Bangladesh has got a big boost in its digitalisation era as the number of its internet users has almost doubled in last five years, insiders said on Friday.
Some 67 per cent of the country's total population now use internet, mostly through mobile phones in hand, they said.
According to the Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC), the number of internet users increased to 110.76 million in October this year from 66.96 million five years ago.
The annual growth of internet users was recorded at 13.5 per cent on an average over the last five years.
Within a year, the subscription of internet swelled by 11.24 per cent in October 2020 compared to the corresponding period of last calendar year.
Telecom experts and regulators said the number of internet users soared in last few years as manual phones have been replaced with smart phones in the domestic market over the period.
Director General of BTRC Brig. Gen. Md. Mustafa Kamal told the FE on Friday that replacing manual phones with smart ones, economic enhancement & boosting of the purchasing capacity of the people, telecom infrastructure development, and familiarization of e-commerce and online shopping had facilitated the higher internet penetration in Bangladesh.
He said internet service providers, mobile phone operators and other service providers were doing good job for the expansion of internet use in the country.
Lt. Col. Mohammad Azizur Rahman Siddiqui, a director at the BTRC, said even a rickshaw-puller in Bangladesh was now using smart phone with internet as his purchasing power increased.
Bangladesh is such a market for internet users that it is entering the new era of massive digitalisation, he added.
The FE analysis has also found that internet subscribers have surged due to mainly for expansion of smart phone use in the country.
Out of total 110.76 million internet users till October this year, 102.11 million are using internet through their mobile phones while 8.56 million through ISP and PSTN (public switched telephone network).
Mobile penetration in Bangladesh has reached 168.07 million as of October 2020, the BTRC data showed.
BTRC Director General Mr Kamal said internet uses boosted online shopping and e-commerce, virtual official activities and online education & health services during the Covid-19 period and beyond.
Bangladesh's e-commerce had got a big boost as its market size has swelled by 30 times over the last five years.
The suppliers' and customers' devotion to the online platform for conducting business and purchasing products have helped electronic trade expand in the country.
According to the Bangladesh Competition Commission (BCC), the size of e-commerce in Bangladesh climbed to Tk 166.16 billion until August this year, roughly 29.67 times the amount in 2016.
A director of the commission said they are analysing the e-commerce data in Bangladesh for ensuring a fair competition of digital business in the country.
After 2016, the year-on-year online trade and commerce had started ballooning as the size of the business amounted to Tk 86.32 billion in 2017.
The figure reached Tk 105.04 billion in 2018 and Tk 131.84 billion in 2019, the BCC data showed.
A senior Bangladesh Bank (BB) official told the FE that since the internet penetration had expanded a lot over the years, Bangladesh's online shopping and mobile payment system have jumped too.
He said since the online payment system, including the Mobile Financial Services, internet banking and other gateways had been opened and commercial banks have come forward with their paperless banking through digital platforms for their customers, the online business and shopping have grown significantly.
"The growth in internet uses has facilitated the country's fundamental base of online payment system. It has already taken off. Now it is time for flying in the sky," the BB official said.
Research Director at the Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD) Dr KG Moazzem said the double-digit growth in internet uses was very good news for Bangladesh.
"Bangladesh is entering into the internet of things (IoT) paradigm. Huge internet use by the population is a sign of quality improvement of a country's economy," he added.
As Bangladesh's economy is growing, the digital platforms in trade, commerce, and education are facilitating the advancement and making it sustainable, the CPD researcher said.
"If we could expand internet penetration through cheap prices, cut the traditional system of learning, and the business and economic activities, our economy would grow at higher rate compared to the present scenario," the economist added.
Dr Moazzem, however, suggested reducing the digital divides saying that it was still persisting in Bangladesh.
"Many poor people and women are still out of the internet uses. If we can bring them under the net, the economic advancement will boost up and social insecurity will control a lot."
The government should work hard to attract investment in producing digital devices in the country for making the digital platform cheaper, Dr Moazzem said.