Challenges and opportunities in the transition from “Digital Bangladesh” to “Smart Bangladesh”

Bangladesh has succeeded in becoming Digital Bangladesh, the second-largest country in terms of online worker sources. Based on this success, Bangladesh plans to create a sustainable, knowledge-based, and innovative "Smart Bangladesh" by 2041.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina announced “Digital Bangladesh: Vision 2021” on December 12th, 2008. Digital Bangladesh is already a reality rather than a pipe dream. Bangladesh celebrates Digital Bangladesh Day on December 12 every year.Today, a large portion of Digital Bangladesh’s potential is benefiting the population directly, especially the underprivileged rural poor. This leapfrogging was made possible by the government’s daring and inspiring leadership, which rekindled the hopes, aspirations, and self-belief of the population and successfully expanded the boundaries of the nation’s growth.This leapfrogging phenomena is a sustainable occurrence that is blazing a new development trajectory for Bangladesh and setting examples for the developing world. It was inspired by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s bold vision, implemented by all government agencies, and supported by the people.

By 2041, Bangladesh will be a developed nation, and it will also be a “Smart Bangladesh,” an initiative to make the entire society “technologically smart.”Machines that learn beyond the logic of the software that programs them, commonly referred to as Artificial Intelligence or AI, will predominate on the road to 2041. In the last five years, AI has advanced more than it has in the previous 50. AI assistants that aid people with daily tasks include Siri on iPhones, Google Assistant on Android devices, and Amazon Alexa.One of the main forces in the transition to 2041 will be AI. The Internet of Things (IoT), which is made up of trillions of sensors attached to virtually everything around us, advanced methods of editing, sequencing, and cloning genes, organs, and whole animals (despite the ethical debate surrounding this), and nanotechnology with materials stronger than steel and thinner than human hair are some other significant drivers.

Bangladesh has succeeded in becoming Digital Bangladesh, the second-largest country in terms of online worker sources. Based on this success, Bangladesh plans to create a sustainable, knowledge-based, and innovative “Smart Bangladesh” by 2041. In 13 years, the ICT industry has seen significant advancements. 13 years ago, there were just 5 million internet users; today, there are 130 million. There was no ICT industry, and just $26 million worth of technology was exported. Now, the annual amount from the software, hardware, and service sectors is $1.4 billion.Government for the Smartest in Bangladesh, ensuring digital equity-the notion that everyone should have access to the information technology required for full engagement in our society, democracy, and economy-requires an unwavering and persistent emphasis. Government agencies are using technology more frequently to bring services to citizens’ homes. MyGov is a platform that offers a variety of solutions, accelerating the digitization of government services. The website for the Bangladesh National Portal, which houses more than 51,528 government offices under one roof. National Helpline 333 is a special helpline that anyone can use to get information and request services.The government, non-profit organizations, and industry together, they have developed a multimodal digital education environment, which combines a variety of high-tech, low-tech, and non-tech learning modalities.

A digital economy was established thanks to Digital Bangladesh 2021. The delivery of government services using new methods in place of the outdated anarchic and analog ones will take a few more years to fully institutionalize and transform bureaucratic behavior. The process of societal adoption will take some time, and there are risks including cybersecurity dangers and privacy concerns over citizen data, among others. The private sector has adopted digital technologies to alter corporate operations more slowly than the public sector. The disparity between urban and rural users’ access to information via ICT, or the “digital divide,” grows when there are power outages because the servers regularly crash. Due to the recent frequent power outages, many independent contractors nationwide have been less productive. They have been unable to access uninterrupted internet services.

According to government sources, the effort has been taken to make cell phones available to the general public at the lowest price in order to tackle the challenges of digital technology, in addition to making the internet inexpensive and accessible. Building a digital Bangladesh requires appropriate digital equipment and connectivity. Now, it’s crucial to put this strategy into action, and specific steps should be taken in this direction. First and foremost, everyone should have access to information technology. 

In order to build the essential infrastructure for information technology, government initiatives should be implemented, and private organizations should be supported. Additionally, steps should be taken to make information technology affordable for women and the disadvantaged. In essence, the Internet and artificial intelligence are connected to spread the fourth industrial revolution. Stakeholders claim that the government has already made the majority of the required arrangements for digital connectivity to effectively combat the fourth industrial revolution and beyond.

The writer is an assistant IT officer at Bangladesh Institute of Governance and Management.

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