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It doesn’t have to be how it’s always been

  • Published at 12:36 pm May 19th, 2018
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Photo: MEHEDI HASAN

It is a bit unfair to expect older generations to understand the innovations of the young, but the world does change, and it is young people who bring in those changes

When Mark Zuckerberg appeared in front of the United States Congress recently, young people watched and shook their heads ruefully.

The grey-haired senators grilling him had no clue what they were dealing with. Facebook was -- is -- an organism, a force of nature, a whole new way of doing things like business, politics, socializing, romance, that simply does not fit into the old way of thinking.

It is a bit unfair to expect older generations to understand the innovations of the young, but the world does change, and it is young people who bring in those changes.

In Bangladesh we talk about Digital Bangladesh -- a wonderful idea. Like a mantra we repeat it, over and over again.

Meanwhile the Digital Security Act looms over our heads.

We have seen stories of people getting arrested for things they have written online, we have seen huge amounts of hate being stirred up over someone’s social media activity.

In recent year we have seen (temporary so far) blockings of Facebook, Youtube, and various other apps.

Faced with a wave of technology they do not fully understand and certainly cannot fully control, various arms of our government resort to moves akin to cutting off an arm when there is a headache (yes, not even the head because even that would be some sort of solution).

But then, if you really think about it, can you really blame Bangladesh?

If a country like the United States, the technological leader of the world, has its senators asking Zuckerberg idiotic questions like “how does Facebook make money?” what can we possibly expect from top brass in Bangladesh, where Internet connectivity continues to lag behind, and true middle income status is still a far cry?

On the other hand, if we want to be digital Bangladesh we have to put our money where our mouth is.

Certain draconian laws that terrorize journalists, bloggers, or simply social media users who dare to have an opinion, are, frankly, an embarrassment to a country that wishes to be seen as a true democracy.

There are no ifs or buts -- we must, as a nation, learn to respect freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and benefits of technology.

Upholding our traditions is a wonderful thing, but as we do so, it is important to look forward.

The world changes -- live with it. The private sector understands this very well.

Look at the RMG industry -- it is always on the lookout for new technologies to improve efficiency. It is fiercely competitive out there in the world, and if we want to do one better over of China, Vietnam, or India, we have to embrace new methods and push ourselves out of our comfort zones.

But those are our entrepreneurs. What about the government?

Are we ready to push ourselves out of our comfort zones and embrace the new?

Are we ready to admit it when we are wrong?

Are we ready to let go of what we think we know, and move into a future that might be a little scary?

Abak Hussain is Editor, Editorial and Op-Ed, Dhaka Tribune.