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"Bangladesh's national ICT policy fails to give digital access to marginalised people"

There is a digital divide in Alice Springs Source: Getty

The main goal of the National Information and Communication Technology Policy of Bangladesh is economic and social development, on the basis of which the Government of Bangladesh is continuing its efforts to implement 'Vision 2021' and build a 'Digital Bangladesh'. How important is digital inclusion in the socio-economic infrastructure of Bangladesh?

Mr. Abdul Aziz, a PhD researcher at the Digital Media Research Centre at the University of Queensland University of Technology and a former student of the Department of Mass Communication and Journalism at the University of Chittagong, Bangladesh gave his valuable insight to SBS Bangla about the ramifications of drawback in implementing ICT policy in Bangladesh.

Abdul Aziz tried to point out how marginalised people are missed out in Bangladesh's national information technology policy. 

“Bearing in mind of social structure like Bangladesh, ICT policies need to be reformed to eliminate digital inequality to get better outcome.”

What do we understand and how important is digital inclusion in the socio-economic infrastructure of Bangladesh? 

Mr. Abdul Aziz said, "Simply put, digital inclusion is the process of eliminating all the inequalities or exclusions that exist in our society with the help of digitisation or technology."

"In the early nineties, those who worked on ICT and development saw that there was a 'digital divide' in the society, with or without digital access. To get started, in 2005, researchers began working on a more comprehensive framework - the concept of digital inclusion."

কুইন্সল্যান্ড ইউনিভার্সিটি অফ টেকনোলজির পিএইচডি গবেষক আব্দুল আজিজ
কুইন্সল্যান্ড ইউনিভার্সিটি অফ টেকনোলজির পিএইচডি গবেষক আব্দুল আজিজ
Abdul Aziz

He said that their main objective was to identify the indicators of social inequality in digital inclusion. Then it went even further when they thought that digital access was not enough, the emphasis should be on media skills and literacy as well.

"We also need to think about the inequality is being created in evolving of artificial intelligence (AI) and big data."

He said that many countries around the world, including Australia, indicate how many people have digital access through their indexes. 

“So the issue is quite important.”

In one of his essays, Mr. Aziz spoke about some of the challenges of digital inclusion in Bangladesh. 

“Social inequality is very evident in our country, digitisation is very important to reduce this inequality or exclusion. The government has announced 'Vision 2021 to 2041' for its ICT policy and is developing various infrastructures to build a 'digital Bangladesh',” he told SBS Bangla.

“But the question is, has digital inclusion been ensured through all this? To find the answer, we need to look at the three basic criteria of digital inclusion - ICT access, use and skill.

He said Bangladesh lags far behind in terms of digital facilities.

“Bangladesh has the highest internet bandwidth price in South Asia, but the speed is low. Bangladesh ranks 147th globally in the ICT Development Index, and 30th in Asia.”

He said the network of a government agency like Teletalk is also lagging behind in this regard, which means that the poor and marginalised people are not getting much benefit out of it.

"Moreover, not only do we have to have benefits, we also need to increase its use, such as utility bill-payments, government services, so that people can use them through digitisation."

In his research, Mr. Aziz also highlights some of the challenges in implementing ICT policies in Bangladesh.

"I want to show in my research that the challenges facing the Bangladesh government is the lack of a digital inclusion framework in the country's national IT policy and this is the main problem," he said. 

"The three issues I have mentioned earlier, such as digital access, use, and skill, need to be addressed with equal importance in the ICT policy version."

Click on the audio player above to listen to the entire interview

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