Digital Bangladesh started its journey almost empty handed. Over time, it has reached the heights of space today. Bangabandhu Satellite-1 is now a symbol of Bangladesh’s dignity. There is a touch of digital in every activity of daily life. The country has surpassed many other countries in the world in the use of information technology in factories, trade and commerce or in the management of the state. As a result, the ‘Digital Bangladesh’ announced in the election manifesto of the Awami League in 2008 is no longer a dream, but a real one.
Analysts say that the modern form of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman’s Sonar Bangla is basically Digital Bangladesh. Sajeeb Wazed Joy, IT Adviser to the Prime Minister, is leading the way in implementing the vision of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. When Digital Bangladesh was announced, people’s perceptions about it were vague. Many have laughed and joked about it. However, with its implementation, people’s perceptions began to change. At present, Digital Bangladesh has become an integral part of people’s socio-economic and personal life.
The journey started with Bangabandhu’s hand: Agriculture was the mainstay of Bangladesh’s economy. After the formation of the government, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman brought the development of technology to the fore. He introduced technical education in the education system in 1982, when primary education did not spread across the country. During his tenure, Bangladesh became a member of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) on 5 September 1973. In his address to the United Nations on September 25, 1974, Bangabandhu said that human suffering and development should be alleviated through technology. He inaugurated the country’s first ground satellite station at Betbunia on 14 June 1985. However, after the assassination of Bangabandhu, its speed stopped. When the Awami League formed the government again in 1996, importance was given to technological development. At that time, various steps were taken including withdrawal of tariffs on computers, licensing of new mobile phone companies to break the monopoly market. Then on 12 December 2008 the Awami League’s election manifesto ‘Din Badaler Sanad’ announced the vision of building a digital Bangladesh by 2021 and when it came to power it was time to implement it.
Hand-in-hand mobile-computer-internet: In 2006, the number of internet users in the country was only 6 lakh. Back then bandwidth usage was 8 gigabits per second (Gbps). On August 26, the country recorded a record use of 26,049 Gbps bandwidth. According to the latest data from the Bangladesh Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (BTRC), more than 125 million people in the country now use the Internet. Of these, about 11 crore are mobile phone users and about 1 crore are broadband and PSTN internet users. In 2006, there were about 57 lakh mobile phone users in the country. Now the number of active mobile SIMs in the country is more than 16 crore 70 thousand. At that time there was 2G mobile network in the country. And now after 3G and 4G, 5G network is going to be launched this year. In 2007, the price of internet bandwidth per Mbps was Rs 8,000. Now it is only 300 rupees. The Info Sarkar project has brought 72 remote areas under internet service through fiber optic cable at union level and through Bangabandhu Satellite-1. As a result, people in remote areas are now accustomed to mobile and computer in everything from personal communication to business, agriculture, education, health.
Bangabandhu Satellite-1: Bangladesh reached a new height on 12 May 2016 by sending its own satellite into space. Bangabandhu Satellite-1 was launched from the Kennedy Space Center in the United States. Bangladesh is the 57th country in the world to launch its own satellite. The government has begun work on installing another new satellite in the orbital slot rented from Russia’s Intersputnik in 2014.
Bangabandhu Satellite-1 has 26 KU bands and 14 C band transponders. All regions of the country, including the waters of the Bay of Bengal, India, Nepal, Bhutan, Sri Lanka, Philippines and Indonesia are covered. The use of Bangabandhu Satellite in the country’s television channels and DTH services is saving a huge amount of foreign exchange every year. Honduras, Turkey, the Philippines, Cameroon and several television channels in South Africa are using transponders. High speed internet facility is being provided in the hills, haors and char areas of the country through this satellite. The satellite will work as an alternative even if the mobile network becomes inoperable during a major natural disaster.
Digital capabilities during Corona: The benefits of Corona Digital Bangladesh have been most visible. Even in lockdown, people do daily shopping, office-court online. The government’s Information and Communication Technology (ICT) department has used various apps and services to provide vaccine registration, education, emergency assistance and even Eid gifts to the Prime Minister. Stakeholders think that things would not have been so easy without the preparation of Digital Bangladesh.
