By Engineer Md. Abdus Sabur: In the run up to Bangladesh's national election in 2008, a look at the manifestoes of two political parties —- Bangladesh Awami League and Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) —- revealed two completely different pictures.
While the BNP’s manifesto revolved around “save country, save people”, something never-before-told and now proven far ahead of its time came through the Awami League. A pledge of 'Digital Bangladesh', a concept completely unheard of in the youngest nation in South Asia, resonated amongst the countrymen well.
On impact, the Awami League won the election with an unprecedented majority in 2008, while the BNP-Jamaat combine was decimated to a handful of seats in parliament.
Before 2008, Bangladesh was a completely analog country where high internet costs and expensive talk-time for mobile users defined the ambit of digitisation. But since 2009, a silent revolution began that brought in real and measurable gains on the front of the digital landscape. Expansion of digital centers on the grassroots, people getting access to services at their fingertips, freelancers making money from outsourcing, a record rise in internet and mobile users emerged as key parameters in the process.
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At the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, successful distribution of safety schemes to affected people through MFS stands as a shining testament to the country’s strength achieved over the years.
During lockdowns, when schools, colleges and universities were closed, distance learning saved the day for students, thanks to the expansion of the internet. No wonder the country now even boasts of having a satellite in space — a dream of the founding father of the nation after the country’s independence, which was realised decades later through his daughter and grandson.
From the science and technology affairs sub-committee, a key affiliate body of the party, we gathered a pool of doctors and opened up a round-the-clock health helpline that provided guidance for patients calling to seek medical help.
“My son Sajeeb Wazed gave me lessons on the usage of smartphone and computer," Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said, talking about her son.
As his mother's Information and Communication Technology advisor, Sajeeb Wazed Joy has presided over the penetration of GenNext InfoTech into all spheres of life – from online schooling to digital monetary transactions.
Bangladesh saw the best phase of its digital transformation during the Covid pandemic. The country managed to keep its economy going through a wide spectrum of digital activities, including telemedicine, virtual courts, and delivering money to poor people through mobile platforms and e-commerce. Its better growth trajectory than its bigger neighbours during the Covid pandemic owes much to this all-encompassing digitisation.
A University of Texas graduate in Computer Engineering and a Harvard post-graduate in Public Administration, Sajeeb Wazed Joy has been instrumental in the country's technological advancement.
With almost a year left for the next national election, the Awami League has floated a new action course before the nation and set a target to make a 'smart country'.
"We are looking forward to becoming a cashless society," Sajeeb Wazed said recently before a group of young change-makers. This pledge marks the beginning of the party's next course of action, a step that would help the country’s pursuit to become a developed nation by 2041.
A month ago, we organised an international conference that saw hundreds of prominent experts submitting their research papers. The focus was on the work required in all key sectors to adapt to the fourth industrial revolution.
The overwhelming response from a host of global experts with a message from the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) president welcoming the initiative symbolises the relevance of our party’s initiative.
A top expert panel of academics analysed those papers and we would submit a set of recommendations to our party chief.
'Digital Bangladesh' is all about upgradation of fundamentals and being a launch pad for a developed nation. The vision of Smart Bangladesh is all about taking the nation to a new height — a developed one.
(The author of this article is Science and Technology Affairs Secretary, Bangladesh Awami League)
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