While delivering his speech, the ICT minister pointed out the boom of internet users in the country over the last decade or so, and what it means for a Digital Bangladesh
Post, Telecommunication and Information Technology minister, Mustafa Jabbar believes that Bangladesh needs to utilize the Internet in order to be a part of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, while being wary of the multi-dimensional threats that accompany the phenomenon.
The minister commented while speaking as the chief guest at the opening session titled “Internet Governance: Perspectives on Current State and Future. Achieving the SDG’s in the Digital Age” at the 14th Bangladesh Internet Governance Forum (BIGF) held at CIRDAP in Dhaka yesterday.
While delivering his speech, the ICT minister pointed out the boom of internet users in the country over the last decade or so, and what it means for a Digital Bangladesh.
The minister said: “In 2008, before the current government was elected, the number of Internet users in the country was merely 800,000 whereas in 2018, over 100 million people were connected to the internet. This is a testament to how intrinsically important Internet is to our goal of achieving the dream of Digital Bangladesh.”
“2021 is just the first step, and I find it really hard to comprehend what our future holds considering the massive technological growth that we are experiencing. For other developed countries, it will be easier to acclimatize to the unprecedented levels of growth in the Fourth Industrial Revolution but for Bangladesh, who have missed the previous three, it will certainly be a challenge since we are not accustomed to it,” he added.
However, the minister also pointed out a few threats: “It is important we literate ourselves for the cyberspace or else, undesirable situations fueled by misinformation like that of the Jigatola (rumours during student protests in 2018), Ramu attacks, beheading for Padma bridge will keep on repeating.”
“Whether we like it or not, the Internet may pose itself as a threat to us but we must focus on its positives, and utilize them to become a part of the Fourth Industrial Revolution,” he opined.
Furthermore, Jabbar took notice of how other countries were protecting their data: “Developed nations in the West are starting to look into corporations like Facebook, Google and holding them accountable for the data they handle. I fear that the recently passed Digital Security Act is not stern enough considering how it only allows for a Tk1 cr fine whereas these organizations need to be fined in the billions for them to take notice.”
The chair of the session, member of parliament Hasanul Haq Inu, chairman of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Ministry of Information, and chairperson of BIGF echoed the ICT minister’s thoughts on stricter data protection laws.
Inu said: “For Bangladesh, the Third Industrial Revolution is not over, and we are already about to welcome the Fourth one. As the number of Internet users increase in our country, so does e-commerce and online businesses. However, there is a lack of digital infrastructure with no legal regulatory measures. Yet, the digital economy is growing so fast, that it is difficult to cope up.”
“How are we being robbed? Organizations such as Google, and Facebook received about Tk8,000 cr from our advertisers, and the government did not get anything in taxes. While western countries are holding them accountable, no one from our end is receiving anything despite these organizations using our personal data for business. In fact, the Digital South is being deprived by the Digital North. Which is why we require a data protection Act, and a global cyber security treaty,” the former Information minister added.
Moreover, Inu argued for the inclusion of Internet as a basic right in the Constitution.
Earlier, during his keynote speech, Paul Byron Wilson, Director General of the Asia Pacific Network Information Centre (APNIC) described governance as a tool to ensure participation from all stakeholders and that, since the Internet is open for all, its governance must be democratic.
AHM Bazlur Rahman, Policy Research Fellow, Shaping the Future of Media delivered the welcome remarks while Aminul Hakim, President, Internet Service Providers Association of Bangladesh, Dr Najmul Hossain, Country Representative, Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom were present as special guests at the opening session which was moderated by Media and Communications expert Dr S M Morshed.
The conference featured distinguished speakers, and experts in four other sessions that focused on different aspects of internet governance encompassing issues such as emerging technologies, artificial Intelligence (AI), cyber crime, freedom of expression and protection of rights, among others.