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Two-day int’l conf on DPI, AI for ‘Zero Digital Divide’ begins

30 October, 2023

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Two-day int’l conf on DPI, AI for ‘Zero Digital Divide’ begins


Dhaka-Bangladesh; October 30, 2023: A high-level international conference titled ‘DPI and AI for #ZeroDigitalDivide’ has been organized to focus on the feasibility of realizing an inclusive and digitally-empowered world through optimal use of Digital Public Infrastructure (DPI) and Artificial Intelligence (AI) in the country. Simultaneously, this event highlighted Bangladesh’s journey in implementing smart and inclusive DPI and how a world with zero digital divide aligns with the Smart Bangladesh initiative.

This conference was organized for two days on the 30th and 31st of October at Hotel Intercontinental in the capital by the government’s Aspire to Innovate-a2i with the cooperation of the Division of Information and Communication Technology. 

This international conference was inaugurated Monday (October 30) by the Honorable Minister of the Ministry of Planning, Mr. M A Mannan, MP. 

The state minister for Information and Communication Technology Division, Mr. Zunaid Ahmed Palak, MP, presided over the conference as a special guest of the Foreign Minister, AK Abdul Momen. International experts from multiple nations as well as local luminaries were present at the event. 

The two-day conference contained 14 special sessions where international and local experts highlighted every possible aspect of creating a world with #ZeroDigitalDivide, including how to leverage the power of DPI and AI in the country and in the Global South. 

The conference aimed to bring under one roof high-level representatives of leading officials of different states, United Nations agencies, development agencies, intellectuals, private sector leaders, and donor organizations on the potential of DPI in the country and globally. The event highlighted the need to try to create an environment of international cooperation. 

In the speech of the chief guest, Hon’ble Minister of Planning Ministry, Mr. MA Mannan, MP said that after the implementation of Digital Bangladesh, the country is moving towards building Smart Bangladesh. Bangladesh is now one of the fastest-growing countries in the world. However, the digital divide needs to be bridged to ensure the sustainable development of the country by 2041. 

There is a need to build an open platform infrastructure for the digital inclusion of the people of the entire country and not forgetting about marginalized communities. We need measurable, and sustainable solutions for digital inclusion in all sectors including agriculture, education, health, and the judiciary of the country will empower the marginalized people to help Bangladesh reach Smart Bangladesh.

Through this conference, the need and possibility of optimal use of DPI and AI technology in building Smart Bangladesh was highlighted. The government is always motivated towards any kind of policy to ensure citizen-friendly digital services. We hope that the government will be on the side of adopting supportive policies for the best use of DPI and AI to build a prosperous, innovative, and smart economy.

Hon’ble State Minister for Information and Communication Technology Division Mr Zunaid Ahmed Palak, MP mentioned that there are possibilities for the prosperous and sustainable development of the country through the best use of DPI and AI. He said that under the able leadership of Hon’ble Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, in the last 14 years, we have delivered digital services to marginalized people in a bottom-up approach. Through more than 9000 digital centers, we have delivered civic services to villages. Many of the entrepreneurs of these digital centers are women. We have to keep working to bridge the gender-based digital divide by reducing the labor force participation gap and empowering them to play a greater role in leadership and decision-making.

The state minister also noted how Bangladesh has drawn inspiration from global digital initiatives to build Bangladesh’s own people-centric Smart DPI and with the support of a2i, Bangladesh is now supporting developing nations in their own digital progress with the launch of the “International ICT Innovation Fund” (i3 fund).

Meanwhile, the other experts highlighted the importance of DPI in the digital economy in detail. Apart from this, various technology sharing including agriculture, education, health, judiciary, fintech technology, policy, cooperation on cyber security, and creation of multilateral and global problem-solving platforms were discussed through the open platform.

The inauguration event focused on the intersection of technology and societal progress, Mr. Md Shamsul Arefin, Secretary of the ICT Division, welcomed attendees, setting the stage for an insightful discussion. Dr. Vinton Gray Cerf, Vice President and Chief Internet Evangelist at Google, along with Mei Lin Fung, Chair of People-Centered Internet, emphasized the critical connection between technology and people. Mr. Nandan Nilekani, Co-founder and Chairman of Infosys Limited, stressed the importance of building an interoperable software layer on the internet. Keynote speaker Mr. David Eaves, a professor at Harvard and UCLA, explored the significance of Digital Public Infrastructure (DPI) on a global scale, and Anir Chowdhury, policy advisor, a2i, explored its implications and perspective for Bangladesh. The event also featured an examination of Estonia’s X-Road, a government services revolution, by Mr. Siim Sikkut, former Government CIO of the Republic of Estonia. The event was moderated by Samira Zuberi Himika, Senior Vice President of the Bangladesh Association of Software & Information Services (BASIS). 

Later, a ministerial conference, themed “Responsible AI for Shared Future,” took place at the event. The event was marked by a series of notable presentations and discussions. Mr. Mohammad Navid Safiullah, Additional Secretary of the Information and Communication Technology Division, Government of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh, opened the proceedings with a welcoming address. The event paid tribute to the Father of the Nation through an audio-visual presentation and featured a keynote presentation on responsible AI by Sir Geoff Mulgan, a professor at University College London and former Chief Executive of Nesta in the UK. Notable figures, including H.E. Mr. Zunaid Ahmed Palak, MP, State Minister for Information and Communication Technology, engaged in panel discussions on digital equality. Ministers from other countries, including the Republic of Gambia and São Tomé and Principe, also shared their insights. The conference concluded with discussions by respected ambassadors, closing remarks by Foreign Minister H.E Dr. A. K. Abdul Momen. This event marked a significant step towards addressing the global digital divide and fostering responsible AI development.

The Chief Secretary of the Prime Minister’s Office, Mr. Md Tofazzal Hossain Mia, and the Secretary of the Cabinet Division, Mr. Md. Mahbub Hossain were also present at the occasion. Honorable ministers of other countries, secretaries of various ministries, leaders of public and private sectors, academia, entrepreneurs, and international experts from home and abroad including senior officials of the Information and Technology Division and a2i were also present at this high-level conference.

Noted that, a side event of the 78th session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) highlighted the importance of building a People-Centric DPI with the best use of artificial intelligence to successfully build a world of zero digital divide recently.