Towards a knowledge-based society

Posted: ফেব্রুয়ারি 9, 2009 in Uncategorized

THE term ‘Digital Bangladesh’ has created renewed interest in government and commercial organisations in utilising Information and Communication Technology (ICT). Digital Bangladesh comprises e-governance and service delivery through utilising ICT, but the vision encompasses much more. In order to be successful there has to be knowledge creation and management.

The government and the organisations have invested heavily on technologies and overseas consultancies to utilise the potential of the promised e-governance and e-services. But technology alone won’t fix or alleviate a business problem. It is important to understand that knowledge management is often facilitated by ICT — technology by itself is not knowledge management.

Digital Bangladesh is dependent on the development of indigenous capability to plan, monitor and manage national projects.

This can be represented through a three-tier model. The 1st tier being the knowledge centre, which will provide research and create technology and solutions. The 2nd tier are the consultancy service providers, who will provide specifications, supervise implementation, and document all activities for the knowledge centre. And the 3rd tier are the manufacturing and service industries that provide services and commodities.

Academia and research institutions provide knowledge, allowing the 3rd tier to incorporate all available knowledge in the service arena. This will create partnership between all stakeholders, and their success will depend on the value of the knowledge created in the knowledge centres and its effective dissemination by the players in other layers.

The absence of knowledge centres, and development activities centered on procurement of services and commodities from overseas result in dependence on overseas suppliers. The development of the electoral roll and national ID card has saved the country from monetary loss, and created an opportunity for earning foreign exchange through export of similar service.

To create ownership of digital Bangladesh by the general public, the following must be promoted: education, health, agriculture, entrepreneurship, and governance.

Activity within those areas will take place via limited initiatives and partnership, advocacy and expanding community expertise. Increasing the number of initiatives may make it unmanageable.

Initiatives and partnership
In order to leverage joint resources and spur visible action, initiatives will require stakeholders’ partnership, which will be responsible for producing concrete and measurable deliverables.

The initiatives are expected to set targets within a timeframe based on current baseline data, taking into account targets of the Millennium Development Goal and national Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper.

The following areas may be considered for improving visible national indexes, promoting education and entrepreneurship, and attracting foreign investment.

Better connectivity with broadband
A key enabler is communication. To improve accessibility to information, the initiative will have to accelerate the roll-out of communication infrastructures and increase broadband access. ICT infrastructure is essential to achieve regional integration and enable poor people to participate in markets, which will help in reducing poverty.

Bangladesh has undertaken a project through ADB’s efforts to support sub-regional cooperation in eastern South Asia, which stems from the formation of the South Asia Growth Quadrangle (SAGQ) by the foreign ministers of Bangladesh, Bhutan, India and Nepal (BBIN).

The 9th Saarc Summit had endorsed SAGQ as a sub-regional initiative. The SASEC Information Highway Project aims to connect SASEC countries more efficiently through broadband and bring social goods to South Asia, especially the rural areas.

Telecentre and community e-Centre
Bangladesh Telecentre Network has established a number of telecentres and Community e-Centres (CeC) to provide local language content for the users besides serving as e-services centre. They will also be established under SASEC program. Telecentres can provide various services in health, agriculture and education.

Free access for all schools to Internet
Communication technologies, such as Wimax, can connect educational institutions to the Internet, creating a new generation of innovative citizens. However, till date, no effective measures have been taken in Bangladesh in this area.

ICT professional skill assessment and enhancement program

This is an indigenous program to enhance professional capacity of the knowledge and ICT workforce. It aims at making industry-ready knowledge workers. India and the Philippines have a number of software finishing schools to groom young knowledge workers for industries. These programs will help in expanding community expertise.

Media strategy, advocacy and outreach
The impact of digital Bangladesh depends on its ability to protect its activities and achievements, generate interest, and secure continued financial support, and also on evaluation of ICT development using internationally recognised indicators and utilising all modes of information dissemination such as radio, TV, cell phone and tele-centre.

Meaning of Digital Bangladesh
Building an indigenous knowledge and infrastructure base is important in building a sustainable digital Bangladesh. The basic goals for digital Bangladesh should centre on:

  • A broadband infrastructure with access for every Bangladeshi from their homes, work places, schools, telecentres or CeC with technologies like Wimax and 3G Network.
  • A digitally literate population and workforce.
  • A digitally enabled nation, providing e-government information and service at regional level.
  • Digital business development with Internet in business and e-commerce.
  • Internationally competitive information and communication technology, human capacity and business.
  • A legal framework that assures freedom of expression, while protecting the rights of creators and innovators towards building an indigenous knowledge and technological base.

Barack Obama has voiced a similar desire for US: “Let us be the generation that reshapes our economy to compete in the digital age. Let’s set high standards for our schools and give them the resources they need to succeed. Let’s recruit a new army of teachers, and give them better pay and more support in exchange for more accountability. Let’s make college more affordable, and let’s invest in scientific research, and let’s lay down broadband lines through the heart of inner cities and rural towns all across America.”

In light of the global reality, digital Bangladesh is not a dream but rather a necessity for survival in the 21st century. A well thought-out plan should be launched to make “Digital Bangladesh” a reality.

Tarique Mosaddique Barkatullah is a freelance contributor to The Daily Star.

The daily star 09.02.2009


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