On 26th July, 2017 Centre for Research and Information (CRI) organized the 18th session of its flagship event, ‘Let’s Talk’ at the Radisson Blu Hotel, Dhaka with Information and Communications Technology (ICT) Advisor to the Honorable Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina – Mr. Sajeeb Wazed.
This session of “Let’s Talk” was divided into three segments – Infrastructural Development in Bangladesh, Information and Communications Technology (ICT) or Digital Bangladesh and last but not the least Contemporary Bangladesh. Similar to the previous “Let’s Talk” sessions, this event also aimed to facilitate open dialogues between a top politicians or policymaker and members of the young generation to share their views on national development.
The event started with introductions to the chief guest and a brief on Let’s Talk. The three segments of the day’s session were explained followed by a viewing of two video presentations titled “Building Future Bangladesh: Development Infrastructure for Vision 2021” and “Building Digital Bangladesh”.
The participating audience consisted over 300 young people from diverse backgrounds based predominantly in the capital, Dhaka. These youths included university students, young professionals, young entrepreneurs, members of different university social clubs and 50 members of the Young Bangla network. Before the main event, CRI organized two focus group discussions (FGDs) with 40 participants in each group, to prepare the younger audiences for the topic by imparting the necessary lessons and pre-event studies.
Suggestions and Ideas by Youth
During the two and a half hours event, a number of questions, suggestions and comments came from the participants, which among others, include:
I. Further training for both primary and higher education teachers of IT and computing along with a revaluation of the curriculum and text books.
II. Building a portal for free access to information on the history of Bangladesh’s independence, the Father of the Nation, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman as well as high quality documentaries and creative contents on the liberal war that would appeal to the younger generation. There was also a suggestion for including the ‘Unfinished Memoires’ of the Bangabandhu to be included in the school text.
III. A shuttle/bus service for students and staff to be provided by all educational institutions to help reduce traffic congestion and environmental pollution.
IV. An e-ticket system as well as an online registration at medical institutes to reduce waiting time and for the convenience of people coming from outside the capital to get treatment.
V. Bangladesh has many attractive tourist destinations but they are rarely promoted by the tourism industry to international travellers. An initiative can be taken jointly with the Ministry of Civil Aviation and Tourism to further (especially online) promotion Bangladesh as an attractive travel destination in Asia.
VI. Latin America encourages their youth to be more involved in sports in order to keep them away from drugs and criminal activities. Can Bangladesh adopt a similar plan?
VII. Many European countries and United States declared Holocaust denial a punishable offence. Can we introduce a similar law/act for denial of crimes against humanity during the Liberal War of Bangladesh?
VIII. Can Bangladesh take a stronger stance on recycling, waste disposal and management as well as introducing biofuel in the future?
IX. Will the government consider decentralising businesses, corporate offices and education institutions to accommodate the growing population?
The Honorable chief guest listened to all the suggestions, comments and questions, took notes, responded to the queries individually and compiled all the suggestions given by the youths to be passed on to the relevant policymakers in those areas. The following are some, but not all, of the highlights of the guest from the event:
The government wants to take the country forward, and in order for this to happen, the people would have to re-elect the ruling party. Initiatives such as Digital Bangladesh and Padma bridge among many others were possible because of the present government. He drew the example of Mahatir Mohamad being successful in building Malaysia as a developed nation, which was possible as the nation kept trust and faith in him that allowed him to be re-elected as Prime Minister four times.
He also said that the Digital Bangladesh initiative was better than he expected and credited the government officials involved, who started working with a limited budget. It has been seven years since they initiated this, of which the first year was spent planning. At that point, no one imagined that this would be successful or even possible, but now, Bangladesh is listed as the 2nd Global Outsourcing destination by the University of Oxford.
ICT Sectoral Development
The chief guest also illustrated an array of activities undertaken by the government to transform the ICT sector. He expressed the auction process is complete and hoped that fourth generation (4G) internet services will be introduced for the people of Dhaka and Chittagong by end of the current year and in phases for the smaller cities by the end of 2018 as the optical fibre line work in currently underway. He said that the first two phases have been completed, while the third phase, now underway, would see this work taking place in as many as 26,000 unions
Addressing a youth concerned about the possibility of increased cybercrime in the near future, he mentioned that the government has already drafted a new ICT act. This includes the introduction of a cyber-response team, (for hacking), who are trained abroad and would work under the ICT ministry to handle such cases. Other initiatives – include conducting internal hackathons by the cyber security teams to increase expertise. He also informed about the ongoing training of a police cybercrime unit to address the cyber tribunal cases. He said “We are not compromising on any sector, whether IT or otherwise.”
On decentralization of work force and light up the remote part of the country with the power of ICT, the advisor said that plans and works are laid out to set out a good number of high-tech parks at district levels across the country. On the front of introduction of ICT in maintaining land record, he expresed high optimism about complete digitization of the system by 2018. Work is progressing first and already 30% of the work has been finished, and with digitization of the system, settlement of land related disputes would become much more cost-effective and time-efficient.
Addressing a question on Dhaka traffic, he said the government is aware and is constantly working to resolve this issue. He is hopeful that the situation would ease in the near future and mentioned the multiple flyover that had been built by the ruling government and projects like the elevated expressway, metro-rails and bus rapid transit are currently under construction. Regardless of the tax increase, the number of private vehicles are increasing along with people’s purchasing power. He is however, hopeful that the people will change their transport habits and switch to the new public transport once they open. He is also hopeful that education institutions would introduce buses for the students to do their part in reducing traffic congestion.
He said that the government had taken on mega projects such as Padma bridge, Rooppur Nuclear Power Plant, Rampal power plant, LNG terminal, and underwater tunnel in the Karnafuli river as those were needed for the country. These were the prove of the nation’s growing capacity.
He addressed concerns regarding the Rampal Power Plant saying that those who talk negatively about the project, are not aware of all the facts. He mentioned that it was 65 kilometres away from Sundarbans and plans to use ultra-super critical technology for goods transport and management. He also said that the government would not take on project that would cause harm to the country.
Towards the end he advised the youths to have confidence in themselves in order to overcome all the challenges in their lives. He said “We want today’s youths to be the meritorious and capable generation in future. You have to have the confidence that no one can suppress you”.
Coverage of ‘Let’s Talk with Sajeeb Wazed’ (26 July 2017) in national news agencies and newspapers:
Daily Samakal: https://goo.gl/t6gjma
Daily Ittefaq: https://goo.gl/sgHmc1
Daily Manobkantha: https://goo.gl/j1tULq
Daily Kalerkontho: https://goo.gl/y93beP
Daily Sun: https://goo.gl/9X4Q9m
Daily Observer: https://goo.gl/pFv2M7