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Vision 2021 and Bangladesh

In: Business and Management

Submitted By siarafat
Words 1838
Pages 8
Tamnun E Mursalin

"Digital Bangladesh" is currently the most commonly used words in politics, media, among the intellectuals and the civil societies. Since our Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in her party's election manifesto pledged to develop a digital Bangladesh by 2021, it has given a great hope to the citizens of Bangladesh. It turned out to be an opportunity for our prime minister to be in the United States during the time of election, and experiencing the Obama election campaign. Her learning has helped Awami League wining the election in Bangladesh in 2008 with Obama-like campaign strategy-the call for 'change', which has been responded widely by the Bangladeshi citizens. However, the focus here is Digital Bangladesh, widely accepted by Bangladeshi people from all walks of life. Not too many people understood the concept of digital Bangladesh but they believed it, as something related to information technology. It has been widely accepted by a good number of young voters, believing that the concept of Digital Bangladesh will solve most of our national crisis involving corruption, unemployment, illiteracy, poverty and price-hike. Even though without knowing Bangladesh has already gone through a bit of experience on digitization through few national level of ICT projects, such as, Chittagong Customs Automation System, selection process of teletalk mobile user through internet, project initiated by the pervious government on machine-readable digital passport system and finally the successful computerization of national voter ID. However, we have full trust and faith in our newly elected government, that hopefully one day, it will give us the gift of Digital Bangladesh, as promised, by year 2021. But our fundamental question here is how digital Bangladesh will be built and how will it impact on our daily life, the economy and society at large. Is digital Bangladesh a reality or a virtual dream made by our leaders to get our attention and precious votes?

Digital Bangladesh is a continuous process of development. For those who thinks that it can be developed in a specific time and budget is absolutely wrong. The whole process requires lots of tasks, for which we have to be prepared. After all, digitization is the only pathway to economic success, quality education, public health and also generating transparency in governance with full public participation. There should be no doubt that in twentieth century the path to the information society is the only path for the development of human civilization. So our goal is how we build this digital Bangladesh.

The initial step of building a Digital Bangladesh is developing a roadmap to digital Bangladesh, including projects, programs, working methodology and timeline. In the election manifesto Awami League affirmed to revive the ICT task force formed during their last term. The ICT taskforce may initiate the process of making the roadmap. Their first work of the revived task force would be to prepare an e-readiness plan to asses the current ICT resources and skilled human resources of Bangladesh. This may include assessing the current infrastructure, internet accessibility, available skilled ICT professional, digitization level of the country and others. After a good assessment, the job will be to identify the projects and programs that need to be focused, and all the sectors, including public and private that need enhancement and development. The ICT task force must coordinate with the relevant stakeholders to work together in progressing different projects. The stakeholders may include the government bodies, for example, the ministry of finance, education, telecommunication and information; and the educational institutes, ICT work groups including relevant the private sector bodies. Different workgroups should be formed in various layers for various projects. A good working methodology of diagnosis, design and execution should be followed to implement any digitization project within a strong instructional framework. The work must be monitored carefully maintaining global standards. Few nations, like, New Zealand, South Africa and Chile are approaching toward a similar goal of digitization for the past several years. Those practices can be followed and if necessary international consultants and advisor team could be hired.

A good national connectivity is very much necessary in order to reach the services provided by the information technology. Access to the network in urban area must be improved at a more accelerated rate. High quality internet services must be provided from city to small isolated areas with reliable backbone network. A backup network needs to be installed along with the current one, with the available current backbone system. An affordable and subsidized price must be provided to internet users in order to promote internet use with a proper training program. A sustainable and reliable nation-wide network infrastructure will strengthen the information highway of the country thus eliminating the digital divide between rural and urban areas. Decentralization and digital government services can be provided for all citizens.