According to the ICT department, the ICT department creates digital content for primary, secondary, madrasa and technical students at the initiative of the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Primary and Mass Education. They are broadcast on Sangsad Television, Bangladesh Betar and Facebook. More than 6,000 online classes were taken. Besides, ‘Virtual Class’ platform was also introduced at the university level. Due to these reasons, even though the educational institutions are closed in Corona, the students are still associated with their studies.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina gave Eid gifts of Tk 2,500 on digital platform to about 9 million unemployed families in Corona. In the last two Eids, this assistance has reached the beneficiaries in a few phases. Judicial work is also underway on the Corona-era virtual platform. More than 16,000 bail hearings were scheduled and more than 11,000 virtual hearings were held.
During the difficult times of Corona, the 333 helpline of the ICT department became a place of trust for the people. Many have received various assistance including food and medical treatment by calling this number. According to the ICT department, more than 6 crore 16 lakh people have called this number so far on social issues, cyber crime and corona related issues. Among them, food aid and 84 lakh tele-medicine services were provided to 1 lakh 82 thousand people. Besides, after launching 999 call center to get emergency services including police, fire service, ambulance, it also got quite a response. So far more than 6 crore people have called this number.
The ‘Suraksha’ app is another example of Digital Bangladesh’s ability to vaccinate against corona. So far, more than 60 million people have registered tickers through this app. First and second dose vaccination, center determination, vaccine card collection – all done through this app. Due to this a large number of people have been brought under vaccination in the fastest time in the country without any complications. On the other hand, e-commerce and mobile banking services play a huge role in keeping the economy afloat. People become accustomed to shopping and financial transactions while sitting at home. According to the data of Bangladesh Bank, last May, a total of 61 thousand 246 crore transactions were recorded in this channel including bKash, cash, rocket, upaya. As a daily average which is about 2 thousand 298 crore rupees.
Government Offices, Files and Meetings under e-Services: With the launch of National Information Window in 2014, the way of direct communication of the people with the government was created. Information of more than 51 thousand government offices including all unions, upazilas, districts, divisions, departments and ministries of the country, name-number-e-mail of officers, type of service, various forms, laws, notifications, etc. are added to this website. At present, there are 756 e-services and about 6 lakh content in the national information window. About 19,000 government offices have been brought under the same network.
In order to bring speed and transparency in government work, in 2016, Access to Information (A2I) under the Prime Minister’s Office introduced e-document system on a trial basis. It was officially inaugurated in 2019. Instead of paper files in e-documents, government officials can dispose of files using computers and mobile phones. Documents disappear, dishonest officials are also blocked from resorting to dishonest means. So far, more than 14 million files have been disposed of using e-documents. The process of launching e-documents is going on in all the offices of the country. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is also disposing of various files in this system from different visits. As a result, his office was closed during the Corona period but the work did not stop.
On the other hand, the government’s ICT department has created high quality video conferencing networks up to the districts and upazilas of the country, making it easier to communicate with the field. From 2015 to 2019, the Prime Minister held 696 video conferences in different parts of the country. He participated in 465 online events in 2020 and 10,063 in August this year.
Formulation of Laws, Rules and Policies: The Government has formulated and amended a number of laws for the formation of Digital Bangladesh. In addition, a number of rules, policies, strategies and guidelines have been formulated. Several sections of the 2009 Information and Communication Technology Act were amended in 2013. The Hi-Tech Park Authority Act was enacted in 2010. The One Stop Service Act was enacted in 2016 and the Digital Security Act was enacted in 2016. Besides, three laws have been drafted in 2020. These are: A to I Bangladesh Innovation Agency Act, Innovation and Entrepreneur Development Academy Act and Data Protection Act. If the Data Protection Act is passed, foreign authorities, including Facebook, YouTube and Twitter, will be forced to set up offices in the country and keep the country’s information in the country’s data center.
Economic Achievement and Employment: According to sources in the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications and the Department of ICT, the use of information technology has reduced the country’s population by 1.92 billion days, 6.14 billion US dollars in travel and 1 million times travel. The launch of the Union Digital Center (UDC) has reduced the time, cost and suffering of people getting services closer to home. Software and IT services made in Bangladesh are being provided in about 60 countries of the world including America and Europe. Exports have exceeded 1.3 billion dollars. With the completion of 39 high-tech parks and software technology parks, more than 3 lakh people will be employed. 120 companies have invested Tk 328 crore in 5 parks. More than 13,000 IT skilled jobs have been created. In order to build a skilled human resource for the Fourth Industrial Revolution, 31 specialized labs of high technology in IoT, robotics, cyber security have been set up and various trainings have been arranged. As a result, Digital Bangladesh means the journey of the next developed Bangladesh.
Source: Bhorer Kagoj by www.bhorerkagoj.com.
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