MNA Feature Desk: A worldwide revolution is going on in the field of science and technology with huge anticipation of introducing artificial intelligence in the global market. Billions of dollars are being invested in technological innovations. This revolution got visible to people around the world throughout the last two decades. Along with so many other countries of the world, Bangladesh is also a participant in this race as the current government has shown strong commitment towards building a ‘Digital Bangladesh’. It must be noted that, different policies of the government has significantly contributed towards technological progress. Despite that, our citizens are still falling behind to enjoy the benefits of digitalization.
Recently we have entered into the world of 4G. Grameenphone, Robi, Banglalink and apparently Teletalk also received its license. Except Teletalk, other three giants of Bangladeshi telecom sector have declared this high end service for the customers. Robi is even offering 4.5G, a marketing gimmick pointing towards their better service with advanced LTE technology. It feels good that resting in the era of 2G for a long time, we have quickly moved from 3G to 4G.
But it is slightly confusing if the people of Bangladesh have enjoyed the facilities of 3G yet properly. Of course, few in the top cities living a lavish life had done that, but they do not represent the majority of this country and hence, it is doubtful if 4G will bring out any significant change in our lives other than our pockets.
The number of mobile phone users has increased a lot in last few years. The growth of internet users is more noteworthy. Using social media sites like Facebook is very common even in rural areas now-a-days. The city life cannot be imagined without mobile phones and internet. But using Facebook and YouTube can help those companies, but will not help much to take our country forward. Proper utilization of these technologies and devices are yet not realized in Bangladesh.
It is true that, from different aspects, technology is changing the face of the Bangladeshi people, especially the youth. Many young people are now involved in activities like; software development, apps creation, social media marketing, data centres, freelancing etc. Our revenue from technology-based business is increasing every year. We can anticipate that a huge number of people are getting associated with this trend. In spite of that, this involvement is limited to the city dwellers and the widespread population of Bangladesh is poorly covered in this technological revolution as it should be with so many unemployed youth in our country.
It is not the failure of ongoing digitalization or technological development in this country. Rather, it displays poor planning surrounding this upward movement. Our people are mostly uneducated though it was last measured over 72 per cent adult literacy rate, but we all know writing a single letter or being able to put on a signature does not actually refer to literacy. And especially with that much literacy, it is impossible to participate in technological fields.
This low actual literacy rate is hurting our development as it has created huge barriers to enhance ourselves technologically. On top of that, the standard of education and the corrupt education system is pushing us backwards while disabling us to instil any hope of improvement in terms of education or literacy in the near future.
We have a huge number of unemployed youth — few are well educated and few are not. As we are moving towards digital Bangladesh, these youths can be treated as the greatest assets to bring in technological revenues. But, at first, they must be provided necessary education or training. It is a matter of sorrow that, with so much focus on the digitalization, there is almost no quality training facility. And the keyword here is quality. There are many IT training centres and many of these are even receiving foreign and government funds to train the youths.
But the quality of training is not at all up to the mark. From the personal experience of few young people, we have found out that, these training are good if someone intends to receive a certificate and does not want to learn much. It was also found that, only if you have adequate knowledge on the field of your intended training, then only you can be slightly benefitted. Otherwise, these trainings do not help much.
There are few quality training centres and some of these are working globally. But the charge is very high for the general people of Bangladesh to enrol for their trainings. As a result, only solvent few are getting benefitted by receiving training from those institutions. The majority is deprived of any proper training facility. Even they also sometimes try to receive training from some local private and government institutions but those trainings tremendously fail to add any significant value to their careers.
Along with all other sectors of Bangladesh, the ICT sector is also affected by corruption. The ill practices are substantially causing barriers towards foreign investment in this sector. There are many projects funded by foreign bodies, but those are not being implemented as those should be. The utilisation of funds is not up to the mark. More organized utilisation of ICT related funds are required to boost up this sector.
The government has taken steps to develop the ICT sector including building country’s first high tech park. According to the National ICT Policy-2009, 306 action plans consisting short-term, mid-term and long-term plans have been identified for the realisation of Vision 2021. A special cell named Access to Information (A2I) was formed and BASIS is also participating in this development programme. E-Commerce and E-Governance is gaining higher response from the users. All these are highly prospective outcomes to achieve the goal of ‘Digital Bangladesh’. But still we are standing far behind in this aspect in comparison to other countries of the world.
We are lacking capable professionals and are also falling behind to create a pool of trained workers. The IT based education is limited to the top cities and most of the IT-educated youth opts for a career abroad. Due to this, we are unable to grab the large opportunities of the ICT sector. The foreign companies are coming to Bangladesh, which is a good sign, but we are failing to utilise their investment to the highest level while they are getting benefitted to a much larger scale.
IT based education is yet to be popular around the country as most of the talented student opts for medical, civil or electrical engineering or business administration related education. Though in urban areas subjects like computer or software engineering is becoming the youth’s choice but that does not represent a large segment of the population.
The education and especially fluency in English is the biggest barrier towards accepting technology in Bangladesh. Lack of education does not allow us to grab the right opportunities as well as it leads towards getting influenced by negative sides of technology. Our education system must be designed to align with the concept of ‘Digital Bangladesh’. Otherwise, after a certain point, we cannot attain excellence and will be trapped under the label of cheap labour to the developed countries. We must put hope on the fact that we will excel soon. But we are afraid of failing on that hope as a huge conspiracy to destroy our education system is going on.
‘Digital Bangladesh’ is the dream of every Bangladeshi today. We want to see ourselves in the same league as the developed countries of the world. To achieve that, we must ensure that, the majority of our population participate in this development plan. Only showing the high indexes will not change our scenario rather we must find out the basic problems which are preventing us from going forward.
An integrated long term plan is required and uncorrupted implementation is a must. We hope Bangladesh turns into ‘Digital Bangladesh’ in the near future not only on papers with irrational success stories of different stakeholders but in reality with significant improvement in people’s lives.
The writer is Associate Editor at Mohammadi News Agency (MNA).