ICT and Bangladesh’s blue economy

It is necessary to adopt a collective strategy to tie information and communications technology (ICT) with the country’s emerging policies and expertise of blue economy for garnering economic benefits. The potentials of such a grand design can usher in a new age of poverty eradication and employment generation among the disfranchised population of Bangladesh’s coastal regions.

Recently, South Korean telecom giant KT took an initiative to digitise the island of Maheshkhali in Cox’s Bazar district for enhancing the quality of life through ensuring an access to high-speed internet for people inhabiting Bangladesh’s remote areas – such as the islands along the Bay of Bengal as well as the highlands of Chittagong Hill Tracts and Sylhet Division. Likewise, customised solutions from Bangladesh’s ICT sector can serve stakeholders with basic amenities despite geographical barriers and poor infrastructure.

In order to link the islands and inland areas of Bangladesh’s coastal regions, the government can provide incentives so that enterprises can build base stations over microwave networks, using multipurpose copper wires for intra-island data traffic. Eventually, the residents of the littoral islands and deltaic chars (islets) can benefit as microwave networks also sustain electricity. This is how the age-old problems of electricity shortage can be reduced without further expenses. If the coast is clear, more than 30 per cent of population per island or char is likely to use hi-speed internet initially. Therefore, the implementation of such ICT projects may build a ‘virtual bridge’ between Bangladesh’s mainland and its littoral islands alongside the deltaic chars with a maximum internet speed of 500 mbps.

Moreover, mobile network operators (MNOs) and related ICT enterprises need to come up with tech-savvy solutions like the internet-based telephony and teleconferencing systems. Such technologies allow the students of islands and chars to attain remote education. Indeed, KT decided to provide advanced telephony system KBOX to 12 high schools at Maheshkhali in Cox’s Bazar district. Arguably, this will be a revolutionary way to enhance quality education up to higher secondary levels in the future. Three times a week, Maheshkhali’s schoolchildren are being offered high-standard English classes by experienced teachers based in Dhaka.

Furthermore, experts opined that the internet can also play a significant role in providing healthcare solutions to the disfranchised people of the islands and chars. Emerging hospitals deserve provisions for a mobile healthcare system powered by high-speed internet. Ultrasonic devices are crucial to a speedy medical treatment through electronic knowledge-sharing with mainland hospitals excluding any hardware. Some ICT solutions allow diagnostic features that can detect more than ten types of diseases including diabetes. To be precise, the construction of ICT infrastructure in the coastal and deltaic region can decrease the burden of Dhaka’s centralised policymakers in terms of ensuring healthcare for those areas.

Implementation of ICT policies goes hand in hand with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) designed by the United Nations. The government needs to coordinate the construction of such infrastructure and make room for a wider public-public partnership in this regard. Due to the lack of communication and transportation infrastructure in Bangladesh’s littoral islands and chars, a huge chunk of territories are often considered isolated from Dhaka amidst rugged terrains and hostile weather. A vast network of Wi-Fi facilities with sufficient speed can enable the locals to attain services like education, healthcare or even e-commerce. Thus, improving ICT infrastructure and merging them with Bangladesh’s blue economy policies can serve a noble purpose as disfranchised residents of coastal islands and chars deserve better inclusion in the country’s overall development.

So, the government should develop inclusive strategies to allow a sophisticated but praiseworthy integration of ICT and blue economy. Lastly, providing the isolated segments of Bangladesh’s population with better access to public services with the help from ICT will count much.