Open up VoIP technology
Bangladesh should open up the voice over internet protocol (VoIP) technology, focusing on the private sector to extend affordable services to the mass, observes a US-based ICT expert.
"Rather than focusing on revenue generation, let's open up the IP telephony or VoIP technology to create opportunities for the ordinary people and benefit the nation as a whole," says Aziz Ahmad, president and chief executive officer of UTC Associates Inc, a leading system and network integration company in the US.
In Bangladesh, VoIP technology is illegal and the telecom regulator has launched a massive drive against its users over the last two years.
However, the telecom watchdog has recently announced that they would issue IP telephony licences to internet service providers.
IP telephony allows voice traffic as well as different types of data services to travel over data networks. Voice traffic can go over the internet, any managed network or privately-owned data network.
Ahmad, the Bangladesh-born US citizen, also suggests introducing e-governance as the government's first priority, which falls in line with the ruling Awami League's pledge to create a 'Digital Bangladesh'.
Besides introducing e-governance, according to him, the government should focus on VoIP technology or video over IP.
"VoIP is technology that people around the globe are taking advantage of. But our country is still lagging in this regard. We should not spend so much time in implementing the technology at the policy level," Ahmad says.
Explaining the benefits of VoIP, he says the rural population could use the technology and access the global market for purposes that would aid business.
"We need to make sure that we are moving forward and not backwards," he says. The International (IGW) and Inter Connection Exchange (ICX) are not truly VoIP solutions.
"Therefore, we have to move beyond that. We have to introduce the comfortable and affordable IP based service to the mass," he says.
Unfortunately, in Bangladesh, such a comfortable technology is not legal, he says. "It should be opened up to whoever is interested to invest money."
He said it is tricky to raise capital in this market, especially in times of a global economic slowdown.
"So, we need to encourage private investors. I request our policy makers to take advantage of private money," he adds.
The government should ensure two things: technology and business. Circumstances should be eased for faster technology deployment, rather than complicating things, he says.
The Asian American/Asian Research Institute (AAARI) has recently awarded Ahmad for his contribution in the IT sector. He intended to contribute to the ICT sector. From such intentions stemmed the software company, Vonair Inc, in Bangladesh in 2004 to promote local developers in the global market.
About the present government's pledge to create a 'Digital Bangladesh', he says it is quite possible.
"We just need to focus and promptly implement policies. However, it is not that easy because of the state of infrastructure in the country. The government and civil administration need to work together to achieve great lengths. It is mostly important that we realise how important it is," Ahmad says.
To witness change, the government should primarily focus on e-governance, he says. "We need to have the right infrastructure, technology and roads and highways, as all are related to attaining a Digital Bangladesh."
"I haven't seen any significant progress in the introduction of e-governance. E-governance can make our lives easier," he adds.
“We need to introduce more electronic systems in sectors such as trade, education, medical and administration, as we are in an electronic age. The faster we do it, the better it would be for us," says Ahmad.
Talking about his own venture in Bangladesh, he says, "NRBs are busy fending for ourselves. But doing something in our homeland is not only about expanding our business, it is also about creating opportunities for our locals."
On his thoughts behind the set-up of Vonair in Bangladesh, he says, "I believe in this market. I thought that if I could avail an opportunity, why not create opportunities for the nation's talented youth, who are fully capable of contributing in their respective arenas."
He also says his target is not to generate revenues. Vonair was established to facilitate creation of intellectual capital in Bangladesh, using the young generation as a medium.
Local talents at Vonair are creating IP-based services. "Somebody else may develop IP, but Vonair has developed its own intellectual property. It is working at a convergence, new technology and new horizons."
UTC Associates, a US-based entity, does not hold patent because it is a service providing company. Vonair is an IP-based company in Bangladesh that takes pride in contributing in the converging area.
"We are building applications and also integrating the solutions. So we must create awareness among policymakers and common people to inject new convergence technologies," says Ahmad.
He says he is not worried about losing revenues after the introduction of the IP based services, as it will widen opportunities.