It seemed like a launch and a coming out party combined. The launch was of Digital Bangladesh. The coming out was of Sajeeb Ahmed Wazed, the thinker behind Digital Bangladesh who also happens to be the grandson of Bangabandhu (Friend of Bengal) Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and son of Shiekh Hasina, the Prime Minister of Bangladesh. It was a grand vision that was set out, one that would radically increase ICT literacy in Bangladesh, provide government services over e platforms and create service industry jobs for the wave of young people entering the job market.
It was ironical that we had to listen to the speeches on digital Bangladesh phoneless, having been compelled to leave all electronics behind in the name of security. They announced the event was being tweeted, forgetting the very nature of tweeting,v a decentralized activity done by many without central control.
Then in the afternoon, I found myself stepping in to chair a session on broadband access that was to have been chaired by Mr Wazed. In a short period of 90 mts, we squeezed in eight speakers, two from equipment vendors, two from service providers, a representative of APNIC talking about IPv6, an IGO representative and myself. The Secretary of the Bangladesh Ministry of Post and Telecom gave summing up comments. And we had 25 mts of questions and answers as well.
It was not surprising that I found most interesting the proposal to enhance Asia’s backhaul capacity using terrestrial cables. It was in my talk, but Tiziana Bonapace of UNESCAP’s presentation dealt with in greater detail.
The MOPT Secretary said that BTCL’s fiber had been taken over by the Ministry and there were plans to give them over to a private operator to manage, on several conditions, including, one hopes, non-discriminatory, cost-oriented access for all operators. The devil is in the details, but one hopes this will be done properly (and quickly).
There were many questions, but the one I liked best was what one young man asked: what in all these was the opportunity for a young person to start a business?
This reflects the story Teleuse@BOP tells about Bangladeshis more than anyone else seeing ICTs as a way of making money.