With the right tools, can Jogajog succeed?
The Information and Communications Technology (ICT) Division is en route to creating Jogajog, the country's answer to social networking giant Facebook.
It differs from other countries which rely on their own social networking platforms in the sense that it is being developed by the government, rather than a private entity - evident in other countries.
If you look at China, it has its own social media platforms and alternatives to the digital sector- WeChat, Alibaba, Weibo, QQ to name a few, and is commendable, e-Commerce Association of Bangladesh (e-CAB)'s Vice President Sahab Uddin Shipon told Dhaka Tribune.
“However, they are privately-owned ventures. Perhaps the lack of resources in overcoming the challenges to compete with global tech giants might have discouraged local developers until now,” he added.
According to the State Minister for ICT Zunaid Ahmed Palak, Jogajog would enable the local entrepreneurs to create their own online marketplace and group for information, data, and communication in contrast to foreign platforms.
“Entrepreneurs do not have to depend on foreign social media platforms anymore,” said the minister, speaking as the chief guest in the inaugural function of Entrepreneurship Masterclass Series-2 organized by Women in E-Commerce (WE) on July 24.
The ICT minister also said that women entrepreneurs in the e-commerce sector will be able to benefit from using the platform, and he urged them to engage themselves in innovation with honesty, dedication, and transparency through the platforms.
However, how much of the intended benefits can be reaped from such a government-owned platform, will depend on how user-friendly the platform is, as well as its popularity and added benefits.
Farjana Rahman, an entrepreneur who depends on Facebook’s digital marketplace, told Dhaka Tribune: “We entrepreneurs have several issues regarding card transactions and payment for boosting our post or page on Facebook. If a local platform provides me with cheaper promotion rates across a marketplace with ease of access to transactions; only then will I make the switch.”
“A local social networking platform would definitely be a commendable move, but we will not be able to reap its benefits if the number of users is not enough,” Syed Almas Kabir, President of Bangladesh Association of Software and Information Services (BASIS) told Dhaka Tribune.
The government will need to carry out extensive marketing campaigns to make it popular among the users apart from ensuring the platform to be user-friendly, added Kabir.
When asked about data privacy on a government-controlled social media platform, he also said that since it is a localized platform it will be easily compliant with the data privacy guideline that is being formulated, in contrast to foreign platforms.
“However, if the platform was a private-sector venture in contrast to that of the government, it might gain more popularity, as people are unlikely to indulge in an informal form of communication on a platform that regulatory bodies have a hold on,” he added.
According to the Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD), there are nearly 50,000 Facebook-centric entrepreneurs in the country.
During the event, the minister also informed that the ICT department has also developed an alternative meeting platform for Zoom and a vaccine management system protection app to curb the spread of the Covid-19 virus.
Additionally, Alapan, an alternative platform to Whatsapp, as well as numerous streaming platforms and other platforms are also being developed.