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Bangladesh: Use of and Access to ICT Are Improving
Source: thefinancialexpress-bd.com
Source Date: Wednesday, November 24, 2010
Focus: E-Commerce
Country: Bangladesh
Created: Nov 29, 2010

Availability of online Internet service is making significant positive changes in the country. The benefits for business communications, both with respect to cost savings and speed, are noteworthy.

The Geneva-based United Nations Agency for Information and Communications Technology has been publishing an annual report on the state of information and communication technology (ICT) for the last few years involving a large number of countries to show their comparative positions. One of its recent reports, based on findings in 2008, found Bangladesh 137th in a list of 159 countries.

This report showed Bangladeshs position as particularly poor in ICT access, use and skills even in relation to most of its neighbouring countries. However, in all fairness, it needs also evaluation whether the situation has changed in last two or three years or report fell short of the realities. For the report is outdated by at least two years; during this period Bangladesh has indeed made some striking progress in ICT use. Perhaps the next report will show a significantly better position of Bangladesh in ICT-related matters.

It is true that before 2008, the use of the Internet was cumbersome and costly as Internet service providers (ISPs) gave connections to individual subscribers through VSAT. But the countrys connection to the submarine cable has revolutionised the situation with much faster performance at the individual and institutional users levels in recent years. Costs for such connections have also fallen. The access to Internet connections has become even better recently after the introduction of wireless technology giving Internet connections without wires. Besides, data entry operations for overseas customers and production of softwares indigenously both for local and foreign users, have been on a rise particularly in recent years.

Although it could do much more, still availability of online Internet service is making significant positive changes in the country. The benefits for business communications, both with respect to cost savings and speed, are noteworthy. Families with members staying abroad are welcoming the Internet for frequent and cheaper communication. Researchers are getting valuable information quickly at modest cost, which was not possible before.

A private company source stated that its monthly e-mail bill and other costs related to accessing information or extending information have been much reduced with the latest positive developments in respect of Internet use in the country. The company would never consider such communications over faxes or phones. Other business houses and entertainment stars are gradually coming to accept the Internet as their ultimate communication tool. The ISPs are carrying out special promotional activities to provide Web page services.

A new social class is being created, mainly amongst the young generation who find the Internet an effective tool for their career development and the globalization of their thoughts and creativity. Many Internet users have stated that a whole new world has been opened to them, they are getting a new source of knowledge, and they are also making relations with many good friends and organisations worldwide.

But the saddest news is that Bangladesh has yet to set up an academic network to provide Internet access to the large number of university teachers, students, scientists, and researchers who play vital roles in building a better nation. For Bangladesh, the priority should be to provide Internet access to academic institutions and to the intellectual communities. It is also very important to take further steps to decrease the costs of Internet use. For example, industry leaders have been calling for reducing the Internet bandwidth price from Taka 18,000 to Taka 7,000 which they say can make broadband accessible at Taka 300 for common people. Governments policy response is required to this end.

It is clear that high service charges by ISPs which again is connected to higher purchase price of bandwidth, a telecommunication policy of the government that leaves much scope for further improvement, and low buying power of potential clients are major barriers to much greater Internet use. Government through rapid privatization of the telecommunication sector may remarkably enhance the speed of renovations through open-market competition. It may introduce lucrative consumer loan policies and may further reduce taxes on computers and accessories to enable people to have their own PCs.
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