Telecom is a driver of economic growth and a major taxpayer in countries where reforms have occurred, a leading ICT expert said yesterday.
It is an important element in all value chains, including tourism and banking, said Rohan Samarajiva, the founder and chairman of Colombo-based think-tank LIRNEasia.
No-one asks about voice penetration nowadays, rather how to realise value or job creation through ICT, he said.
For the internet ecosystem, infrastructure is the first requirement, followed by content or applications, users and devices, Samarajiva said.
In the ICT Development Index of ITU, Pakistan is at the bottom with 3.27 points, but Bangladesh is lagging behind other South Asian countries with 4.1 points.
The index ranks 155 countries' performance in information and communication technology infrastructure and uptake.
“The situation can be improved through proper policy formulation,” Samarajiva said at a roundtable on revision of the telecom policy organised by Telecom Reporters' Network Bangladesh, an association of telecom journalists, at Lake Shore Hotel in Dhaka yesterday.
Bangladesh's national telecom policy was formulated in 1998 but has never been updated. However, a consultant of the ITU prepared a revised draft of the policy in 2012.
The telecom policy will be revised soon as it has become too old, said Abdul Latif Siddique, the telecom and ICT minister, at the roundtable.
The policy needs extensive examination, as the government wants to use ICT to move Bangladesh forward, he said asking the BTRC to aggregate the recommendations for consideration into the revised policy.
Sunil Kanti Bose, chairman of Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC), said the policy should target the next 15 to 20 years with achievable goals—both long-term and mid-term.
The policy is very important as all foreign investors want to consider it before revising, and it should indicate how it contributes to the socio-economic goals of the government, he said.
The cost of the service should also be affordable to general people, he said.
The BTRC officials do not have adequate qualification to publish indicators of the country's telecom industry, he added.
The current policy should be revised extensively and revisited every two or three years, said Abu Saeed Khan, senior policy fellow of LIRNEasia.
Recent merger of the telecom and ICT ministry reflects the government's commitment to the sector, he said.
The policy should have technical and service neutrality among the operators, and a unified licensing principle, said Mahmud Hossain, chief corporate affairs officer of Grameenphone.
Broadband penetration, safe internet, healthy competition, unified license, infrastructure sharing, foreign investment, tax policy and other related issues should be kept in mind during the revision of the policy, he said.
The role of the government and the regulator should also be defined in the policy, he added.
The environmental context should be indicated in the policy through imposing 'active sharing' to get the best use of technology, said Mahmudur Rahman, executive vice president of Robi.
Active sharing is a policy where operators can use each others' resources including spectrums.
The social obligation fund, collected from the revenues of the operators, should also be addressed in the policy, he said.
The policy should discuss the spectrum roadmap and suggest the creation of a level-playing field among operators, said Zakiul Islam, senior director of Banglalink.