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Proper policies needed for ‘Smart Bangladesh’

The main challenges towards building a "Smart Bangladesh" are formulating proper policies and integrating government and academic entities and service providers, said experts at a recent event.

"There should be an integrated policymaking collaboration between telecom and ICT ministries, operators for a Smart Bangladesh," said Prof Satya Prasad Majumder, vice-chancellor of the Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (Buet).

"It's very important for us to have a smart nation," he told a discussion on "Actions should be taken to implement Smart Bangladesh" organised by the Telecom and Technology Reporters' Network Bangladesh (TRNB) and Robi Axiata at Brac Centre Inn.

Outdated traffic systems still remain in Dhaka in spite of the technological advancements around the world, he said.

"If you can't even implement the technology in just normal transportation system in a metropolitan city, how can you make it suitable for Smart city," he asked.v

"While different countries of the world are developing 6G, we still couldn't enter 5G technology," added Majumder.

"All educational instructions should be transformed so that they can take the advantage of digital technology. Transformations are equally required in health, agriculture and industry," he said.

He recommended industries collaborate with academia for transforming into smart ones.

"If you want to make a Smart Bangladesh, I must go for robotic operations in the industries. But now I don't have that manpower," he said, stressing on the overhauling of the current education system to generate skilled manpower for technological changes.

When robotics takes over the operations of industries and other service sectors, the reskilling of people employed there to take up other jobs is very important, since many will lose jobs due to automation, he said.

"We need smart homes, smart rural and urban management, smart villages. A lot of things need to be done to get these things implemented," he added.

The government is gearing up to implement a new "Smart Bangladesh" vision by 2041 with the belief that the preceding "Digital Bangladesh" had been realised by 2021.

A "Smart Bangladesh Taskforce" was recently formed aiming to roll out advanced information technology in the country, especially to transform the education, health, agriculture and financial sectors.

Although mobile network operators played a pivotal role in building "Digital Bangladesh", unfortunately, they are not included in the "Smart Bangladesh Taskforce", said Brig Gen (retd) SM Farhad, secretary general of the Association of Mobile Telecom Operators of Bangladesh.

The criteria of a "Smart Country" are having no digital divide, making communication the easiest for people and enhancement of lives through the use of technology by the government, said Taimur Rahman, chief corporate and regulatory affairs officer at Banglalink.

"And also citizens and business organisations will have access to all kinds of data in a Smart Country," he said.

"Do we have the right policies in Bangladesh? That (formulation of the right policies) is the big challenge," said Rahman.

"The posts and telecommunications and ICT divisions are different entities and most of the time they don't talk. How can you differentiate ICT and telecom now?" he asked.

It is very important for them to work together, he added.

"We need a Smart Bangladesh for transparency, connectivity and reducing corruption. That is why coordination of all stakeholders concerned is very important," said Mohammed Shahedul Alam, Robi's chief corporate and regulatory officer.

"We are providing data (internet) services at a very low cost in global comparison. However, it is not affordable for many mainly due to high tax rates," he said.

If the tax burden is lowered a little, more data services at low cost can be offered to consumers, he added.

In the modern digital world, it is not possible to move forward without collaboration, said Sheikh Aminur Rahman, chief business officer at Nagad.

"The more collaboration there is, the more everything will be digital and we can move towards a Smart Country," he said.

Telecom, IT firms and manufacturing entities need to work to increase efficiency, reduce service cost and increase digital literacy and device purchasing capacity to build a "Smart Bangladesh", said Monzur Hossain, research director at the Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies.

Mobile operators have an opportunity to play a major role in building a "Smart Bangladesh". For this, incentives should be provided, if necessary, he added.

Md Forhad Zahid Shaikh, chief strategist for e-Governance at a2i; Rahul Shah, mobile for development director for Asia Pacific at GSMA, and Masuduzzaman Robin, general secretary of the TRNB, also spoke.

Samir Kumar Dey, former general secretary of the TRNB, moderated the event.