pilot initiative at BRAC University and Jatiya Kabi Kazi Nazrul Islam University.

From August 2023 to May 2024, as a partner of this initiative, “Moner Bondhu” a psychosocial support agency, trained 120 students as “Mental Health First Aid Responders” to help their peers combat cyberbullying and digital harms.

Over the past nine months, these responders assisted 563 students, and over 800 students received resilience training.

Md Samsul Arefin, secretary of the ICT Division, highlighted the importance of the pilot project at BRAC University in protecting mental health from cyberbullying and other digital harms.

He emphasised, “This is the right time to expand this initiative nationwide to build Smart Bangladesh. We need to ensure our young generation is safe online in terms of their mental health.”

Dr Bushra Binte Alam, senior health specialist from the World Bank, emphasised the need for accessible mental health care in both urban and rural areas. Strategic plans must be inclusive to reach marginalised populations lacking access to technology.

The event highlighted the joint initiative of the ICT Division and UNDP to leverage ICT for advancing mental health services in Bangladesh, aligning with the National Mental Health Strategic Plan 2020-2030 and the National Mental Health Operational Plan (2024-2029).

Participants included PTIB Project Director Md Abu Sayed, senior officials from UNDP Bangladesh, WHO Bangladesh, and other stakeholders. Tawhida Shiropa, Founder and CEO of “Moner Bondhu,” moderated the policy discussion.