Digital leaps have helped Bangladesh navigate the pandemic, said Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's ICT Advisor Sajeeb Wazed Joy in an opinion piece published in The Washington Post on Tuesday (26 April).
In the article, titled, "Digital leaps helped Bangladesh navigate the pandemic", Joy states that digital Bangladesh provided answers to many of the labor and economic questions posed by the pandemic.
"The Covid-19 pandemic disrupted labor markets around the world and continues to do so today. The short-term consequences were rapid and acute. Millions of people were furloughed or fired, and millions more began working from home. The long-term repercussions are still being debated, but one thing is certain: the demand for labor and the way we work has changed forever," the opening lines of the opinion piece read.
Sajeeb Wazed Joy adds, "Many industries and governments are struggling to adapt. But in Bangladesh, a government plan to modernize and digitize its economy, education sector, and health care has provided some answers."
He states that the Digital Bangladesh initiative quickly increased internet access and paved the way for multifaceted economic development of Bnagladesh; and replaced the "slow, paper-based government services with easy-to-use internet and smartphone-based programs."
"The plan worked. The government created a network of more than 8,500 Digital Centers that provided online services from cradle to grave. In 2008, those services were all but inaccessible; only 800,000 people in Bangladesh had access to the internet. Now, Bangladesh boasts more than 120,000,000 internet users. The internet covers 98% of the country," the article reads.
Joy also said that in addition, Bangladesh equipped millions with the tools necessary to succeed in the digital world.
The government built 86,000 "digital classrooms" and trained 1.5 million students in information and communications technology (ICT). As a result, information technology exports have soared from about $25 million in 2008 to $2 billion in 2021, he cited as an example.
"When many around the world asked, 'How do I earn a living when workplace has been closed to in-person gatherings?' Bangladeshis were able to go to their home computers and take advantage of remote work and freelance opportunities," Joy wrote in his concluding remarks.