The Visionary Leader Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina dreamed to make digital Bangladesh by 2021 and her able son and visionary Adviser Sajeeb Wazed Joy has founded Digital Bangladesh and made the dreams come true.
In January of 1986, I wanted to make a phone call to Bangladesh from Alfred City of New York State which is about 300 miles from New York City. I requested my landlord to kindly arrange to make a phone call to Bangladesh. He called Telephone Exchange and got an appointment after 7 days with a specific date and time. The Telephone Exchange informed the Bangladesh Telephone Exchange to inform my family when the phone would ring.
If I miss the call I would have to wait for another week to get another appointment. There was no other phone system. I spoke to Bangladesh for 5 minutes and paid my landlord USD 25 which was USD 5 per minute. I received a call from Bangladesh through the same way and they paid Tk 3000 for 10 minutes which was Tk 300 per minute (USD 8 per minute).
I needed to send an urgent 4- line message by telex to our donor agency in Canada from our NGO in Dhaka in1984. I went to the Hotel Intercontinental to send the telex. I paid Tk 2,500 for sending a 4-line message and receiving a 2-line return message. Now any person from any place in Bangladesh can chat, live video chat, exchange messages, pictures and documents to anywhere in the world without any limitation at free of cost or at a minimum cost. Innovations of technologies are moving fast in the world and Bangladesh is also moving ahead of adopting and utilizing the new fast moving hi-tech innovations for its economic, social, communications and cultural enhancement and uplifting the nation to the level, status and standard of the developed countries.
In Mid-1990’s when I was in the USA I heard that the Car-based Mobile Phone was introduced in Bangladesh which used to cost Tk 1,25000 per set and Tk 25 per minute call. During the Government of Bangladesh Awami League led by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina the price was reduced to Tk 25,000 per set and Tk 10 per minute call. At the beginning of 2000, the first generation of handset mobile phone was introduced by the Awami League Government.
Now we call from America to Bangladesh at a cost of only USD 0.03 per minute. From the last few years, I have been receiving phone calls from the remote villages in Bangladesh directly to New York, the USA at least a few times a week. Many of the callers are farmers and once they were very poor day labourers. I knew their parents when I used to live in Bangladesh. Those who could afford better mobile phones and purchase internet data package used to show me their crop field, harvest, poultry and cattle farms, Fish Tanks, handicrafts and other income generating projects. They pay only Tk 7 per minute which is only USD 0.08 per minutes.
The people of Bangladesh are now enjoying the mobile technology for making phone calls anywhere in the world from any remote village. They can make phone calls at a very low cost which can be afforded by many people of any income group. Those who can afford internet package or WiFi can make calls to talk and see each other anywhere in the world by using Imo, Messenger, Viber, WhatsApp, Skype, Signal and many other websites at free of costs. People are connecting people from the remote villages of Bangladesh to the big cities and tiny villages of any parts of the world at free of cost or at a very low cost. Bangladesh people by using internet data package and/or WiFi are using emails, communicating, downloading and transmitting documents, files, photos as well as using Facebook and Instagram. They are using Google, Yahoo and other search engines and surfing the internet worldwide from the remote village in Bangladesh.
The government of Bangladesh of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has been digitalizing all services of all ministries and departments with utmost priority. All the Bids, Tenders, Contracts, Work Orders and Purchase Orders for all Constructions and Purchases of the government are being brought under E-Tender systems so that the interested people can submit their Bids and Tenders from anywhere (from their homes, offices, inside or outside the countries) without coming to Dhaka and other cities. Especially, the land registration and its documents can easily be found through the website of the Land Ministry by using a computer from home or office or anywhere in the world.
The Education Ministry is vastly using the internet system through its various websites for delivering of its services to its students, teachers and guardians in disseminating the information and accepting the applications for jobs and admissions. A student can apply for admission to the college of his/her own choice.
They can get the results of the examinations and other tests in their own mobile phones. They can download the information, texts, articles, class lectures, and educational materials of any subjects of any grades. The whole educational world is at their fingertips now. E-Learning, Distant Learning, online classes and inter-web-based YouTube recorded and White-Board based classroom and individual learning opportunities are made available through digital services. The Education and ICT Ministries have set up Computer Labs, IT Training and Classroom E-learning Programs in most of the second level schools and colleges.
Health, livestock, fisheries and agricultural information services are also made available to the common people free of cost. People can go to the local Union Council IT Centers, Community Health Clinics, or to any government offices or Schools or Colleges where they can use the computer services or can use their own mobile phones and get all the required information. They can get the solutions for all the problems of agriculture, livestock, fish-culture, horticulture and treatment of people from the professionals.
The farmers can send the pictures of the diseases of plants, types of pests, and other information to the respective officers or doctors and get the appropriate suggestions and solutions to the problems using their mobile phones. Farmers and small business persons are also using their mobile phones for marketing their products after collecting the information about the prices of the products and business items of different city markets. Thus they are getting rid of the middlemen and getting bargain prices of their products.
The Bangladesh Government has been using the digital program for expediting the rate of development of the nation and its people. All the ministries and departments are already digitalized by developing their websites, email, e-commerce and e-governance systems. Bangladesh has targeted its digital program for alleviating the poverty as its top development agenda.
The government has seized the opportunity to adopt the digital program as the priority tools for fighting hunger, malnutrition, illiteracy, corruptions, reducing rich-poor and gender gaps, developing skilled human resources, increasing government revenues and discrimination against women, children and disabled. The digital program has been used as the vehicle for reaching the level of the middle-level development countries like Malaysia, Singapore, South Korea, and China with the shortest period of time. The digital program of Bangladesh is one of the fastest growing programs for its development.
The digital program has included online downloading all government forms of all departments, applying for a passport, online payment of water, electric and other utility bills services, income taxes. One of the most popularly used services is the Access to Information (A to I) service. Besides, the digital program can provide online inheritance calculation, police clearance, updating national ID Card, visa application and many more services.
The writer is a veteran freedom fighter and columnist