71 Years of Awami League's Glorious Journey and Digital Bangladesh

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Published on June 23, 2020
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Prof. Dr. Munaz Ahmed Noor: 

71 is a very significant number in the history of the nation’s glorious achievement and struggle. We got an independent and sovereign country in 1971 under the leadership of the Father of the Nation and the greatest Bengali of all time Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. The victory in the nine-month-long War of Liberation in 1971 is the greatest achievement in the history of our nation. Today is the 71st founding anniversary of Awami League which played a leading role in our struggle for emancipation. Bangabandhu, along with others, had formed Awami League on 23 June 1949. This year’s founding anniversary celebration of the party holds special significance because this is the birth centenary year of Bangabandhu who had triggered the birth of Bangladesh. On the occasion of this 71st momentous founding anniversary of Awami League, I pay solemn tribute to Bangabandhu and other founders of the party.

Under the apt leadership of Bangabandhu, Awami League had always been at the forefront of all movements and struggles to establish the rightful demands of Bangalees and to free the country from vicious misrule, exploitation and oppression of West Pakistani rulers. Therefore, the name Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the political party Awami League and the birth of Bangladesh in 1971 have inextricably intertwined 71 Years of AL’s Glorious Journey and Digital Bangladeshhistory. Since its birth, in the last 71 years, Awami League has been fighting to improve the lot of the people of this country by upholding our tradition and culture, maintaining political status quo, equality and harmony. There is no denying that the history of Awami League is the history of the nation’s glorious achievements and struggle.

The distinct ethnicity of the Bangalees was manifested under the leadership of the Awami League through a plethora of historic events e.g. the language movement of 1952, the election of United Front in 1954, a mass uprising against martial law of 1956 and Ayub’s dictatorship, education movement of 1962, the historic six points programme, the mass uprising of 69 against the Agartala case, and the historic landslide victory in the election of 1970s. And finally, the prolonged movements and negotiations to establish our rights reached its culmination through the armed liberation war of 1971, the supreme leader of which is the Father of our Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.
After a glorious victory in the bloody war for liberation, Bangabandhu took the helm of the country and managed to put the country on the right track within a short period by drawing a blueprint of building happy and prosperous 'Golden Bengal' which would be free from poverty, hunger and inequality, and uphold the spirit of the liberation war. He adopted a series of farsighted policies and took prompt initiatives to materialise them. Information and communication sector is a glowing example in this regard.

Following the invention of the internet in 1969, the world entered a new era of the digital revolution as ICT became the driving force of growth. Bangabandhu took prompt steps to make the country a part of the digital revolution. He took measures so that the country can become a member of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) in the quickest possible time. Thanks to his efforts, Bangladesh earned membership of ITU in 1973.

Besides, he established the country's first satellite ground station on 14 June of 1975 at Betbunia, Rangamati. It paved the way for Bangladesh to establish communication with the outside world through the exchange of telephone data communication, telex etc. Following the footsteps set forth by the Father of the Nation, Sheikh Hasina, who is truly a leader of the masses, has propelled the country towards digitalisation. As a matter of fact, today's digital Bangladesh is the modern version of Bangabandhu’s ‘Golden Bengal.’ In its long and prosperous endeavour to help enter the country into a golden era, Bangladesh Awami League had to suffer a lot of brutality at the hands of anti-liberation elements. Bangabandhu along with most of his family members was assassinated in 1975, and four national leaders were brutally murdered in jail. And on 21 August, 2004, a volley of grenades was thrown into Sheikh Hasina’s rally leaving 24 members of her party dead. All these evil and heinous attempts were aimed at eradicating the ideals of Bangabandhu and Awami League from this land.

Six years after the assassination of Bangabandhu, Sheikh Hasina has returned to Bangladesh on 17 May in 1981 by risking her life and joined politics. Since then she has been working tirelessly for the country by defying one after another attempt on her life. In doing so, she slowly but steadily has been transforming the dream of Father of the Nation into reality, and thus, has become a beacon of hope for the nation.

Awami League has returned to power through a landslide victory in 2009 and since then retained power through consecutive wins in general elections. In the last 11 years of Awami League’s rule, Bangladesh has entered a golden era of development under the leadership of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and her able son Sajeeb Wazed Joy. The PM has been working with firm determination and courage to fulfill the dreams of the Father of the Nation.

A seminar on “Problems and Prospects of Information and Communication Technology in the Future of Bangladesh” was organised by the Sub-Committee on Science and Technology of Bangladesh Awami League at the National Press Club on 4 May 2007. Speaking as the chief guest at the seminar, Sajeeb Wazed Joy, a worthy grandson of the Father of the Nation, discussed the importance of information and communication technology in the future governance system of Bangladesh. In his speech, he hinted about the prospect of digital Bangladesh. I had the good fortune to attend the seminar as a discussant. I was enchanted that day as I listened to the discussion of the worthy grandson of the Father of the Nation. At a time when the world was in the dark about digital concepts, discussion on that very topic was a huge thing. We get a reflection of his words on that discussion in current digital Bangladesh.
Then on 12 December 2008, in the election manifesto of Awami League, Honourable Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina came up with the pledge of building digital Bangladesh within 2021. Sajeeb Wazed Joy, as the ICT affairs adviser to the Prime Minister, has been painstakingly supporting the government in formulating policies for digital Bangladesh.

