'After two years, Bangladesh will become so competent in online services that it will be a key player in the world'
Bangladesh has been ranked 115th among 193 countries in the UN E-Government Survey 2018, advancing 35 steps since 2012.
The key roles in this achievement were played by the government’s Digital Bangladesh initiative, and the rapid expansion of digital financial services, according to officials from the Access to Information (a2i) program under the Prime Minister’s Office.
Bangladesh secured 0.4862 points on the ranking and is now the highest ranked least developed country, followed by Nepal (117th). In the 2016 survey, Bangladesh stood 124th, up from 148th in 2014.
Bangladesh Computer Council hosted the event in Agargaon, Dhaka.
Widespread online services using ICT tools and mobile or web apps helped Bangladesh with the progress in the ranking, while telecommunication infrastructure and human capital indices have also improved significantly.
In the telecommunication infrastructure category, Bangladesh obtained 0.1976 and 0.1193 points in 2018 and 2016 respectively, whereas the figure for human capital index this year stood at 0.4673 compared to 0.3973 in 2016.
Digital financial inclusion key to success
The rural poor are still facing many barriers while trying to avail financial services, with financial inclusion programs focused on branch-based banking failing, the survey says.
This has happened as most rural people deal in cash and the transaction expenses are high, causing the central bank to start promoting inclusive digital financial programmes in 2015.
According to digital financial system (DFS) Lab+, a joint platform, beneficiaries could save as much as 58% in time, 32% in cost, and 80% in visits if the government’s safety net payments were digitized.
The DFS is collaborating with the private sector and civil society in offering agent banking and MFS in more than 1,900 digital centres across the country.
DFS aims at increasing payment digitization, assisted e-commerce, account usage and financial literacy among poor farmers in villages.
At the same time, such opportunities highlight the challenges that a lack of e-inclusion can bring to those who remain offline. As more people gain digital identities and benefit from socio-economic opportunities, those who do not have one risk lagging even further behind.
More promises, hopes
Telecom and ICT Minister Mustafa Jabbar mentioned at the event that internet service providers have to make internet available at reasonable prices and the service has to be uninterrupted as this is what the citizens deserve.
Replying to a question about the violation of a government order on 5% tax cut on internet, he said the government was looking into the matter.
The government reduced value added tax on internet by 5% at the end user level for the current fiscal year.
The minister also said the government is working to facilitate mobile and internet access to remote areas.
“After two years, Bangladesh will become so competent in online services that it will be a key player in the world,” he said.
Zunaid Ahmed Palak, state minister for ICT, said the government was not interested in seeing progress on paper.
“We want to know how many people are benefitting from such indices,” he said.
Other than mobile number portability, the government is now working on the portability of services from mobile financial service (MSF) providers as well, he said.
Anir Chowdhury, policy adviser to the a2i program, said they were working to make Bangladesh one of the top 20 countries with e-government services and top five countries with e-participation.