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Digital Bangladesh

Introduction: "Digital Bangladesh" is currently the most commonly used words in politics, media, among the intellectuals and the civil societies. The world is becoming a Digital Planet. Almost every state is running to become a knowledge-based society by 2015. Bangladesh cannot remain out of it. We must build a Digital Bangladesh and establish a knowledge based society within 50 years of our independence in 2021. Lets work for this achievement. Let us build Digital Bangladesh. Background of the voice of Digital Bangladesh: 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. Meaning of Digital Bangladesh: Let us now explore the buzzword digital Bangladesh. What does it really mean? Moving towards digital Bangladesh does not imply that the urban young groups of the country will be more sophisticated consumers of high-tech devices like computers, digital cameras, latest model mobile sets or camcorders etc. based on highspeed Internet infrastructure and promote the dejuice culture. Rather discarding this superficial notion, we need to consider the term digital Bangladesh objectively. Broadly speaking, a digital society ensures an ICT( Information & Communication Technology) driven knowledge-based society where information will be readily available on line and where all possible tasks of the government, semi-government and also private spheres will be processed using the state of the art technology. So, a digital Bangladesh must guarantee efficient and effective use of modern ICT in all spheres of the society with a view to establishing good governance. In other word, making Bangladesh a digital one, we have to establish technology driven e-governance, e-commerce, e-production, eagriculture, e-health etc. in the society emphasizing the overall development of the common people, the major stakeholders of the country.

Achievements towards A Digital Bangladesh: 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 previous government on machine readable digital passport system and finally the successful computerization of national voter ID. Besides admission processes of different public universities have made computerized and on line based. Moreover Bangladesh has recently launched DOEL- laptop computer with very low price produced in Bangladesh which is a great achievement for the people of our country as well as a big step toward Digital Bangladesh. Challenges towards Digital Bangladesh: In the other spheres of ICT, our achievement is very insignificant and we are still far away from transforming ourselves into a knowledgebased society. Building strong ICT infrastructure is the pre-requisite for making Bangladesh a digital one. For this, we need to focus on the following relevant issues assessing the harsh reality that hinders our development in this context. a) Power deficit: Latest statistics reveal that Bangladesh faces a power deficit of up to 2000 MW against a demand of 5000 MW daily. It may be noted that for proper ICT development an uninterrupted power supply is a must. b) Network infrastructure: Outside Dhaka, at present a few computer network infrastructures have been developed so far. Apart from some educational institutes outside Dhaka, observation finds that most of the LAN setups are Dhaka centric. This observation reveals the reality of the digital gap even within the country. c) Use of Internet: For the ICT development Internet users of the country must be increased. In this case our position is the worst one among the South Asian countries. The latest statistics (ITU, 2007) revealed that Internet penetration in our country is only 0.3%. Whereas, in Pakistan and India, it is 7.3% and 5.3% respectively. d) Under sea submarine cable: Since 2006, Bangladesh has been connected to worldwide Internet Super High Way through an under sea submarine cable. But this single submarine cable frequently faces disruption resulting in slow bandwidth. e) Network Readiness: Networked Readiness Index (NRI), developed by the University of Harvard, measures the propensity for countries to exploit the opportunities offered by information and communications technology. The NRI seeks to better comprehend the

impact of ICT on the competitiveness of nations. The NRI is a composite of three components: the environment for ICT offered by a given country or community, the readiness of the communitys key stakeholders (individuals, businesses, and governments) to use ICT, and finally the usage of ICT amongst these stakeholders. Unfortunately, the latest survey (2006-7) revealed that Bangladeshs NRI ranking is one of the lowest among the Asian countries. f) Use of open source software: Many countries (e.g. France and Malaysia) have started to use open source software in ICT development projects for cost effectiveness. Unfortunately, in our ICT development domain the culture of using open source has not yet been introduced. g) English literacy rate: From different sources, it has been learnt that, English literacy rate in Bangladesh is less than one percent. Whereas, English literacy rates in India and Pakistan are 60% and 20% respectively. There is a strong correlation between English literacy and ICT development in the present context of globalization. In the arena of ICT English has become the Lingua-Franca. On the other hand, we have not localized Bengali in the domain of computing. Hence, English literacy is a must for our ICT development. Unfortunately, in this case our position is the worst in the sub-continent. Conclusion: For making a digital Bangladesh by 2021, the government must address the above stated issues effectively and efficiently in transparent manners. In many cases we need to reformulate our national policy (e.g. education policy, ICT policy) in accordance with the Millennium Development Goals. In reformulating the ICT policy, we will need to take a pragmatic and visionary approach so that it can curb the prevailing digital gap in the society. Moreover, the journey towards a digital Bangladesh needs the incorporation of the technologically solvent innovative younger generation. If the leaders of our country objectively guide this generation, they can do wonder for the nation. After all, the young generation always looks forward and they can help bring about positive changes in the society.