Bangladeshs ICT sector is a glaring example of what can be achieved if the governments goodwill and a skilled workforce work together

Multimedia Content And Communication
For more than half a decade “Digital Bangladesh” has become the new mantra of development. The widespread use of the term clearly signals the governments emphasis on the development of the information and communication technology. Accordingly, the government has formed a separate ministry in 2011 and has employed huge amount of resources in several projects. Guided by the State Minister Zunaid Ahmed Palak, Md Nazrul Islam Khan, secretary of the ICT division of the Ministry of Posts, Telecommunication and Information Technology (MoPTIT) is leading the team that is working to achieve the dream of digital Bangladesh. Khan says, “Our biggest achievement is that we have created a generation mentally ready and fit for adopting any technological challenge. Many people might think that development in ICT sector means donating more computers but I think developing human potential in this sector is the most important task.” View More

Training women to be skilled freelancers. Photo courtesy: ICT division, MoPTIT
The government has targeted the educational institutions first. In this project Khan came up with his innovative idea of turning regular classrooms into multimedia classrooms. After several experiments, it has now created a revolution in Bangladeshs education system. More than 20,000 schools all over the country have been provided with laptop and multimedia projectors and teachers of these schools have been trained to develop multimedia content for their students. In cooperation with the project, the education ministry has digitised textbooks and has published on the website of the National Curriculum and Textbook Board for free download. In cooperation with BRAC, the government is also working to make textbook into movies, which will be helpful to make the learning process more fun. Students of many remote areas of the country are now beneficiaries of the new multimedia contents. But introducing our youth to the technology is only the beginning. So the government is running a country-wide programme to train youth to get jobs all over the world. Officially called Learning and Earning Development Project, it focuses mainly on college and university students. Under this project, the ministry is training the youth about the ins and outs of outsourcing jobs. Khan, the secretary of the ministry says, “In the first phase we have trained 15,000 youngsters in district level and in 2012, these trained youngsters have earned USD 20 million by working in different kinds of outsourcing projects and in 2013 it has increased up to USD 50 million.” Training youngsters for income generating activities is a remarkable initiative for this country of ever increasing unemployment. Md Tobarak Hosen, a student of Pabna Edward College, says, “In Pabna there is hardly any job for new graduates. Without this training my future would be as bleak as that of many other educated but unemployed graduates. Now I dont have to look for work as I have a constant supply of work online.” One of the significant additions to this project is a programme for women that enables them to get outsourcing jobs. Titled “Bari Boshe Borolok”, it trains young women of different districts and Upazilas in skills needed for outsourcing. Md Nazrul Islam Khan, the guide of all these programmes, says, “We have emphasised on outsourcing activities because besides earning foreign currency, its also a knowledge based approach. By engaging in them, our youth are also developing their skills and capacity as global citizens. Soon we will reach every Union with our training programmes and modify each of our Union Information Centre as Outsourcing Centres.” Union Information and Service Centre (UISC) is also a significant milestone for the governments goal to achieve digital Bangladesh. These UISCs are one stop service outlets operating in 4547 Union Parishads, the lowest tier of local government. At these centres, a citizen can get most government services like public exam results, downloading government forms, online application and university admission, population census data, livelihood or employment information and also photo and mobile
University students are using free high speed internet connection
The efficacy of such automated services is a significant step towards achieving e-governance. After offering several online and automated services, the government is planning to bring the whole governance system under one public network called Bangla Govnet. The primary objective of the project is to ensure internet connectivity in all the districts of Bangladesh by 2014. A National Data Centre is also going to be established to host all the government websites and administrative offices and to connect the offices with each other. An independent national certifying authority has been formed to digitalise official signatures and other information. To prevent this huge virtual establishment from intruders and hackers, the government has also formed a strong army of cyber security experts under the MoICT. Besides making government services available online, the ICT division of the ministry has been training students to develop mobile phone applications. Khan says, “We are trying to engage our youth to develop apps for mobile phones so that we can provide most of our services through mobile phones. Its the most effective way to reach the people in the remotest parts of the country.” Khan says he went to different universities and polytechnic institutes to engage the students of computer sciences in developing mobile phone apps. Workshops and training programmes are provided in different districts and Upazilas. Zohurul Hasan, one of the trainees from Jessore, says, “The training was very effective. There is however a catch, we were told to bring our own laptop for the training. I think it has driven away many potential students to get the training because laptops quite a costly commodity even today.” The ministry has appointed several companies to provide the training. One of the companies is Multimedia Content and Communication (MCC) who has provided 50 such training programmes. Ashraf Abir, the CEO of the MCC, says, “The programme is actually for those who will be able to develop mobile phone apps using Java programming language. Most of our trainees are students of computer science and as we have to arrange training in different parts of the country, we have made such requirements.” The government is not only preparing human resources to achieve digital Bangladesh. Infrastructural development is also on the way. Hi-tech park in Jessore and Kaliakoir of Gazipur are being built. Khan says, “We always encourage the establishment of new software and hardware industries in the country. The goal of establishing these hi-tech parks is to develop ICT-based industries. If anyone wants to establish industries we will provide all sorts of training and capacity-building facilities there. Thus we are encouraging entrepreneurship in the ICT sector and we also want to attract foreign investment in Bangladesh.” Bangladeshs ICT sector is a glimmering example of what can be achieved if governments goodwill and a skilled workforce work together. Rapid development in the ICT sector also reflects a rapid growth of skilled manpower which ultimately accelerates the economic growth. Despite many challenges such as political instability, financial crisis and power shortages, many large and ambitious projects are going on to achieve digital Bangladesh. If the government functions at the current pace, we can hope that within a few years the ICT sector will be the largest revenue earner for Bangladesh Leading the Digital Revolution: The Star talks to Zunaid Ahmed Palak, State Minister, Ministry of Posts, Telecommunication and Information Technology, about the growth of the ICT sector in Bangladesh

