Digital Bangladesh: A Story of Transformation

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Published on July 17, 2019
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Zunaid Ahmed Palak, MP:

The Digital Bangladesh program was launched in 2009. It aims to be at the forefront of achieving Honorable Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s vision of transforming Bangladesh into a country of the digital economy by 2021 and a knowledge-based economy by 2041. The four pillars of Digital Bangladesh - Human Resource Development, Connecting Citizens, Digital Government, and Promotion of ICT Industry - are playing a central role in aiding this fantastic growth story. Today more than 120 Bangladeshi companies are exporting ICT products worth nearly USD 1 Billion to 35 countries. We plan to take this to USD 5 Billion by 2021.

The first pillar is about Human Resource Development. The government is aiming to post Bangladesh as the gateway for the digital world and has taken multiple initiatives to develop a skilled, equipped, and a digital-ready pool of talent. Our Education system produces more than 500,000 university graduates each year. The government has introduced multiple dedicated training programs to get the talent pool ready to deliver value on a global scale –we have trained over 65,000 IT/ITES professionals in the past year. As per the Oxford Internet Institute, Bangladesh has the second largest pool of online workers in the world. To enhance the skills further, we have established specialized labs in all 130 universities. We are investing in frontier tech Centers of Excellence with global tech partners, such as IBM. We have a strong focus on training professionals on emerging technologies – IoT, Blockchain, Artificial Intelligence, Big Data and Analytics etc.

The next pillar is about Connecting Citizens by developing a strong enabling environment. We are committed to ensuring 100 percent Internet connectivity by 2021. We have already made good progress with over 93 million internet subscribers, and 160 million mobile subscriptions throughout the nation – making Bangladesh the fifth largest mobile market in the Asia Pacific, and the ninth-largest in the world. We have ensured seamless connectivity through two submarine cable connections with 1,700 Gbps and seven ITC connections with 400 Gbps. We plan to further enhance this by being an early adopter of 5G. By the end of 2019, we will have fibre optic connectivity up to our Union level, with the aim of providing high-speed internet connectivity even at the remote villages. In order to ensure cost-effective space for companies interested in investing in Bangladesh, we are building 28 Hi-Tech Parks around the country, with a plan to expand this to 64 soon. There is a focus on developing a thriving ecosystem for partners and investors who are keen to invest in viewing the opportunity in Bangladesh.

Next lever to drive the Digital Bangladesh engine forward is through e-Governance or Digital Governance.

The government has been proactively pursuing the digital penetration of all of the government portals by 2023. We have developed the National Portal back in 2014, which now houses over 45,000 websites and services of different Government Offices. We have developed over 5000 Digital Centers across the country to help provide the various digital services to the citizens at the last mile, addressing the issue of the Digital Divide. To ensure interoperability, we have developed the Bangladesh National Digital Architecture, for which we have also won the WSIS Award this year. We have been recognized by WSIS for our different e-Government or Digital Government initiatives for the past six years in a row. We have issued over 100 million digital IDs to our citizens, which is one of the highest in the world. We have established a Digital Service Accelerator, to expedite and facilitate the e-Services of all ministries. We are very carefully designing the services to ensure that it is relevant to all three groups of Bangladeshi citizens: Digital natives: younger, tech-savvy, generations growing up with technology, Digital adapters: middle-aged individuals who have adopted technology and Outliers: the minority who stay away from technology. The scale of digital governance in Bangladesh is tremendous in transforming the nation.

The fourth pillar is the vibrant ICT Industry in Bangladesh. Our software and service (IT/ITES) industry is a billion-dollar market and is expected to grow to USD 5 Billion by 2021. We are serving clients in the array of domains –Financial services, Telecom companies, Healthcare – We are driving the IT/ITES engine behind some of the global companies worldwide.

The four pillars behind Digital Bangladesh is strengthened by strong government commitment and support. Government has been updating policies to augment the ease of doing business for prospective investors/partners. Updated policies include Digital Security Act, RTI, IPR, Broadband, PPP, Alternative Investment, Telecom among others, and have recently started developing an AI strategy.
Bangladesh has experienced tremendous growth in the last decade under the leadership of our Honorable Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and her Honorable ICT Adviser Sajeeb Wazed. Today, we experience nearly 8 percent GDP growth, as one of the fastest growing economies in the World. We are 34th in the WEF Inclusive Development Index, ahead of many established nations, and by 2030, we will be the 24th largest economy in the world. The key ingredient behind this growth has been smartly utilizing ICT to spur the growth in all sectors.

Writer: State Minister for ICT, Ministry of Posts, Telecommunications & IT, Government of the People's Republic Bangladesh

Source: The Daily Sun