In just 11 years, Bangladesh has been turned into a role model for development to which the whole world looks with wonder.

In 11 years, Digital Bangladesh has implemented most of the initiatives around four pillars of connectivity and infrastructure, efficient human resource development, e-government and ICT industry promotion. As a result, there has been an unprecedented expansion of information and communication technology in the country. So far 3,650 unions of the country have been brought under broadband internet connectivity, and it will be extended to all unions in the country in phases. 28 hi-tech parks have been set up in 28 areas of the country. In future, every district of the country will have a hi-tech park which will act as a lifeline for our future digital economy. The number of mobile phone users in the country is now more than 160 million, and the number of internet users is around 100 million. In recent times, the number of internet users has increased due to coronavirus (Covid-19). About 6,000 digital centers have been set up in the country, from where as many as 600 government services, which have been digitised, are being provided to the people.

Bangabandhu Satellite-1 was launched into space on 12 May 2017; as a result, Bangladesh becomes a member of the Elite Club of Satellite. Through this satellite, internet service is being provided in remote and inaccessible areas.

Moreover, to accelerate the progress of Digital Bangladesh, 12 December has been declared as Digital Bangladesh Day.

Sajeeb Wazed Joy announced the launch of 5G network in Bangladesh at a time when the technology is relatively new in the world. After the launch of 4G network, the government is working to launch 5G network by 2021. The country is already running 5G mobile data test runs with the help of Huawei and Teletalk.

This digitalisation has also played an important role in agriculture through the use of information and communication technology. Initiatives have also been taken to mechanise farming through the use of IoT to increase the yield.

Sheikh Russell Digital Labs have been set up in almost all schools across the country to increase the use of information technology in education. At the district level, 65 language training labs and 100 multimedia classrooms have been set up. Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman Digital University, Bangladesh has been established to create skilled human resources in the field of information and communication technology. This university is working to develop skilled human resources who can usher in the Fourth Industrial Revolution in Bangladesh. I believe that the students of this university will make a significant contribution to the country's ICT sector in future. Currently, due to the outbreak of coronavirus, online education is being conducted in many public and private universities, which symbolises the country's march towards digitalisation.

Tier 3 and Tier 4 data centers have been set up at the national level for data storage. A project titled ‘Connected Bangladesh’ is being implemented to bring 772 unions under connectivity in remote areas. By 2021, people in remote areas will be able to access all government services online just like in the city.

In order to develop the country's information and communication technology sector and build skilled human resources, 35,000 IT trained skilled manpower has been created under the project titled ‘Leveraging ICT for Growth, Employment and Governance (LICT)’. Under the learning and earning development project, training has been provided in Outsourcing, Basic IT Literacy, Journalism and IT-ICTES.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has been praised across the world for implementing Digital Bangladesh and has been given an innumerable number of awards. However, based on the achievements so far we aim to build a knowledge-based developed country by 2041, as it has been depicted by the PM.

As a result of the implementation of various initiatives aimed at introducing digital government, Bangladesh made remarkable progress in the e-Government index of the United Nations in 2018. Bangladesh has advanced nine steps in this index, now ranked 115th out of 193 countries. And Bangladesh's position in the e-participation index improved by 33 levels. Bangladesh is currently ranked 41st in the index.

Under the e-Government Master Plan project, a roadmap has already been prepared to bring 52 ministries and departments of the government, 6 departments and agencies under Bangladesh National Digital Architecture (BNDA). The e-Governance Interoperability Framework has been developed as part of the BNDA to ensure the electronic exchange of data/information between government departments. Its coverage and services include e-recruitment, farmer's app, online food grain purchase, online primary teachers' retirement allowance and other services.

The government has been brought to the doorsteps of the people through the launch of ‘EkSeba, EkPay and EkShop' on 20 October 2019. It has established a link between the people and the government.

By taking government services to the doorsteps of the people, we can establish a transparent, corruption-free, vibrant and pro-people system of governance, which is a life-long dream of our PM. It was the dream of the Father of the Nation that the government service holders would be the servant of people, go to the people and serve them. Here it can be noticed that various initiatives are taken for the people, but after some time, the people lose motivation to avail themselves of those services. That means we are making service available, but cannot make them long-lasting due to lack of proper planning. We introduce many services hastily but subsequently face problems while involving people. For example, we can take the information in our national database directly from there and use it in another service, but instead, we are retrieving the same information from the service recipient. This often increases the suffering of the people and discourages them from receiving services. That means the services we are creating for the people are not being presented to them in an easy manner. So, the purpose of the government to connect the people with the services is being hampered. We are delivering services to the people, but they are not yet able to embrace technology effectively and efficiently. We must be more pro-active in this regard so that we can ensure good governance by eliminating corruption.

All of us have an enduring dream to live in a better world. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and Sajeeb Wazed Joy have been working tirelessly to fulfill our dream. I believe one day we will have our dream Bangladesh. Still, we need Honorable Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina for a long time to implement all these works. Without her, the implementation of these tasks will not be easy. In this time of the global pandemic, I pray to God Almighty to keep her healthy. As long as the country is in the hands of Sheikh Hasina, Bangladesh will not lose its way. Stay healthy, stay among us. This is our expectation. Joy Bangla, Joy Bangabandhu, May Bangladesh live forever!

 

The writer is Vice-chancellor, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman Digital University, Bangladesh.

Courtesy: The Daily Sun