E-governance is another area deserving attention. Electronic governance is using information technology by the public sectors to provide service and information, and encouraging citizens to participate democratically in the decision-making process by making government more transparent and accountable. A good official web portal and information depository needs to be developed to provide citizens with all necessary information from different government ministries. All sorts of forms and application should be available for download by the public; also, to reduce bureaucratic complication, online submission can be added. For gaining transparency and reducing corruption, tender bidding, tax filing and plot allotment can also be made through this web portal. In addition, a good property record management system needs to be developed to eliminate the dispute on land ownership which leads to multitude of legal problems and court cases. The old manual system is not effective. It provides no organized information, but generates hassle regarding inheritance and record transfer. For effective utilization, these systems must have Bengali interface, as our English reading and speaking capacity is comparatively very low. Proper research must be done in Bengali character recognition system, speech reorganization system and natural language procession system. Open source software, non-pirated and free software, should be encouraged to be used at all levels of government ICT projects to minimize the cost. In addition to this, we need to be concerned about the other part of digitization, which is cyber crime and information hacking, by protecting our systems against any malicious attack. Recently, Rajuk was victimized, where intruders have hacked the system gathering valuable personal information of plot owners, demanding money for their plot installment. We need to learn these faults to protect our system and public awareness.

In order to create an innovative society, the education system must be first targeted. A separate digital network should be built to connect all the educational institutes to share resources, teaching materials and research work, like it is in Sri Lanka, UK and USA. An innovative cycle of university-industry relationship should be developed with digital coordination and resource-sharing. With the help of distance learning and digital and audio learning system, teachers, students and vocational trainers from all over the country can acquire quality learning and digital abilities. With the assistance of digital learning system, learning will not be limited to class rooms only. Technologies like digital library, video lecture, multimedia class room and knowledge-based information repository will improve the employability, literacy and skill of the country. A higher management information system could be developed for the University Grant Commission to administer and monitor all the institutes under its control.

All types of business including small, medium sized or big should incorporate ICT through e-business and e-commerce. Our products and services should be promoted in the global market with appropriate ICT technology-oriented marketing strategies. For the business community, inter-bank money transfer and transaction, loan system, L/C, finance, shipping, supply chain and credit can be done electronically to provide a suitable and friendly environment for the business to compete with other nations. A dedicated corporate network line can be built to motivate the business community in ICT use. The newly installed Chittagong automation system can be a good example of how with less bureaucracy and quickly, goods could be released, providing more comfort to the business environment. Online stock trading system would involve more traders from different communities to participate in capital market.

The legal and the health system also play a significant role in all areas of the community. A knowledge-based online digital legal system consisting of case, records, law and policies is important for the judicial system. The lawyers should have enough resources available to defend their clients as well as the judges to make decision fairly. Without the access of these materials justice will be hard to achieve for the poor people. Digitization of the judiciary system will also strengthen the democratic process of the country. Even though the private health sector has developed their management system, the public sector is way behind. A good patient-doctor management system on all pubic hospitals will improve the health services in remote areas. New technologies like telemedicine currently in use as pilot projects can be used more broadly for providing consultation for special cases on isolated localities. Like the judiciary, a similar knowledge depositary system for the doctors and nurses will improve the function of the health sector.

Last but defiantly not the least is the ICT sector, which is probably one of the most neglected sectors in the country. In order to develop a sustainable and efficient Digital Bangladesh, the government must first put their utmost attention in reviving this sector. Due to negligence and failed polices, the ICT sector has gone through lots of ups and downs in the last few years. The government should take all necessary steps to reengineer this sector from top to bottom to gain economic advantage like our neighbouring country India. Through outsourcing, the nation can earn more business from the outside world, which would play a vital role in the economy. The last caretaker government has started the call center business by providing licenses to several companies. These companies are still in their initial stage providing backend office services to western countries. More call centre markets are expected to be created in the future. In order to get a share of this market, the government should take proper initiatives in developing a skilled manpower, with good English speaking quality and reliable, cheap telecommunication network. Finally, we have to develop a more adaptable and applicable ICT policy ensuring transparency supported by a proper legal framework and promise for capacity building. The proposed ICT2003 had several flaws, which needs proper evaluation process.

However, the present government has five years to show their success on how fast they are approaching towards their vision of 2021 of digital Bangladesh. Time is very short, the tasks are many, and the expectations are very high. The people are continuously monitoring whether their leaders' pre-election pledge of a Digital Bangladesh is being implemented properly. (The writer is Associate Professor, CSE Department, University Of Liberal Arts-Bangladesh (ULAB))

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Author: Tamnun E Mursalin

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