Home   |  Issues  |  The Daily Star Home | Thursday, June 4, 2009

By Faria Sanjana

Dreams! We all love them. As a wise person once said it is mostly up to the dreamer to fulfil his dream; turn his subconscious vision into reality. The current Prime Minister of Bangladesh also had a vision - to make Bangladesh fully digitised by the year 2021. This was actually one of the main reasons that prompted the young voters (one-third of the total voters) to lead Awami League to a landslide victory five months back. So, dear readers, promises have been made and the dream of a 'digital Bangladesh' has been shown to all the citizens of this country. Now the BIG question arises how far are we from implementing this dream of ours?

The proposed plan
Let us first find out how this government plans to make Bangladesh 'digital'. The process is planned to be done by applying third generation information and communication technology widely noted as 3G ICT. This means that all government organizations and private sectors will easily have access to online information and can transmit instructions electronically through different levels at a very quick rate. In this way decision-making processes of the organizations can be accelerated and their performances can also be monitored. The ICT Policy has already been approved by the Cabinet in late 2002 where it aims to utilize and generate information of both the private and government sectors to build an ICT-driven nation. So an establishment of e-governance, e-commerce, e-banking etc. will operate the country thus making the job of the common people extremely convenient. Sounds too good to be true? We thought so too!

We cannot really say that we are totally behind every other country to build a knowledge-based society through ICT. As we all know the telecommunication industry of Bangladesh has boomed significantly throughout the years therefore helping the nation to be connected at least in one possible way. But as we've mentioned earlier the present government of ours has a wider vision and if we summarize that within a few words we have:
· Research and development for innovation of environment friendly sustainable technology for the poor

· Use of nuclear energy through establishment of atomic power plant and nuclear medicine centers

· Development of biotechnology and human resources in that area

· Conduction of research on oceanographic resources

· Establishment of the Ministry of Science and ICT as a model e-governance ministry

By looking at the aforementioned points, one can only but wonder, are these too much to ask for? To make all these come true, highest priority must be given to the education of science, management and technology. Efficient operation of proper infrastructures is also an obligation. But if we face a reality check we have a different picture that blocks us extensively in achieving our goals.

The backdrops
Among them the first problem is the lack of power. In this age, when the nation requires a total power of up to 5000 MW, we are only being able to receive 2000 MW thus putting a huge question mark on the development of ICT technology. Next we have the issue of Internet connection. Where our neighbouring countries India and Pakistan have connectivity rates of 7.3% and 5.3% respectively, Bangladesh has a poor figure of 0.3%. Then we have almost zero development of computer network infrastructures, which makes the digital gap within the country even wider. After that we have the under water submarine cables and the use of open source software. Although submarine cables have been running from the year 2006, we often face various problems regarding the proper functioning of the cables thus resulting in slow bandwidth. Open source softwares can be really useful for cost cutting, resulting in a wide-scale development of ICT projects. However no such measures have been introduced in our country regarding these softwares. Furthermore, instalments of proper security measures are not there in order to prevent national security threats that can hamper the running of the country.

Other than the technical problems mentioned earlier, we have the lack of manpower in the IT sector that hinders the progress of 'Digital Bangladesh'. In the present era, engineers and technologists showing an expertise in IT skills are merely taken as labourers for fixing petty problems in offices and banks. English is supposed to be the main language for ICT development. The poor condition of English literacy is another major hindrance since we do not have the use of Bengali in the computing domain.

All these factors can ultimately be overcome only if we can uphold good authority and curb corruption and other illegal means. Initially we can take assistance from countries that manufacture and distribute ICT. But we must take care not to become totally dependent on foreign nations and hence gradually develop our own resources in building a 'Digital Bangladesh'. The stakes may be high and barriers too many but since we have already dreamt it, we should not hold ourselves back and work hand-in-hand to fulfil our dream.




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