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Innovative Bangladesh: Emerging role model for 4IR

Published : Saturday, 4 December, 2021 at 12:00 AM  Count : 608
Md Aktaruzzaman

Md Aktaruzzaman

Md Aktaruzzaman

Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) is the reality now and we can't deny it anymore. It will change the whole landscape of how do we feel, how do we work, how do we live, how do we travel and so on. The 1st revolution is all about steam engine, the 2nd revolution is about electricity, the 3rd is about Internet and Computer. 4th Industrial Revolution added intelligence to its immediate predecessor and is transforming the whole world into an Intelligent Information Society.

Let's start with an example, a company CEO can check the weather forecast and traffic congestion in the morning with Google Assistant or Siri, go to office using self-driving car, be welcomed there by robots, predict business future using Artificial Intelligence (AI), design business model using machine learning, control home electronics and appliance through Internet of Things (IoT), and so on. 5G Internet is going to be launched in Bangladesh soon. It may totally change the business model, living standard, educational delivery, digital and social media that we are experiencing over the last decade.

So 4IR is only possible to implement through the dissemination of high-quality education and research and thus, creating an Innovative Education Ecosystem. To make it happen along with other agenda, the UGC is going to host an International Conference on 4th Industrial Revolution and Beyond (IC4IRB 2021) from 10-11 December 2021 marking the 100th Birth Anniversary of the Father of the Nation of Bangladesh and 50th anniversary of the country's independence.

In many parts of the world, the Scandinavian Countries for instance, they are preparing their manpower to take advantage of 4IR. This is the reason, these countries have integrated AI and Robotics in their education, starting from primary level to higher education with an objective to prepare the cognitive mind of their human resources to lead the 4IR.

The Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman dreamt 'Sonar Bangla' - a hunger and corruption free, prosperous Bangladesh. Bearing the same philosophy but in a digital world his dream has been transformed into 'Digital Bangladesh' under the visionary leadership of the prime minister of Bangladesh and her ICT Adviser; and it is heading towards 'Innovative Bangladesh'. The government has framed Vision 2021, Vision 2030, Vision 2041 and Vision 2071, and Delta Plan 2100 to reach the status of a safe, developed and innovative country.

Now let's explore how Bangladesh could be an emerging role model for 4IR to the world:
Firstly, the implementation of 'Digital Bangladesh' in the last thirteen years has developed huge ICT infrastructure all over the country, almost in every sector as well as in everyday life of the people. Union Digital Centres (UDC) are now being connected through fibre optical cable, schools are now equipped with Sheikh Rasel Digital Lab, thousands of interactive contents and e-books are designed and developed, 100 economic zones are being created, and so on. Thus, Digital Bangladesh has created an appropriate platform to kick-off 4IR in our country.

Secondly, the government has envisioned to become a rich country by 2041 with a per capita income of $15,000 as well as empower people equally, there is no alternative to realise the potential of 4IR without delay. The GDP size of the country will become 2.6 trillion dollars in 2041 from today's 225 billion dollars. Now government may introduce Higher Education Loan Program (HELP), which could have several schemes such as full-free, govt-subsidised, and full-fee payment based on taxpayer income and society needs. Government may provide subsidy to 4IR related courses and programs.

Thirdly, Bangladesh is ranked 93rd in terms of land size but in terms of population it is the 8th largest country in the world. We have now more people of working age (15-64 years) than ever before. It is now 66 percent and by 2030 it would rise to 70 percent. With the advent of 4th industrial revolution many jobs will be lost, it is true but more new jobs will be created. Therefore, if we can transform our large population into a skilled workforce equipped for 4IR, it will further strengthen our ongoing economic and social development.

Fourthly, blended learning could be a solution for inclusive development of Bangladesh by connecting high-tech, low-tech and no-tech people across the country. The UGC has recently approved the National Blended Learning Policy 2021 and now the government is extending it further from pre-primary to postgraduate education. The next stage is online digital education - Bangladesh is yet to mark its presence in the global online education industry worth $375 Billion by 2026. It could easily be the third highest source of earning revenues after remittance and garments, if 4IR technologies can be integrated effectively within the system.

Fifthly, although our university rankings at various global indices are not that much good but we are doing increasingly better in agriculture, software development, automation, freelancing, SME sector, women empowerment, poverty alleviation, etc. The government has allocated more funding for research and innovation focusing 3IR and towards 4IR through its different divisions in recent years.

Sixthly, the $300 million Accelerating and Strengthening Skills for Economic Transformation (ASSET) Project will equip more than 1 million youth and workers with skills needed for the jobs of the future. There will be a Technical School and College at each Upazila and also establishment of Upazila ICT Training and Resource Centre for Education project is being initiated. These graduates won't have to wait for jobs but rather can create jobs for others.

Lastly, around 2 million new entrants join the labour force each year but still 38.6 percent of graduate unemployment indicates the skills mismatch. Consequently, foreigners dominate our job market in the technical, managerial levels in diverse industries, corporate firms and multi-national companies. This trend leads to $6 billion per year remittance outflow from Bangladesh according to National Skill Development Authority. Now the government has understood vividly and put emphasis on need-based and time-driven curricula, outcome-based education, various internship and placement programs, etc.

The future jobs are the ones machines can do but at the same time areas--like creative endeavours and social interactions where human beats machines--still remain open for job creation in the 4IR era. Bangladesh is on track to earn $5 Billion from IT Software export by 2025 and one day it may exceed our garments industry as said by the ICT adviser to the prime minister. Now it is the right time for our policymakers to rethink education policy with respect to 4IR and prioritize research and innovations to remain competitive, innovative and efficient at the global stage. Let's innovate--not imitate.

Dr Md Aktaruzzaman is the director of Blended Learning Centre at Daffodil University and founding head of ICT
& Education pept, Bangabandhu
Digital University

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