The country’s people are realizing the urgency of the ‘digital Bangladesh’ amid the COVID-19 pandemic as they are enjoying the advantages of information technology when they are being forced to lead their lives staying indoors.
Thanks to the government’s endeavor for placing the country among those enjoying the fruits of the digital technology, the perception of ‘digital Bangladesh’ is now not only a concept but a reality, officials said.
Activities of all sectors, including banking, health, education and business, are now being operated by using digital means like normal time even amid the coronavirus situation.
According to the Education Ministry sources, all educational institutions across the country remain closed since March 17 in a bid to slowdown the spread of the COVID-19.
But, using the benefits of the ICT, a number public and private universities are operating academic activities using virtual media while state-run Bangladesh Television and Sangsad TV are airing lessons for students of class VI to class X.
Talking to BSS, Bangladesh University of Professionals (BUP) Vice-Chancellor Major General Ataul Hakim Sarwar Hasan said, “We have realized in the very beginning of the outbreak of COVID-19 that it would not end soon. So, after talking with our teachers and students, we started virtual classes from March 22”.
It is very interesting that in the normal time 82 to 85 percent student used to attend the classes, but in the virtual classes their attendance is almost 90-95 percent, he added.
“We have already completed the first semester and awaiting University Grants Commission’s (UGC’s) approval for taking the final examinations online.
But our second semester will begin on just time July 1,” the BUP VC said.
Noting that all meetings, including Deans’ Committee, Finance Committee, Academic Council and Syndicate, are being held through virtual media, Ataul Hakim said “We are also going to hold the Annual Senate meeting on June 24 through virtual media”.
“As per the directives of the education minister and UGC chairman on launching online classes, we have initiated the move taking Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s dream of transforming the country into Digital Bangladesh as a challenge.
We had believed that we can take online classes. We are, however, satisfied that we have achieved enough for transforming the country into digital Bangladesh,” he added.
The BUP vice-chancellor has also underscored the need for setting up virtual exam centers at every district for facilitating a transparent online exam system and equal internet service across the country so that the students from anywhere could attend the classes regularly without any interruption, Ataul Hakim said.
“We, however, will continue at least one course at every semester online even after the pandemic overcomes for continuation of our practice on using information technology,” he added.
Talking about online banking system, Bangladesh Bank (BB) Executive Director Sirajul Islam said due to the revolution in the country’s Information and Communication Technology (ICT) sector, the banking sector is one of the most beneficiaries of the ICT sector.
Noting that approximately 60 to 70 percent work of the banking sector is now being operated through online using digital technologies, he said, “Amid the COVID-19 situation, all board meetings and other programmes, which usually need gatherings, are being conducted through zoom online”.
It is the blessings of ICT revolution that the bank managements are being able to manage the offices with only 25 percent attendance of the officials, the BB spokesperson said, adding, “We are operating the offices with only 25 percent officials as per the government instruction for COVID-19.
We are making transactions, issuing circulars and performing our duties staying indoors”.
The advancement of ICT is helping “us” to do about three-fourths work from home, he said, adding, “However, only 30 to 40 percent work of the bank needs physical presence of the employees”.
“If ICT would have not reached at today’s position, our most of the works would remain uncompleted as we cannot go to offices physically ignoring the risk of coronavirus,” Sirajul said.
Editor of the noted Bengali daily Bhorer Kagoj Shyamal Dutta said the mass media of Bangladesh are enjoying the benefits of the ICT development in the last 10 to 11 years under the present Awami League (AL) government.
He said due to the modern technological facilities, the people of the country are being able to do online office staying home.
Noting that the number of internet and mobile users has been increased remarkably, the Bhorer Kagoj editor said, “Taking the advantages of 13 to 14 crore mobile users and seven to eight crore internet users, we are using this as an alternative media resource”.
“As a result, we can reach at the doorstep of the people. Through we could not reach the hard copy of the newspapers to the people, but they are reading newspapers online as well as watching news, television and entertainment programmes online.
It has been possible only for the development in the ICT sector,” he added.
Mentioning that the internet access has already been reached to the grassroots level in the villages, Shyamal Dutta said this technological development has been taken place only for the government policy of implementing ‘digital Bangladesh’.
After assuming the state power in 2009 under the leadership of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, he said, the prime task of the AL government was implementing the ‘digital Bangladesh’, which was main election manifesto of the party.
