How to build a Smart Bangladesh

Once upon a time, there was a man who always bragged about his smartness. One day he came across an old man from his village and boasted, "I am the smartest man in the world. Nobody can match my intelligence."

The old man said, "Really? Prove it by answering this question. What is the heaviest thing in the world?"

The man readily replied, "Gold."

The old man smiled and said, "Wrong. The heaviest thing in the world is ignorance. It weighs down the mind and holds back progress. Smartness, on the other hand, is as light as a feather and lifts us to heights."

The man was humbled and from that day on, he focused more on becoming wise and humble.

We are all smitten by the idea of building a smart Bangladesh. But in order to do so, we need to understand the deeper meaning of the whole concept.

The vision of building a smart country by 2041 involves implementing smart technologies to improve various aspects, such as economic growth, education, healthcare, and governance. The first step is to develop a national strategy, a comprehensive strategy facilitating the use of technologies to improve the country at the micro-level. The strategy should consider the country's strengths, weaknesses, and growth opportunities.

Second, a widescale investment in infrastructure is essential to build a smart nation. Robust and reliable infrastructure includes high-speed internet and mobile networks, delivering optic fibre to each household, among others. Governments should invest in these infrastructure elements.

Encouraging innovation and entrepreneurship can help drive technological advancement. The state can provide funding and support for start-ups and research and development efforts, as it has done by forming Startup Bangladesh Ltd. It is also vital to promote digital literacy so that people are comfortable using technologies.

Digital literacy may be promoted through education programmes and training, in addition to creating infrastructures like hi-tech, software parks and upazila-level fibre connectivity.

Building a smart country requires collaboration between the government, private sector, and other stakeholders. The state should foster partnerships with stakeholders to ensure that their collective effort towards a digital transformation is aligned and effective. Mass-level efforts are required to encourage the entire population to adopt digital technologies in their daily lives.

An important component of a smart country is cybersecurity. As technology becomes more integrated into society, it is key to ensure that the country is protected from cyber threats. Very strong cybersecurity measures are essential to protect every citizen's data and privacy.

Half of the world's population lives in the cities and Bangladesh is catching up fast in this trend with its urban population making up 39.7 per cent of the total population. In its efforts to be smart, Bangladesh is using advanced technologies to address the issue of climate change by using less energy and improving air and noise pollution, traffic congestion, waste management, utility supply and many more.

So far our journey towards being a smart country has been commendable. Smart technology is definitely the means to reaching our Vision 2041. In other words, harnessing ICT, the Internet of Things, Artificial Intelligence and Blockchain to get insights into data and develop smart applications like smart agriculture, smart homes and smart supply-chain is the way to reach our goal. These smart applications will undoubtedly make people's life easy, efficient and comfortable. Despite the challenges, I believe a Smart Bangladesh is imminent.

The author is a telecom and management expert


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