To realise the full potential of digital technologies high-speed internet is a basic requirement. According to a recent report of speedtest.net Bangladesh is ranked 120th among 122 countries in terms of mobile internet speed while the country stands at 78 among 133 countries in terms of broadband speed. This connectivity gap is seriously impeding digital learning in the country.
To address this gap currently the government is implementing a project named BdREN (Bangladesh Research and Education Network) under Higher Education Quality Enhancement Project (HEQEP) with assistance from World Bank. It is a high-speed data-communications network that is dedicated to meeting the needs of the academic and research communities of both public and private sectors by bringing together institutions, scholars and libraries across the world. Educational institutions have to pay a certain amount of money to buy bandwidth from this high-speed network.
The significant difference between BdREN and other commercial internet networks is that, BdREN is connected to several international research communities in the Asia Pacific, Europe and North America, via the Trans-Eurasia Information Network, informs Dr Gauranga Chandra Mohanta, Project Director of HEQEP. Researchers connected to BdREN are able to communicate and collaborate with their counterparts overseas over the virtual workspace at improved network performance and lower network latency, he adds.
As of now, 36 public and private universities in Bangladesh are connected to this network. IUB and North South University are the only two private universities in the list. Dr Mohanta attributes this gap to the lack of adequate infrastructure in private universities e.g. own campus and awareness about the benefits of being connected to this network.
BRAC University Vice Chancellor Professor Syed Saad Andaleeb underscores that three things are needed to expand BdREN: It must be “sold” more persuasively to the universities, many of which probably still don't know how to utilise this resource; these institutions must then be trained on how to use the available resources; and finally, connectivity needs to be made available to the private universities. He hopes that private universities will be given the same privileges as public universities in terms of access to this high-speed communication network. BRAC University is currently in the process of being connected to BdREN.