“I think that the facility of ‘digital Bangladesh’ has already reached at the doorsteps of the people” the Bhorer Kagoj editor said.
Noting that the country’s mass media has already entered the virtual media, he said, “I, myself, host talk-show on the television.
Our gusts now join with us on virtual platforms. None has to come on physical contact, which is the principal guideline to slowdown the spread of COVID-19”.
The modern technology, however, has bridged the gap, Shyamal Dutta said, adding, “We are connected with each other, even we are staying afar”.
The communication through virtual media has been possible due to the ‘digital Bangladesh’, he said, adding the Prime Minister is now connected with the whole country through video conferencing.
The Prime Minister does not need to go to upazila level for inaugurating any project as she can do it staying home through virtual media, the Bhorer Kagoj editor said, adding, the ministers are also doing so and the remain connected to the people round the clock to their respective areas.
“We, who are working in media, also hold even correspondent level meetings through zoom online.
Though we are staying away, but we are closer due to the technology, which has been possible only for virtual media,” Shyamal Dutta said.
About online office management, Joint Secretary of the Cabinet Division and Joint Project Director of a2i, an initiative of the ICT Division and Cabinet Division with support from the UNDP Bangladesh, Dr Dewan Muhammad Humayun Kabir said after assuming the state power in 2009, the present government had declared to transform the country into ‘digital Bangladesh’ by 2021.
In this context, the government launched e-filing much earlier aiming at making the offices paperless, he said, adding, “In the meantime about 90 percent of official activities came under the e-filing with about 1.5 crore users while the use of e-filing has increased by three times during the COVID-19 situation as the officials could not attend the offices physically”.
All ministries are now using the e-filing while process is underway to bring the grassroots level offices under the digital filing system, he said,
Mentioning that Bangladesh has progressed much more towards becoming a ‘digital’ country, the joint secretary said all official activities are now being conducted virtually amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We are also working to expedite the use of e-filing after the COVID-19 pandemic. Besides, process is underway to turn offices into virtual offices,” Kabir said.
Besides, the people are also being facilitated to do shopping and marketing, including groceries and essential commodities, online using the benefits of ICT.
“Over 1,200 members of the e-Commerce Association of Bangladesh (e-CAB) are now delivering essential commodities to the people’s houses helping them (people) staying indoors instead of coming out for shopping,” e-CAB General Secretary Abdul Wahed Tamal told BSS.
Besides, in association with the a2i, the e-CAB members are now also delivering essential goods in the lockdown areas under the Dhaka south and north city corporations’ jurisdiction, maintaining the health guidelines, including using face masks and hand gloves, and disinfecting the vehicles, he said.
“We have already given instruction to our all members on how they will conduct the operation, use disinfectant to their warehouses, keep employees safe and secured.
We have given stickers to all members so that they can move easily,” the e-CAB general secretary added.
The e-CAB is now encouraging the customers for using e-payment to lessen the possibility of COVID-19 transmission through physical transaction and grow the system of making business staying home, Tamal said, adding, “Besides, we made our association (e-CAB) totally virtual.
Now we have no physical office as the virtual office is able to give memberships and receive applications for membership online”.
Noting that the digital industry has emerged as a blessing for the country’s people amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the e-CAB general secretary said the people now can avail different services like e-shopping, e-health, e-learning because of increasing use of mobile and internet.
However, for further expansion of the e-commerce in the country, Tamal underscored the need for tax exemption on digital payment methods.
Besides, a specialized telemedicine centre has been set up at Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University (BSMMU) with the assistance of the a2i programme to ensure the health services for the country’s citizens through virtual media amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
State Minister for ICT Division Zunaid Ahmed Palak inaugurated the telemedicine centre as the chief guest through a virtual function on May 13.
The people across the country could take the healthcare services through video connection by dialing the number 09611677777 while 28 specialist doctors of the BSMMU render the services everyday. About 20 thousand people so far received the services since its inception.
Besides, the national helpline ‘333’ is also providing the telemedicine services since the outbreak of the global pandemic COVID-19 in the country.
A Doctor’s Pool consisting of over 4,500 registered doctors are rendering the services.
According to the a2i officials, so far, over 350,000 citizens received the telemedicine services through the helpline ‘333’. Source: BSS