Digital World kicks off amid high hopes

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina poses for pictures at a digital photo booth at the four-day Digital World exposition that kicked off at Bangabandhu International Conference Centre in Dhaka yesterday
A four-day ICT exposition, Digital World 2014, kicked off in Dhaka yesterday to showcase Bangladeshs achievements in information and communication technology and spread a positive message home and abroad. The countrys biggest ICT exposition was organised jointly by both the government and the private sector, and it is expected to create a platform for a free flow of ICT-related ideas with global ICT think-tanks. It will enrich knowledge and guide the nation towards achieving its vision for Digital Bangladesh by 2021. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina inaugurated the event yesterday at Bangabandhu International Conference Centre, where about 35 foreign delegates from 15 countries will deliver speeches in different seminars and technical sessions. View More

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina poses for pictures at a digital photo booth at the four-day Digital World exposition that
Earlier, the government and Bangladesh Association of Software and Information Services (BASIS) used to organise different events, but this time, both have joined efforts under the same umbrella. This event could not be organised last year for the political stalemate. The exposition also includes a section for mobile applications and games. The government will set up high-tech parks in every district in phases to develop the IT sector in every corner of the country in the areas of industry, health, employment generation, poverty alleviation, economic development and peoples empowerment, Hasina said. Hasina said the government established the High-tech Park Authority under which projects on setting up of high-tech parks, software technology parks, and building information incubator are being implemented, according to UNB. The government has formulated the ICT policy and Information Security Guidelines, in addition to enacting the ICT Act and the Right to Information Act to expand the sector, Hasina said. The Telecommunications Act has been made time-befitting through necessary amendments and this service has been brought under accountability. IT and software businesses have been exempted from paying income taxes and VAT has also been exempted on imports and at the production level of software, she said. The prime minister referred to establishment of a research and development center in Bangladesh by Samsung, and setting up offices by organisations like Google, Microsoft and Dell.
Russell T Ahmed, chief project officer of the event, said scope for business matchmaking of the local software development firms is created at the fair. At the same time, the government institutions can show their citizen services through the fair, he added. “We want Digital World to become a signature event for Bangladesh,” he said. Currently, the country earns around $250 million by exporting IT and IT enable services through firms or personal initiatives, which was only $5 million five years ago. “We aim to develop it to $1 billion by 2018 and contribute 1 percent to the gross domestic product.” Mustafa Jabbar, an IT expert, said the fair can create a bridge between the people and government or the other facilitators. The ICT law and policy should also be included in the event, he added. However, there is no showcase of digital devices at the fair, though the dream of a Digital Bangladesh will not be possible without it, he said. The event has been divided into different zones so that participants find it easier to meet their individual needs, like e-governance, outsourcing, e-commerce, business software, mobile content and application, IT education, IT job fair, career counselling, multimedia and animation, communication and crowd and inspiration platform for the youth. More than 200 exhibitors are taking part in the event including local and international software firms, mobile operators, educational institutions, government institutions, while over 100,000 visitors are expected to visit the fair.

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