The Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (ECNEC) has approved a Tk 25.41 billion Enhancing Digital Government and Economy (EDGE) project in a bid to create the necessary environment for the digital economy and also ensuring its flourish in Bangladesh.
The approval came from the 7th ECNEC meeting of the current fiscal year (FY22) with ECNEC Chairperson and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in the chair.
The premier joined the meeting virtually from her official Ganobhaban residence while ministers, state ministers, planning commission members, and secretaries concerned attended the meeting from the NEC Conference Room at Sher-e-Bangla Nagar area of Dhaka on Tuesday, reports BSS.
Briefing reporters after the meeting, Planning Minister MA Mannan said the meeting approved a total of 10 projects involving an overall estimated cost of Tk 74.47 billion.
"Of the total project cost, Tk 36.82 billion will come from the government of Bangladesh portion, Tk 1.53 billion from the concerned organisation's own fund while the rest of Taka 36.11 billion as project loans,"
State Minister for Planning Dr. Shamsul Alam, planning commission members, and secretaries concerned attended the briefing.
Of the approved 10 projects, five are new while five others are revised projects.
The planning minister said that Bangladesh Computer Council (BCC) under the ICT Division will implement the EDGE project by December 2026.
Out of the total estimated cost of Tk 25.41 billion for the EDGE project, the government will provide Tk 345.90 million while the rest of Tk 25.07 billion will come from the IDA of the World Bank.
The EDGE project will ensure an integrated, cloud-computing digital platform for all government agencies and improve cyber-security, which will result in savings of $200 million in the public sector's IT investments.
Further, it will build resiliency during future crises, whereby the platform will enable the government to operate virtually and deliver critical public services to citizens and businesses.
The project will create 100,000 jobs, with a special focus on women, train 100,000 youths in digital and disruptive technologies and establish a digital leadership academy and centers of excellence. It will also help raise the revenues of IT firms by $300 million and promote local IT firms in international markets.
To reduce vulnerabilities from the pandemic and prepare for the Fourth Industrial Revolution, the project will help digitalize small and medium enterprises and strategic industries.
Answering to a question, Planning Commission member Mst Nasima Begum said that there are some 4,000 IT and software companies in the country and they exported IT materials and software worth $1 billion in the last fiscal year.
She said that this EDGE project would expedite the materialization of "Digital Bangladesh" in the country adding that around Tk 5.14 billion has been kept as block allocation in this project for facing the post-Covid-19 pandemic situation.
Planning Division Secretary Prodeep Ranjan Chakrabarty said that the ICT Division would develop a methodology on how to utilize this block allocation.
Planning Division Secretary Prodeep Ranjan Chakrabarty said that the ICT Division would develop a methodology on how to utilise this block allocation.
The planning minister said the prime minister asked the ministry of water resources and the ministry of shipping to work in an integrated way in case of those projects relating to river dredging and checking river erosion.
Mannan said such project works should have to be done cautiously where the ministry of planning could coordinate if necessary.
He said the premier also suggested setting up sports schools in all the divisions, ensuring maximum utilisation of surface water as well as utilising barren or unused land.
The planning minister said the ECNEC congratulated the prime minister and the people of the country for attaining unprecedented development in Bangladesh over the last era.
In the wake of worldwide detection of Omicron, a new variant of Covid-19, Mannan urged the countrymen to follow the health safety guidelines, especially to wear face masks.
When asked about the trend for revision of development projects, Mannan said that this is a "running problem" while projects are often revised due to some practical problems like Covid-19 pandemic, changes in rate schedule, land-related problems.
"But, we're trying our best to reduce the tendency of revising projects," he added.
State Minister for Planning Dr Shamsul Alam informed that the prime minister suggested naming the greater Cumilla as Meghna division and the greater Faridpur as Padma division.
Turning to the project for the countywide establishment of model mosque cum Islamic centers, Shamsul said that the Premier opined that those mosques cum Islamic centers should motivate the youths so that they do not resort to militancy.
He said the prime minister also put emphasis on boosting the production of paddy, especially the salt-tolerant variety one, in the southern region.
The prime minister also directed the local government division so that the quality of works is maintained in the projects related to rural infrastructures development.
Replying to another question, planning commission member Mst Nasima Begum said that the work for some 50 model mosques cum Islamic centers has already been completed, some 100 model mosques are nearing completion while the rest would be completed in phases.
Meanwhile, the day's ECNEC meeting also approved a Tk 15.38 billion project to ensure integrated infrastructural development of Cumilla City Corporation (CCC) for rendering better service delivery and civic facilities to the city dwellers.
The project titled "Integrated infrastructural development of Cumilla City Corporation" will be implemented with an estimated cost of Tk 15.38 billion.
The CCC under the local government division will implement the project by December 2024.
Out of the total project cost, Tk 13.84 billion will come from the government of Bangladesh portion while the rest of Tk 1.54 billion from the city corporation's own fund.
The project aims to increase the various civic facilities of the city corporation.
Once the project is implemented, it would be possible to ease the traffic congestion and thus develop an improved communication system through the construction of new roads, drains, and footpaths in Cumilla city.
The main project operations include construction of two 21,360 square-meter modern city corporation buildings having 15-storey foundation, upward extension of the regional office, construction of 40,473.97 square meter Mostafapur Truck Terminal and 8,194.98 square meter Chakbazar Bus Terminal, 10 acres of land acquisition and land development, beautification and development of Old Gomoti River, DC Pond and Rajbari Pond, development of 146 graveyards and crematory grounds, construction of seven public toilets, construction of 305.14 kilometer roads, 203.09 kilometer drains and 13.83 kilometer footpaths.
The other projects approved in the meeting are Improvement of navigability of River route from Mongla Port-Chandpur-Mawa-Goalondo-Pakshi, 1st revised with an additional cost of Tk 3.34 billion, establishment of sports schools at Chattogram and Rajshahi under BKSP, 3rd revised with an additional cost of Tk 318.60 million, establishment of burn and plastic surgery units at five medical college hospitals (Sylhet, Barishal, Rangpur, Rajshahi and Faridpur) with Tk 4.56 billion, establishment of 563 model mosques and Islamic centers at each district and upazila, 2nd revised with an additional cost of Tk 7.13 billion, development of ICT infrastructures, human resources and technology skills of Jatiya Sangsad Secretariat, 3rd revised with an additional cost of Tk 138.40 million, rehabilitation of irrigation infrastructures with Tk 3.23 billion, Climate Smart Agriculture and Water Management (CSAWMP) (BWDB part) with Tk 11.82 billion and rural infrastructure development of greater Noakhali district, 3rd phase, 1st revised with an additional cost of Tk 3.13 billion.