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ICT plays vital role during pandemic

Published : 23 Jan 2021 10:33 PM | Updated : 24 Jan 2021 12:43 AM

With the creation of the ICT backbone, it has been possible to run offices, courts, medical services, educational institutions, businesses and other activities during the covid-19 pandemic.

The change in people's internet usage pattern, which was supposed to take place in the next few years, is taking place now because of the Covid-19 outbreak.

Officials began to continue their work from home and the educational institutes too contemplated taking classes online.

Not only that, those who never paid a bill online began to do so, those who never bought groceries online began to do so, those who never took medical counsel online began to do so.

However, the present Awami League government had pledged to build a Digital Bangladesh by 2021 in its election manifesto announced on December 12, 2008, based on which it assumed office in January, 2009 after a thumping victory in parliamentary election.

The size of the e-commerce sector has enlarged, which almost doubled to Taka 160 billion during the Covid-19 pandemic. The e-commerce platforms recorded sales growth of 70 to 80 per cent amid the public health crisis, according to the E-commerce Association of Bangladesh (e-CAB).

Muhammad Abdul Wahed Tomal, general secretary of E-commerce Association of Bangladesh (e-CAB) told Bangladesh Post, “As people preferred contactless shopping due to pandemic, there was a big change in people’s mindset about the online marketplace.” Besides, the number of broadband subscribers has also risen to 8.6 million. Bangladesh is also expanding e-government in many sectors, including health, agriculture, education, transportation and social safety net, in order to make public services more transparent, efficient and effective.

Notable progresses in the pursuit of a Digital Bangladesh in the recent years included the launching of Bangabandhu Satellite and the use of its facilities by local channels, and the rapid proliferation of mobile banking.

The ongoing coronavirus pandemic has compelled more people to start using broadband connections thanks to the emergence of the culture of home office and online classes.

Moreover, the number of personnel working in the country's ICT sector has now reached 1 million with yearly software exports crossing Taka 1 billion, according to the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Ministry.

Telemedicine is also playing a significant role, especially during the during the covid-19 epidemic. As many as 15.50 million people have received telemedicine services from the hotline of health department up to December.

However, the Network Readiness Index (NRI) has identified some weaknesses with regard to Bangladesh's ICT sector, particularly in the areas of mobile apps, internet domain registration, skilled technologists, quality control, purchases through internet, hi-tech exports, internet uses and facilities, and ease of doing business. Broadband facility is still city or town-centred, as it has not yet reached the nooks and corners of the rural areas.

Syed Almas Kabir, president of the Bangladesh Association of Software and Information Services (BASIS) told Bangladesh Post, “When the government enforced lockdown on March 26, we thought that our daily activities would stop but it did not happen -- everything was done through the internet.”

However, the State Minister for ICT Zunaid Ahmed Palak said at a press conference on Saturday that the digitalisation of 90 per cent of the public services will be completed this year.

“People will not have to go from door to door for getting services, rather services will be made available at the hands of the people,” he said.

Palak said the strong ICT infrastructure, built during the last 12 years, has enabled people to continue office work, businesses, educational institutions and health services during the COVID-19 situation.