The government has backtracked on its stance of going for a limited tendering for its billion dollar digital connectivity project to be bankrolled by Exim Bank of China.
Now, Beijing-nominated China Railway International Group will directly be appointed to establish the massive fibre optical connectivity across the country.
In a meeting with the prime minister's ICT Affairs Adviser Sajeeb Wazed Joy in December last year, it was decided that the limited tendering process would be followed. But the Chinese embassy in Dhaka raised several issues about the method.
“The limited tendering would have been a lengthy process, and saving time was our main agenda. So, the government has now decided to go for the direct tendering,” said Mustafa Jabbar, telecom and ICT minister.
The new plan got the approval at last week's meeting of the cabinet committee on economic affairs.
“We will try our best to save public money by being tough during negotiations with the Chinese companies,” Jabbar added.
Through this Tk 8,500-crore project the government aims to bring two lakh small institutions under digital connectivity in order to ensure social welfare and boost trade and economic activities in remote areas.
China's Exim Bank will provide 94 percent of the amount, which would come to about $1 billion or around Tk 8,000. The government would foot the remaining Tk 500 crore.
The project was included in the list of projects that China agreed to fund during its president's visit to Dhaka in 2016.
The project's timeline has been fixed from December 2017 through December 2019, but already one-fourth of the time has elapsed.
A formal deal will soon be signed with China Exim Bank and the development work will start right away, Jabbar said.
Connectivity will be provided to educational institutions, health centres, post offices and agriculture offices, according to the proposal.
Bangladesh will set up 10,000 “points of presence” at business growth centres across the country to expand digital financial services and e-commerce.
Computer labs will be set up at 4,000 primary schools, 10,000 secondary and higher secondary educational institutions and 1,000 colleges.
Currently, there are a few thousand computer labs at school and college levels.
Besides, various large-scale labs will be set up, including a regulatory lab for the Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission, a multimedia lab for media workers and cyber-security labs. Computer training labs will be set up at government offices so that the staff can be trained on using digital services.
A digital money pay-point and a payment gateway platform will be set up as part of the government's effort to provide financial services. “It will enable people to make financial transactions easily,” said an ICT ministry official.
Standardisation and setting up of biometric devices for registration of students at educational institutions, Wi-Fi zones for the youth, digital libraries, digitalisation of national parliament and health services and collection of health-related information of the citizens have been included in the project.