“Bangladesh has been a pioneer in privatizing telecommunications”

How would you define e-content in Bangladesh?

The very concept of e-content is new in our society. We are the world’s eighth largest country in terms of population, but in the absence of solid infrastructural support, it is extremely difficult to achieve high penetration in both urban and rural areas. In the cities, people have just started hearing about e-content as something that is synonymous with website content

“Unicode is supporting lots of Bengali content sites, and we can now see the local language content coming up; that’s very good news”

What is the current status of e-content in Bangladesh?
Though the number of websites is on the increase, the development of e-content does not follow standard rules and regulations. About three years ago, most of our websites were developed only in English. But now Unicode is supporting lots of Bengali content sites, and we can now see the local language content coming up; that’s very good news.

This year, two of our famous mobile operators started GPRS and EDGE service which now help users to access the Internet from mobile phones. Some mobile content has also started coming up to serve the 8 million strong telecom markets. But we are still looking for some interactive TV content. There are some instances of community radio helping out rural users to search for information on the Net. The government has started a project on e-government that is running successfully. Access to the Internet is now growing yearly by 65 per cent. We have more than 150 ISPs (Internet Service Providers) and a submarine based super highway will start from this year. With the Government abolishing import tax and VAT on computer hardware, software and accessories, computer prices have significantly dropped at the retail outlets. All these initiatives are going to play a significant role in enabling Bangladesh to lead the content race.

Which area of e-content (e-health, e-biz, e-culture, e-government, e-entertainment, e-learning, e-science, and e-inclusion) is most developed in your country?
E-content projects are being developed at various levels in different departments of the government. All our public examination results can be accessed through the Internet and mobile phones. The National Manpower Export Agency is now supported by a strong online database. Our stock exchange markets are also monitored through the Internet. Web-based administration has been introduced in a number of government agencies and across ministries. Our central bank, Bangladesh Bank has been automated.
The Government of Bangladesh has formulated the ICT Act 2005 to create a hassle-free and secure environment for e-commerce and electronic transactions vis-à-vis electronic data interchange (EDI).
This act has been prepared following the Model Law on E-commerce adopted by the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNICITRAL).

“Recently a number of companies have also developed their online websites, but in terms of ICT for Development, civil society has taken the lead in developing e-content”

There is also a great demand for email and SMS in local language. There have already been achievements in offering local language services for office documents and mail exchanges through open source applications.

Which sector (Business, Private Sector, Government or civil society) in your country is more aggressive in developing e-content?

In my opinion, the civil society has been quite proactive in adopting digital opportunities, thus creating good amount of content, mostly as a part of their on-going projects and sheer concern and desire to achieve efficiency and transparency. Recently a number of companies have also developed their online websites, but in terms of ICT for Development, civil society has taken the lead in developing e-content.

How would you describe the progress of e-content development in your country?
“Our aim is to build an ICT driven nation comprising a knowledge-based society. We hope to establish a country-wide ICT infrastructure that will ensure access to information by all our citizens,” says the Prime Minister of Bangladesh, Begum Khaleda Zia.
Bangladesh got its first ISP in 1996 with 1200 customers and a 128 kbps shared bandwidth among 3 ISPs. But now we have more than 120 ISPs covering more than 5 million Net users. At the same time we wish to have access to content. The Bangladeshi e-commerce site is being used by all and sundry for the purposes of education, service and even general marketing like shopping for clothes. Local content development has picked up over the last two years following the availability of the Unicode supported local font.

What major initiatives have influenced the development of e-content in Bangladesh?
The government of Bangladesh has declared ICT as a “thrust sector” and has backed it up with a strong National ICT policy. Bangladesh is one of the most populated developing countries and Information and Communication Technology is one of the fastest growing sectors of Bangladesh’s economy. The government envisions knowledge based information society and can achieve that only through a pragmatic utilization of ICT. Our National ICT taskforce is chaired by the Hon’ble Prime Minister.

“Bangladesh has a robust presence in global software and IT-enabled markets”

The ICT infrastructure including telecommunication and data communications has been significantly upgraded through a largely digitalized telecom networks. Significant contributions have been made towards the Universal Service Obligations (USO) by spurring private mobile operators towards action and investment.
Mobile telephony has been growing at an annual rate of roughly 35-40 percent. Access to the Internet has now increased by 65 per cent. We have more than 50 ISPs and a submarine based superhighway. Under water fibre optic cable network is expected to come into effect later this year.
Bangladesh has been a pioneer in privatizing telecommunications. Among south Asian countries, Bangladesh was the first to issue telecom license to a private company. Currently we have more than 80 million people using the mobile network and their numbers are growing every day.
Bangladesh has a robust presence in global software and IT-enabled markets. Recently, Bangladesh was included among the first 20 countries for Business Process Outsourcing under the European Commission. A number of firms in Bangladesh are exporting software and related solutions to countries like USA, Germany, France, UK etc.

List of software export items
• Wireless Application Protocol (WAP) for hand held devices
• Telenet clients system for palm and pocket PC platform
• Content management servers
• Knowledge management software
• Mobile games

“Our rural population is still lagging behind in terms of availability of technology. This will certainly effect the production of e-content”

• 2D and 3D animations
• Video network management software
• XML and ODBC solutions etc
IT Enable services from Bangladesh
• Customized business application
• Web content development
• Internet and e-government tools
• Data conversion and transcription services
• 2D/3D animation and digital video/graphics
• Call Centers
• Business Process Outsourcing (BPO)

What are the major bottlenecks on the path of e-content development?
There has always been a gap between people and communities who can make effective use of information technology and those who cannot. Unequal adoption of technology excludes many from reaping the fruits of the economic welfare. Our rural population is still lagging behind in terms of availability of technology. This will certainly effect the production of e-content.
In most countries, e-content development is significantly dependent on ICT infrastructure and ICT facilities. But, in some, ICT has become part of daily life and e-content development is primarily subjected to the initiatives of an individual/organization/government, etc. In developing and under developed countries, e-content development is largely dependent on ICT infrastructure. What is the situation in your country?
Certainly, only widespread ICT Infrastructure can make us produce more and more e-content. However, recently, local Internet Exchange has been established. The government has also installed submarine cable and underwater fibre optic cable, which will provide high speed connectivity from early 2006.
What’s the future of e-content development in Bangladesh?
I am sure that Bangladesh will move ahead in the next three years. We have extremely talented developers who are creating mobile content for Nokia in Bangladesh.
Which is the most preferred medium (Print, TV, Internet/Web, Radio, Mobile/Wireless) for e-content development?
It is the Internet. Most people equate e-content with web content. But in recent years we have seen the development of mobile content. Besides, almost 100 print media have special pages on ICT.
How do you recognize e-content movement in Bangladesh?
The e-content movement is some what new in Bangladesh. Yet, since 2003, with the initiative of World Summit Award, we have been able to focus on the need and necessity of developing e-content, especially in a country like Bangladesh.
We did try to motivate people to participate in 2003 phase of WSA, but our nominations could not win any international recognition, but the interest were enough to get an encouragement that we must continue the effort to recognize the national e-content producers and link them to international road shows. For WSA 2005, we got excellent support from the Ministry of Science and ICT.
We developed a separate website, to conduct the national nominations. We brought 10 national ICT experts to assist the selection process and prepared a timeline, following WSA specifications, to conduct product evaluation. Our budget was so limited that we could not publicize the event. We relied largely on the newspapers, magazines and online media for publicity.
We got tremendous media support from 15 Bengali and 10 English dailies. The monthly ICT Magazine also provided special coverage. We received about 120 entries and short listed 24. Finally we nominated the best eight for the final contest.

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