Govt must ensure equitable ICT | The Daily Star
11:00 PM, October 20, 2009 / LAST MODIFIED: 11:00 PM, October 20, 2009

Govt must ensure equitable ICT

Analysts suggest at roundtable

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Information Minister Abul Kalam Azad speaks at a roundtable on 'progressing Bangladesh towards an information society', co-organised by Bangladesh Enterprise Institute and Nokia in Dhaka yesterday.Photo: STAR

The government should ensure equitable access to new communication technologies to both rural and urban areas simultaneously, speakers said yesterday.
"It is essential that the government commits to the goal of developing a truly inclusive and equitable national and global infrastructure," said Farooq Sobhan, president of Bangladesh Enterprise Institute (BEI).
"Global infrastructure must reach rural people as well as urban, poor as well as wealthy, and those in developing and developed nations," said Sobhan. "Industry leaders and the government must work together to ensure equitable growth."
Technology revolutionised on a large scale in Bangladesh since the 1990s with introduction of the mobile phone and internet.
In Bangladesh, more than 50 million people are now using mobile phones while more than a million are using landline phones. The number of internet users presently stands at 0.5 million.
However, a debate remains on whether the introduction of technology brings the mass under the digital net.
The roundtable on 'Progressing Bangladesh towards an information society' was co-organised by BEI and Nokia.
The discussion mainly focused on one of the present government's election pledges to create a Digital Bangladesh by 2021.
Dr Jamilur Reza Choudhury, vice chancellor of BRAC University, presented a keynote paper. Information Minister Abul Kalam Azad was present as the chief guest.
Choudhury said the whole country should be covered by information and communication technology (ICT) infrastructure.
"The government should start implementing a plan of action in line with the ICT policy-2009 as soon as possible," he said.
The information minister urged ICT entrepreneurs to come forward with private partnership programme (PPP) ideas to disseminate new communication technology to the mass at affordable costs.
"New entrepreneurship is needed to resolve the existing ICT sector problems," the minister said, adding that there is no alternative to developing the ICT sector to ensure good governance.
"If any one comes forward with a plan to develop ICT under PPP, the government will definitely assist the entrepreneur," the minister said.
Prem Chand, general manager of Nokia Emerging Asia, Bangladesh, said there is no alternative to mobile internet.
Bangladesh's internet penetration rate is only 0.3 percent, the lowest among Asian countries.
"Introducing new communication technology through fibre optic cables makes no economic sense in the present technology growing market," Prem said, adding that mobile internet can narrow the digital divide.
According to him, 50 percent users prefer access to the internet on their mobiles.
Zakiul Islam, president of Association of Mobile Telecom Operators of Bangladesh, suggested reducing the tax structure so that more people come forward to develop the ICT sector.
Habibullah N Karim, president of Bangladesh Association of Software and Information Service, and Munir Hasan, former consultant of Access to Information Programme, Prime Minister's Office, also spoke.

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