The government has taken up different schemes to facilitate the participation of youths in building a Digital Bangladesh.
Zunaid Almed Palak is now at the helm of ICT Division under the Ministry of Posts, Telecommunication and Information Communication Technology.
The Daily Observer recently talked to the youngest and energetic State Minister. During this exclusive interview, he focused on different issues relating to the country's ICT sector. The excerpts:
Observer: The training on mobile application development for young programmers made a buzz across the country. How do you evaluate such training?
Palak: Recently, the world famous McKinsey Global Institute (MGI) conducted a research to unearth the upcoming disruptive technologies, which are going to reshape the way we think, live and work today. According to their findings, out of 12 disruptive technologies, mobile internet technology will be the most influential one in the days to come. Mobile internet technology is far from just another way to go online and browse. Equipped with internet-enabled mobile computing devices and apps for almost every task, people are increasingly go about their daily routines using new ways to understand, perceive and interact with the world. Currently, more than 1.1 billion people are using devices like smart phone, tablet, wearable devices, etc. By 2025, three billion new smart device users will join the digital economy with an annual economic impact of US$3.7-10.8 trillion globally. Thus, mobile application industry brightens enormous prospects for our youth force. You know the mobile internet grows rapidly in Bangladesh and elsewhere in the world. Currently, we have 38 million internet users in the country. By 2025, nearly 80 percent of all internet connections could be through mobile devices and a majority of new internet users could be using mobile devices as their primary or sole means of connectivity. Keeping all these happenings in mind, we undertook the programme, National Level Awareness Generation and Skill Building for the Development of Mobile Applications, to sensitise the environment commensurate with this particular industry.
Observer: How will the local developers benefit from the programme?
Palak: I hope local developers will be greatly benefited from this programme, as we didn't confine such scheme to merely the major cities. Rather, we have decentralised our activities and disseminated knowledge and information through training, seminar and workshop in all the districts. Moreover, we have provided an online platform to interact with experts even after completion of basic training.
Observer: Necessary data on national issues are not available now on websites. How can we increase our resources?
Palak: I acknowledge content is an area where we need to pay greater attention. However, we are working hard to overcome the content crisis.
Our government has already launched a gigantic national web portal of about 25,000 websites. So far, it is the largest web portal in the world. Besides, e-Tathyakosh (National Respiratory), digital content by teachers, e-Books, etc. are some other attempts made by the government to enrich digital content. Absence of a reliable Bangla Optical Character Recognizer (OCR) remained as a huge barrier until recently. In this regard, I'm tempted to share another very good news. Very recently, a group of young, innovative and resilient developers launched Bangla OCR with the accuracy rate of more than 90 per cent. Now, we are one of the few proud nations in the world who have their own OCR. I would like to congratulate Team Engine for their tenacity and passion for the completion of a tiresome success journey. This recent development will greatly pave the way to overcome our content scarcity.
Observer: How can 2440 trained young developers apply their learning at national level?
Palak: I don't think these newly trained apps developers will only serve at the national level. They are competent enough to mark their footprint in the global arena. To make them better prepared to contribute in the global scale, we are going to undertake a full-fledged project for creating thousands of quality apps developers in Bangladesh. I'm pretty confident that our apps developers will be able to secure a significant portion of the trillion dollar mobile application industry.We will leave no stone unturned to create a suitable platform for our developers.
Observer: Would you kindly say something about possible priorities for those 2440 trained IT developers as innovation officers.
Palak: Innovation shall be the key to surviving in the digital and knowledge economy. We are working sincerely to create an ecosystem to foster innovation in our IT industry. Creating appropriate infrastructure and developing quality human resources are two of the critical inputs for building the ecosystem. Besides, access to finance is another element that is required to be enhanced and reinvigorated. For this reason, we are closely working with the industry, academia and financial institutions. The private sector should also come forward and join the rally to move innovation activities ahead.
Observer: Would you please say something on your future plan?
Palak: Our honourable Prime Minister, a visionary leader and tech-savvy person, has declared to extend fibre optic connectivity up to union level within 2015. We have already signed a MoU with the Chinese government for this purpose. We will also set up a 4-tier data centre in a very short span of time. We'll build some Hi-Tech and Software Technology parks, which will attract Foreign Direct Investment, enhance employment opportunities and increase export earnings.