Digital transformation of Bangladesh

Monday, 9 May 2022

In the early years, making a digital Bangladesh sounded more like a political hype than a reality as it still does to the uninitiated. But the country's transition to the desired goal is taking a shape slowly but surely. The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has steadfastly been extending its support by way of policy guidelines and active cooperation right from the beginning. So when State Minister for Information and Communication Technology Junaid Ahmed Palak expresses at the meeting with UNDP high-ups at its headquarters his optimism of taking the country's digital transformation to many steps ahead with the implementation of the 'Digital Strategy 2022-25' now in the process of formulation by the UNDP, the prospect looks bright. Evidently, Bangladesh is on the right course so far as its digitisation is concerned. The UNDP's active involvement in the process has assured that the country successfully got over the many vicissitudes of this uncharted territory.

Records speak for the UN body's cooperation in this area. The a2i programme was tailor-made for young entrepreneurs to get motivated for innovation meant for improved public services in society. Sure enough, the UNDP's long-term support proved decisive for its success. Similarly, the Partnerships for a Tolerant and Inclusive Bangladesh (PTIB), the Human Rights Programme (HRP) and Youth CO:Lab had the UNDP's backing in reaching the dividends of the new technology to the intended beneficiaries. All of these programmes did not yield the optimal results but at least they have shed light where reviews are needed. But the most important contribution these programmes made is the inspiration for breaking the psychological barrier and bringing apparently little educated and even illiterate people under coverage of digital services. Sure enough, the youths were the ones who seized the opportunity and many of them have made the most of the technology. Today quite a few of them have made their marks at the global level and instead of looking for traditional jobs are creating employment for others.

The government, on its part, can speed up digitisation with complementary programmes in other areas, including education. It is now clear that the existing education system has failed to cope with the scientific and technological leap that has spurred means of production and industrialisation on a different plane. Bangladesh has to take the challenge. The country's young talents have proved they can rise up to the occasion provided that they have the opportunity. In global competition of universities, Bangladesh's records are appreciable.

So a gradual transformation of educational curricula striking a balance between life sciences and information and communication technology (ICT) is the need of the time. For the young generations to grow up as responsible citizens, they must be competent enough to fit in the modes of fourth industrial revolution (4IR) and at the same time be equally conscious of saving the environment and ecology. The schools have to start lessons on these essential subjects right from the primary classes and offer specialised education at the tertiary levels. However, the country's digital transformation will be successful only if the programmes are inclusive driven by low-cost, efficient and equitable distribution of electricity and internet connection.