Discussion on the outcomes of WSIS - Bangladesh

Dhaka

Our ICT sector is lagging behind for lack of proper nurturing and laxity of different governments brought about by paucity of adequate knowledge. The last elected government had declared the ICT industry as one of the thrust sectors in the country with many colourful slogans and speeches. Many IT professionals and our so-called funding organisations were impressed with the speeches of our last Science and ICT Minister of the BNP led government. Once he was good teacher of physics, but as a minister he often delivered speeches, admittedly with some humorous exaggerations, but these speeches, served up in different events, were all practically the same. He used to say we brought computer to the country much before many Asian countries. Even we are doing more quality works than Indian in some fields of ICTs. But now some are saying the minister said much but did nothing compare to his unique speeches.

Last week I attended a round table discussion at the BNNRC conference room on the post World Summit on Information Society (WSIS) situation. The World Summit on Information Society (WSIS) was a series of United Nations facilitated multi-featured rendezvous to bring hi-tech and cyber blessings to the grass roots level of all least developed countries. The two summits that took place were held at Geneva on 2003 and Tunis on 2005.

Discussion on the outcomes of WSIS- Bangladesh

Shahidul K K Shuvra

Our ICT sector is lagging behind for lack of proper nurturing and laxity of different governments brought about by paucity of adequate knowledge. The last elected government had declared the ICT industry as one of the thrust sectors in the country with many colourful slogans and speeches.

Many IT professionals and our so-called funding organisations were impressed with the speeches of our last Science and ICT Minister of the BNP led government.

Once he was good teacher of physics, but as a minister he often delivered speeches, admittedly with some humorous exaggerations, but these speeches, served up in different events, were all practically the same. He used to say we brought computer to the country much before many Asian countries. Even we are doing more quality works than Indian in some fields of ICTs. But now some are saying the minister said much but did nothing compare to his unique speeches.

Last week I attended a round table discussion at the BNNRC conference room on the post World Summit on Information Society (WSIS) situation. The World Summit on Information Society (WSIS) was a series of United Nations facilitated multi-featured rendezvous to bring hi-tech and cyber blessings to the grass roots level of all least developed countries. The two summits that took place were held at Geneva on 2003 and Tunis on 2005.

Jumbo sized teams comprising fewer IT professionals and more non-IT people of the then government attended the two summits. We were expecting innocently that the jumbo body would bring something substantially fruitful for our nascent info-tech industry. Unfortunately, we have just understood that attending the WSIS summits were just pleasure trips abroad for most of the participants.

The core word of the summits was to bridge digital divide by giving many facilities to the poor countries possessing little or no info-tech. But we have already forgotten the essence of both summits. Virtually there is no government cell to follow up the declaration of the summits. In fact, those concerned in the administration forgot that Bangladesh is one of the signatories of the UN declaration in the summits.

BNNRC, Monthly Computer Jagot and Bytesforall Bangladesh jointly facilitated this round table discussion where IT entrepreneurs, civil society leaders, NGO workers and representative of media attended.

AHM Bazlur Rahman, CEO of BNNRC, started the discussion, “As we know the United Nations General Assembly endorsed a proposal for a global summit on Information and Communication Technology (ICT) issues and it empowered The International Telecommunications Union (ITU) to run the summit with broad scale participation from almost every country. There were many big reports on WSIS in local and international media; Bangladeshi media especially highlighted the trips of our big teams. Now we are totally frustrated by the performance of the teams after the summit. At the time of our caretaker government we should review and access the post summit situation.

The info-tech thinker added, “The two vital issues of the summits: Internet governance and Finance mechanism were undecided as well as overlooked. We need new formula for the cyber world to end US monopoly and dominance over the Internet. Why will a single country control every vital part of the Net? We are against all kinds of hegemony.

IT entrepreneur Abdullah H Kafi, who had attended the summits, said, “The next step of ICT should be to make ICT available for everybody. We are expecting over a billion Internet users by 2020. I think Africa is advancing in this regard, but lack of unification among Asian countries is hindering ICT progress in the subcontinent.

We failed mostly to project our IT problems at the summits and our participants could not play remarkable role there. It was the North American issues that were mostly addressed, our concerns were simply sidelined. Furthermore, the SME issue was out of the table discussion. So, next time we have to take a strong team to address our issues.” The leading computer businessman mentioned.

Nurul Kabir, Director of BASIS, mentioned, “We will fall into a remote island, if we fail to take the right decision on IT at the right time. Civil society should convince our government to implement WSIS declarations and resolutions. I believe some of our government officials have the required ability to understand our problems.

Dr Ananya Raihan, Executive Director of D.Net, said, “There are many private sector initiatives to popularise ICTs even at grassroots level. But I do not know how some unscrupulous people always end up bagging IT awards and funds! They are hampering the growth of ICT.

Narrowing the gap of digital divide was a top agenda from the processing of the summit in 2001. Different groups considered the issue from many different perspectives, while some criticised the issue at both summits. There were the usual endeavours to resolve the problems of poor and rich as well as West and East. But the issue almost failed to take off. There was lack of practical initiative in solving digital divide with sufficient financing.

The governments of many developing countries could not grab the benefits of the summits. Our failure in exploring the summits was more than that of other countries. We had seen few year back, a great number of non-government organisations along with the scientific community, media and businessmen participated in the summits. The proposals of some civil society were indeed remarkable. So we can expect the civil society of our country will go ahead in pressuring the government to take WSIS resolutions seriously and in future they will speak on Bangladeshi issues more broadly at the summit.

In addition, the 11 advisers of the interim government are working on priority basis, managing 6/7 ministries at time is so difficult for an adviser. Determination of the government is to stay in power till 2008. Thus, economic stagnation would be thrust up on us if ICTs would drop from the list of top priorities.

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