Despite the Covid-induced disruptions in the global labor market with millions of job losses, Bangladesh managed to prevent employment shrinkage and retain its growth levels owing to its rapid digitalisation, said Prime Minister's ICT Advisor Sajeeb Wazed Joy.
He made this observation in an article, carried by The Washington Times headlined 'Digital leaps helped Bangladesh navigate the pandemic'.
Reflecting on benefits of the country's digital transformation, Joy said, "The Digital Bangladesh initiative, which started to be implemented 2009, quickly increased internet access and paved the way for multifaceted economic development. In short order, Digital Bangladesh replaced slow, paper-based government services with easy-to-use internet and smartphone-based programs."
"The plan worked. The government created a network of more than 8,500 Digital Centers that provided online services from cradle to grave. In 2008, those services were all but inaccessible; only 800,000 people in Bangladesh had access to the internet. Now, Bangladesh boasts more than 120,000,000 internet users. The internet covers 98% of the country," he added.
Referring to a gamut of government initiatives in the virtual sphere, including 86000 digital classrooms and training for 1.5 million students in information and communications technology (ICT), he mentioned that information technology exports have soared from about $25 million in 2008 to $2 billion in 2021.
"Indeed, freelancing is booming in Bangladesh. The country is the world’s second-largest supplier of online freelancers. According to a survey conducted by the Centre for Policy Dialogue, 50,000 Facebook-based entrepreneurs live in Bangladesh. With about 43 million Facebook accounts in Bangladesh, the platform provides business opportunities on a broad scale. It also proved to be a resilient employment model during the pandemic as work shifted away from an in-person office environment," he further said.
Appreciating the government initiative to launch Bangabandhu-I satellite, he remarked that Bangladesh’s first geostationary communication satellite, Bangabandhu-1, has accelerated digital work. The satellite, which was launched in 2018, extends Bangladesh’s internet coverage to its remotest regions, allowing even rural Bangladeshis to receive telemedicine support, e-learning, and e-banking.
Bangladesh’s youthful population (nearly 65% are under the age of 25) is well-positioned to take advantage of Digital Bangladesh and the new types of employment it affords. Bangladesh retooled its educational system and now graduates 500,000 digital workers annually, Joy further said.
"The fruit borne by Digital Bangladesh ripened at just the right time to address the economic ravages of COVID-19. As the world was still trying to figure out what the new workplace looked like, Bangladesh provided a model because of its rapid digitization and the transition to remote work that it enabled," he concluded.