Is Bangladesh on track of digitisation?

Dhaka,  Sat,  24 June 2017
Published : 16 Mar 2017, 21:24:37
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Is Bangladesh on track of digitisation?

CONTRARY to government optimism for turning Bangladesh into a full-fledged digitised society by 2021, the country seems to lack the necessary infrastructure to attain developmental goals in the information and communication technology (ICT) sector. Recently, a joint report by the intelligence unit of the London-based weekly, The Economist and internet.org confirmed that 141.5 million Bangladeshis lack access to the internet, placing Bangladesh in the fifth lowest position among the world's top 'internet-deprived' countries. Likewise, the country ranks just 64th among 75 other countries in the total usage of the internet. Although 67 million people or 40 per cent of Bangladesh's entire population, according to the government, have access to the internet, only 13 per cent of the country's population are subscribers of internet services - as far as the latest research on Bangladesh's internet accessibility is concerned.

Even if the research is assumed to be fallible, differences in numbers are huge enough to create substantial confusions in this regard. If Bangladesh, home to a population of 160 million, does consist of an insignificant number of internet users in contrast to other medium-income economies, the dream of a digital Bangladesh will not become a reality despite existing developments in the ICT sector.

Nevertheless, the inconsistency between government statistics and data from external sources adds nothing but insults to injury. One cannot rely on multiple sources offering conflicting statistics that are beyond comprehension. Moreover, no reliable research exists in relation to the 70 million people claimed to have internet connectivity. An individual may use the Internet only for a day and remain absent from cyberspace for the rest of the month or even a year - automatically making him ineligible when it comes to identifying candidates for statistics or estimates.

Furthermore, Bangladeshis using mobile phones account for more than 130 million of the country's population. Therefore, high costs of internet subscription compared to mobile phones must also be kept in mind. On the other hand, a big chunk of Bangladesh's internet subscribers fails to acknowledge the productivity behind using and hence limit their online activities to Facebook, YouTube and online games. The government should re-evaluate the use of internet in Bangladesh and take necessary steps to improve ICT infrastructures.

Nabil Azam Dewan

Lalmatia, Dhaka

nabil.dewan@gmail.com
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