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An ambitious step to eliminate the global digital divide

Date: 7 October, 2023

Writer : Purabi Matin, Basudev Paul, and Rawnak Zarin
Source : Dhaka Tribune

Reading Time: 7 Minutes

7 October, 2023
Writer : Purabi Matin, Basudev Paul, and Rawnak Zarin
Source : Dhaka Tribune
· Reading Time: 7 Minutes

An ambitious step to eliminate the global digital divide

An ambitious step to eliminate the global digital divide

Friendship to all, malice towards none. This was the ideal of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the Father of the Nation, which was not limited by the borders of a single nation but for the entire world.

Aligning with this vision, Bangladesh emerged as a global leader across several sectors pertaining to the developing world, perhaps none more significantly than in climate change advocacy. Time and time again, Bangladesh has demonstrated an unwavering commitment to addressing one of the most pressing problems of our time.

At this juncture, our nation is embarking on another significant endeavour, this time within the realm of digital inclusion, with the aim of setting a global benchmark. Globally, it is difficult to comprehend that almost 3 billion individuals lack access to internet connectivity, with 264 million fewer women than men utilizing mobile internet services. Furthermore, the advent of artificial intelligence is poised to adversely impact approximately 300 million jobs.

A global centre to address digital divide

In response to these challenges and to ensure equitable access to digital opportunities for all, regardless of their background or geographical location, our country is taking a pioneering role in addressing what is an increasingly alarming global digital divide by the establishment of the e-Quality Centre for Inclusive Innovation.

The e-Quality Centre has detailed a comprehensive strategy in pursuit of a world in which digital opportunities are equally accessible to all. This strategy incorporates three crucial areas based on the vision of eradicating the digital divide and promoting digital equality.

Initially, the e-Quality Centre is committed to conducting extensive research to identify the underlying causes of digital exclusion. By identifying the underlying challenges that prevent individuals and communities from accessing technology and the internet, the centre seeks to formulate targeted solutions.

Initiatives are centred on the creation of innovative solutions that can be implemented in both developed and developing nations. The e-Quality Centre aims to empower individuals and communities to surmount digital exclusion through the transfer of technology and knowledge.

The e-Quality Centre is nurturing triangular partnerships in recognition of the global nature of the digital divide. These partnerships include collaborations with Uganda, Ghana, Sao Tome and Principe, Somalia, and Gambia, among others. Through these alliances, the centre intends to share its knowledge, resources, and best practices to aid nations in their efforts to reduce digital exclusion.

Bangladesh’s unwavering dedication to this cause places it at the forefront of these efforts. They intend to expand the e-Quality research facilities to an impressive 50 countries by 2026. This ambitious objective exemplifies Bangladesh’s commitment to promoting digital inclusion and literacy on a global scale, with the ultimate objective of creating a more inclusive and digitally connected world.

During a side event held in conjunction with the 78th session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), AK Abdul Momen, the foreign minister of Bangladesh, officially inaugurated the centre. His comments cast light on Bangladesh’s remarkable transition from the concept of “Digital Bangladesh” to the vision of a “Smart Bangladesh.”

He emphasized the significance of technology transfer, recognizing that technological progress should not be restricted to a select few nations and the importance of developing country cooperation, noting that collective efforts can bridge the digital divide and ensure inclusive growth.

At the High-Level Political Forum (HLPF) side event in the year 2023, the Secretary of the ICT Division Md Shamsul Arefin articulated the nation’s evolving role as a pivotal source of support and guidance in the digital domain.

He remarked: “With an increasing number of countries seeking Bangladesh’s expertise and advice, we are currently in the process of establishing the e-Quality Centre for Inclusive Innovation. Our overarching vision is to usher in a world characterized by a zero digital divide, where uniform access to digital resources and opportunities becomes an absolute reality for all.”

Anir Chowdhury, policy advisor for the a2i program, also mentioned bridging the digital divide between marginalized groups such as the third gender, people with disabilities, and the extremely poor. He anticipated that the research on the digital divide will continue to advance through collaboration with other nations so that we can create a world in the future where there is no discrimination in the technological sector.

At a2i’s #ZeroDigitalDivide event, a digital divide affecting billions of individuals worldwide came to light. Approximately 1.3 billion children do not have access to the internet, depriving them of the numerous benefits of digital connectivity. This is a significant cause for concern, as these children must be prepared to face a future in which technology will be essential for survival.

Bangladesh has adopted a firm stance to become a pioneering force on the international stage in response to these pressing challenges. Under the e-Quality framework, a multifaceted approach has been implemented, covering essential domains such as education, health, employment, finances, and public services. The objective is unambiguous and unwavering: To ensure that every citizen, regardless of origin or situation, has equal access to digital facilities and opportunities.

The e-Quality initiative represents a commitment to digital empowerment and inclusivity. In this age of technological advancement, there is a concerted effort to close the digital divide and leave no one behind. By promoting digital inclusion and literacy, Bangladesh hopes to demonstrate that a more interconnected and equitable global society is possible.

Bangladesh is not only leading by example in its efforts to narrow the digital inclusion gap and promote digital literacy, but it is also sending a clear message to the global community. The nation’s unwavering dedication to creating a world where the benefits of the digital age are accessible to all, regardless of socioeconomic status or gender, is a potent demonstration of its dedication.

Bangladesh’s mission to create a more inclusive and digitally connected world has repercussions well beyond its borders. It functions as a persuasive impetus, urging other nations and stakeholders to join this essential cause. The message is clear: access to the benefits of the digital age should not be a privilege but a right for all.

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