Like all other countries, Bangladesh lives today in a global village. It is now just a matter of seconds that one can reach any part of the world either through cell phones or through the Internet. The Skype and the video-conferencing have even allowed a Bangladeshi to talk face to face with anybody he or she likes as if the recipient is just a few feet away from the caller. Could such a miracle be forecast two to three decades ago? It is simply NO.
There was a time when a cell phone set was a prized item of prestige. In early days, a mobile phone set, larger and heavier than today’s cost between Tk 1,25,000- 1,50,000. In those days, Internet was quite rare. Internet Service Providers (ISPs) behaved in the do-as-you-like fashion, making the subscribers look helpless charging them from Tk 2,000 to Tk 2,500 a month. With even such money, the subscribers could find the Internet going out of connection for almost half of a day and it was just a snail’s speed.
Thanks to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s initiatives during her first and second terms, the sky-high cell phones and Internet were brought down to the earth. Today even a domestic worker has a cell phone to tell her parents hundreds of miles away how she is doing. She now even sends home her earnings through mobile banking which is available in a small grocery shop in a remote locality. The high costs of communication were reduced to a tolerable limit by her government’s policies that virtually clipped the wings of profiteers. There were, however, lapses which were overwhelmed by success.
Today, the entire country is almost completely networked with cell phones and Internet. An expatriate worker in Saudi Arabia these days sends his letter to the members of his family through Internet located at nearby Union Parishad office.
The other day, another expatriate Bangladeshi, working in Abu Dhabi, was seen phoning his brother-a bridegroom-six times through his mobile phone until the latter’s marriage was solemnised. He even had a look at his new sister-in-law through the Skype made available by an Internet shop located at the upazila headquarters. It indeed augurs well for future of digital Bangladesh that the state-owned Bangladesh Submarine Cable Company Ltd (BSCCL) is now being forced to lower its internet bandwidth price significantly. With the private sector coming up fiercely in competition, the state entity is now making desperate attempts to have its share of the business. As a FE report said, private sector service providers are gradually grabbing the major share of the business. The BSCCL’s bandwidth price is almost double the one of the private operators. As a result, customers are shifting from the BSCCL to the private sector operators. The former had monopoly over internet bandwidth business just several months ago when there was no competitor in the market. But the situation has changed when six private sector operators started importing bandwidth by taking licence from the telecom regulator last year.
But then building of an information technology (IT)-educated workforce is the most important segment of digital Bangladesh initiative. Technology, as it is well known, is important but it does not work without a person behind. For a promising future Bangladesh, a tech-savvy generation is significantly important. This generation would be the driving force for a digitized and prosperous nation. To develop this kind of generation, Bangladesh needs a well-thought-out education policy and national human resource policy. It is another hard truth that this objective cannot be achieved overnight. But a good beginning is essential. This will help create the expected human resource that will manage, administer and govern future digital Bangladesh.
To have an IT-educated workforce, the country needs an educated society. IT is not only hardware that could be run by a particular skill only. It is a knowledge-driven technology, so it is needed to be spearheaded by those who have skill, knowledge, information and a level of education.
Thanks to innovations and skills of the private sector entrepreneurs as well as individuals, the country has simply made a leap forward. Believe it or not, Bangladesh fetched record $112million dollars last year through software exports. The success came despite the fact that the country has an inadequate infrastructure like high cost of bandwidth and small numbers of IT parks. The real earnings of the sector might have surpassed $250 million as many individual entrepreneurs did not bring in the earnings through official channels.
The IT is a key to faster pace of development. Access to information is of fundamental importance to any development process. The flow of information from and to the rural communities is a pre-condition for the development of rural Bangladesh towards eradication of widespread poverty. The recent development of information communication technology (ICT) is greatly facilitating the flow of information and knowledge, beyond the border of social and economic status. It is in this context, ICTs are now widely recognised as a critical tool to tackle development issues.