In the run up to the 2008 national election, a look at the election manifestos of the two major political parties — Bangladesh Awami League and Bangladesh Nationalist Party — would reveal a lack of vision on BNP’s part in terms of infusing a sense of transformation on the country’s digital landscape.
While BNP’s manifesto revolved around “save country, save people”, something never-before communicated and now proven far ahead of time came from AL. A pledge of Digital Bangladesh, a concept unheard of in the youngest nation in South Asia, back then seemed to resonate with the countrymen well.
AL won the election with an unprecedented majority in 2008.
Before that, in the completely analog country, expensive internet and costly talk time for mobile users defined the ambit of digitization.
But since 2009, began a silent revolution that brought in real and measurable gains on the front of the digital landscape. With digital centers expanded at the grassroots, people were getting public services at fingertips, freelancers were making money from outsourcing, while a record rise in internet and mobile users emerged as a key success in the process.
And the emergence of Covid-19 posed as a big threat for the country’s digital might with lockdowns imposed across the country. Now a growing global acclamation for Bangladesh’s success in Covid-19 management stands reflective of the strength the country achieved so far.
When schools to colleges and universities remained closed, distance learning saved the day for students, thanks to the expansion of internet. No wonder the country now even boasts of having a satellite of its own, a dream placed by the founding father of the nation after the country’s independence but realized decades later through the hands of her daughter and grandson.
From the Science and Technology Affairs Subcommittee, a key affiliate body of Awami League, we gathered a pool of doctors and opened a round-the-clock health helpline that provided guidance for patients calling to seek medication help.
Architect of Digital Bangladesh
“My son Sajeeb Wazed gave me lessons on using smartphones and operation of computers” is what AL chief Sheikh Hasina revealed to public to give a hint at the role of her son Sajeeb Wazed, who has been a key enabler for all the accomplishments on the digital front. As the Prime Minister’s ICT Adviser, Sajeeb Wazed has presided over the penetration of GenNext InfoTech into all spheres of life – from online schooling to digital monetary transactions.
Bangladesh got the best of that digital transformation during the coronavirus catastrophe across the world. It managed to keep its economy going through a wide spectrum of digital activities, including telemedicine, virtual court, and delivering money to the poor through mobile platforms and e-commerce. Its better growth trajectory during Covid-19 than its bigger neighbours owes much to this all-encompassing digitalisation.
A University of Texas graduate in Computer Engineering and a Harvard post-graduate in Public Administration, Sajeeb Wazed is credited with the milestone the country achieved with regards to technological advancement.
Smart Bangladesh, Next Vision
With the next national election almost a year away, AL has floated a new course of charter before the nation once more and a target has been set to transform the country into a smart one.
“We want to go for a cashless society,” pledged Sajeeb Wazed recently before a group of young change-makers. This pledge marks a pointer to a next course of action plan for the party, a step that would surely help the country’s pursuit to become a developed nation by 2041.
A month back Awami League arranged the first international conference of its kind in the country that saw hundreds of prominent experts submit their research papers with a focus on the next course of work required in all key sectors to adapt to the fourth industrial revolution.
The overwhelming response from a host of relevant global experts with a message from the IEEE president welcoming the initiative also symbolizes the relevance of the party’s initiative. A top expert panel of academics analyzed those papers and we would submit a set of recommendations to our party chief.
Digital Bangladesh kicked off upgradation of fundamentals or a launching pad towards a developed nation, and the vision of Smart Bangladesh is all about taking the nation to a new height — a developed one.
The writer is Science and Technology Affairs Secretary, Bangladesh Awami League.