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How can we build a Smart Bangladesh?

13 January, 2023

Source : Dhaka Tribune

Reading Time: 6 Minutes

13 January, 2023 ·
Source : Dhaka Tribune
· Reading Time: 6 Minutes

How can we build a Smart Bangladesh?

How can we build a Smart Bangladesh?

What is it that propels a country to new heights? What ensures that it will move forward and not backward? What are the factors that make it reach its full potential?

If we stop to think, long-term planning, goal-setting, and the right attitude are certainly some of the most important factors.

Bangladesh has been doing a remarkable job since 2008. With Vision 2021, we wanted to establish a Digital Bangladesh. We wanted to ensure many digital services (particularly public services) with appropriate digital infrastructure, and make digital practices the norm in Bangladesh.

With respect to Digital Bangladesh, the a2i program played a pivotal role, from simplifying public service delivery, establishing digital infrastructure, encouraging digital practices and above all, bringing the rural population of Bangladesh under the light of technology, thereby making their lives easier.

This was not easy. Over the years, there had to be efforts made to unlearn approaches that had been drilled into our minds for many decades. There were practices that needed to be discarded. Attitudes that needed to change.

For all of this, a change in mindset was of paramount importance.

This change in mindset in Bangladesh that we have begun to observe must now be expanded — manifold.

Vision 2041 is less than two decades away. We have achieved a lot of things but we are still very far away from our ambitions. We have many miles to go before we successfully reach there.

For Vision 2041, where we want to build a Smart Bangladesh, we can no longer limit our thinking to just more digital infrastructure, better connectivity, and further digitization of services.

These factors, while remaining pertinent, were more appropriate for Vision 2021.

For Vision 2041, with the rapid change in the world, with the advent of the Fourth Industrial Revolution bringing seismic change to everything, we must evolve beyond what we are comfortable with.

What is needed above all else is a concerted effort, for a whole of society approach.

 

To build a Smart Bangladesh in 2041, there are four pillars: 

a) Smart government

b) Smart citizens

c) Smart economy

d) Smart society

 

Each pillar must function for us to succeed, and that they are all dependent on each other to maximize the benefits. A smart government will only exist if smart citizens choose and empower the government, who will then help build a smart economy, and thus will result in a smart society.

In other words, it is the transformation of our entire society, down to each and every citizen of Bangladesh, that is expected to occur if we are to build a Smart Bangladesh for 2041.

Where is technology in all of this?

Technology is an inevitable component that will only grow in importance. As we proceed from the 2020s to the 2030s and reach the 2040s, much of humanity is yet to know what technological marvels will appear in the next two decades.

What will be important is for Bangladesh to be pro-active with respect to the technological advancements that materialize.

With Vision 2021, Bangladesh was successful in leveraging technology to leapfrog and accelerate growth and prosperity at an unprecedented rate. For the sake of Bangladesh’s future prosperity, this leveraging of technology has to become more efficient.

Of course, with new technological advancements also come the challenges. Policymakers and leaders must also be wary of the digital divide that has become an unfortunate consequence of our rapid embracing of technology.

Furthermore, while we may align our mindsets to fit the needs of the future, that shall not be enough if we fail to also complement that with the appropriate skills that the future decades will require. After all, having the mindset to swim will only result in you drowning bravely — you still need to learn the skill of swimming!

Therefore, it is the marriage of both our mindsets — which must be progressive and forward-thinking — and our skills — which must align with our mindset and also the needs of the hour — that will act as the foundation for Bangladesh’s future.

And there is no better way to have a whole of society transformation, to align mentality and skills, than to nurture the country’s civil service and bring them up to speed with Bangladesh’s ambitions, to ensure that every single civil servant is future-ready to tackle the novel challenges that will arise.

In order to address this, in order to ensure smart governance and a smart society, we have formulated the capacity-building Civil Service 2041 — a reform and transformation of our bureaucracy that will further improve public services and make them more people-centric, thereby taking Bangladesh’s progress to the next level and getting even closer to Bangabandhu’s dream of a Shonar Bangla.

Mohammad Salahuddin is a Project Analyst and Deputy Secretary, a2i.

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