Today’s world is shaped by availability of Information and Communication Technology (ICT). Because global economy is powered by technology, fueled by information and driven by knowledge. This rapid change demands a dynamic renovation in Bangladesh also. To build a knowledge based society, as announced in the national Information and Communication Technology (ICT) policy of Bangladesh, 2009 and reap the benefits of a new economy, Bangladesh needs its young generation to be educated and acquainted with the state-of-the-art knowledge of ICT.
Bangladesh is an emerging economy in the South Asian region and has extensive population. In order to expedite its socio-economic development it is obligatory to turn this people into resource. Due to the geo-economic condition significant portion of the people leave in rural portion of the country. So it is indispensable to incorporate the rural community into the main stream of information technology. It’s a matter of pleasure that present government declared a vision of ‘Digital Bangladesh’ by 2021. Digital Bangladesh is another name of ‘Knowledge Based Society’.
How rural youths are empowering themselves through UISC Entrepreneurships:
“I’m the architect of my own fortune”
-Md. Borhan Uddin (27), UISC Entrepreneur of Dhaka North Union, Gopalgonj, Sylhet.
“I took UISC (Union Information and Service Centre) entrepreneurship training on January, 2010, and started UISC at Dhaka North Union, Gopalgonj, Sylhet. I provide two types of services for the local people; one is necessary information services related to livelihood, and the other is commercial services using ICTs. I earned money from commercial services, like computer and internet training. Now I earn BDT 25, 000 per month from training services. Day by day interests are growing among people, and it becomes a crowd place. I’m really very cheerful with my current position. I go to schools-colleges, hat-bazars, private offices and clubs regularly with multimedia projector to show them digital contents, and discuss about the importance of ICTs in rural livelihood”.
“Local People named UISC a Solution Centre”
-Md. Minarul Islam (30), UISC Entrepreneur, Mohajonpur Union, Mujibnagor, Meherpur.
“The inauguration ceremony of Mohajonpur UISC (Union Information and Service Centre) held on 17th December, 2009, and I got UISC training in January, 2010. In this short period of time, my training knowledge creates an immense impact to community people. The local people named UISC a ‘Solution Centre’.
I provide education, health, agriculture, law & human rights centric information as well as internet, email, computer compose, computer training, photocopy, photography, video conferencing, various government forms, examination results, DV form and visa processing services. People are very happy to get the information and services from the UISC when needed. I also take service charge for those services. Now I’m earning BDT 20, 000 per month on average, and contributing my family as well”.
Bangladesh launched Union Information and Services Centres (UISCs) in all 4,501 unions across the country to disseminate information and deliver government services to all citizens. The formal launch was made on 11th November, 2010 through a videoconference between Hon’ble Prime Minister of Bangladesh Sheikh Hasina, who was at her office in Dhaka, and United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Administrator & Former Prime Minister of Newziland Helen Clerk, who was visiting Char Kukri Mukri union in Charfession upazila of Bhola. Dr. Hasan Mahmud, Hon’ble State Minister for Environment & Yeafesh Osman, Hon’ble State Minister for Science and ICT also joined the videoconference from Char Kukri Mukri union of Bhola and Jashudal union of Kishoreganj respectively. The prime minister called this launch a revolutionary step towards the government's hope to deliver information to every citizen in the country. She said it was a step forward to realizing the dream of a 'Digital Bangladesh'.
UNDP Supported Access to Information (a2i) Programme of Prime Minister’s Office, working to translate the dream of digital Bangladesh into reality. Multiple modes of public private partnerships that are developing around these centres, and the trend is on the rise. Even though the government subsidized the start-up cost of some of these UISCs, it is very important to note that nine thousand youth-entrepreneurs were trained to run these centres, serve local communities and earn a living by doing so. Half of them are women.
Each Union Information and Service Centre or UISC is equipped with digital technologies and human resources to serve local communities: a farmer will be empowered with right information at the right time to maximize agricultural productivity and profit; a poor citizen can request a copy of land records without wasting time and money to visit the upazilla or district offices; a student can apply to universities using text messages without having to leave their villages; a migrant labourer can learn English using digital resources; a patient can consult doctors remotely through video conferencing; a community made vulnerable by climate change will receive location-specific early warnings within seconds. Many UISCs are finding a profitable and socially meaningful purpose as community learning centres also. In near future, these centres will serve as local banks for the currently unbanked allowing subsidy payments to farmers, allowances to the widows, retirees and freedom fighters thereby expanding the social safety nets and increasing its efficiency.
It is true that various catalytic initiatives have also been implemented in the neighboring countries like India and in many other countries of South-East Asia to benefit poor people, particularly in the rural areas. Bangladesh is also trying to catch up, with the assistance of many government and private initiatives to make ICT work for disadvantaged people of the country. In developing a base for skilled ICT professionals, various plans are underway; however, they are concentrated in urban or semi-urban areas. Students and youths in rural areas rarely get a chance to learn computer and ICTs, and thus do not know how this modern technology can be utilized to benefit their rural livelihood. It is understandable that with the poor resource base, it is not an easy task for the government alone to provide facilities and necessary resources throughout the country. Therefore, this vision of Knowledge based Society will come into light if the private sectors as well as Non-Residence Bangladeshi’s (NRBs) play a significant role alongside of Government initiatives.
Capacity Development Assistant, Access to Information (a2i) Programme, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Bangladesh.
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org, Cell: 01712 09 29 22.