Bangladesh has advanced significantly in internet connectivity and effectively led major Saarc nations, with nearly 42.0 percent of total population using internet for various purposes, according to official sources.
The latest data from the Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC) shows that the total number of internet users has reached 67.245 million at the end of February, 2017. The staggering number is around 41.52 percent of the total population of the country, leaving many Asian powerhouses behind with huge margin.
According to available data from some internet users' monitoring sites, neighbouring India has over 46 crore internet users, which is 34.83 percent of its total population. Sri Lanka has 60.87 lakh internet users, which is 29.30 percent of its total population. In Pakistan, only 17.81 percent of its total population use internet.
The number of internet users surged in the past nine years from 2.67 percent in 2008 to 41.52 this year due to some breakthrough decisions and steps taken by the current government led by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.
This year too, the government has given special priority to ICT, as Finance Minister Abul Maal Abdul Muhith has proposed an allocation of Taka 3,974 crore for the Information and Communication Technology Division, an amount which is Taka 2,155 crore more than the revised budget of 2016-17 year.
Muhith in his budget speech said around 18,500 government offices have been brought under a single network. The existing capacity of the submarine cable has been increased to 200 gbps (gigabits per second) from 44 gbps.
"As of April 2017, the number of mobile telephone and internet subscribers has increased to around 13.31 crore and 7 crore respectively," he said.
The government also has plans to take the rate of internet penetration in the country to 100 percent, ensuring high speed broadband internet at cheap rate to all the government offices, educational institutions, health centres and union parishads, expanding 3G network to all across the country and launching 4G by 2020.
"We have already brought all the upazilas in the country under fiber optic cable network. Work under project titled Info Sarker-3 is going on to bring all the unions in the country under the network," said State Minister for ICT Division Zunaid Ahmed Palak.
"We have set a target of ensuring employment of 2 million people in ICT sector and achieve the export income of USD five billion by 2021 by utilising the continuous policy support of the government of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and the digital dividends," he added.
Palak said the proposed budged would play a catalytic role in achieving the aforesaid targets.
"Bangladesh will surely become a high middle income country by 2021 and high income country by 2041 with the continuous expansion of ICT sector," Palak hoped.