Bangladesh is primed for a 5G-led digital revolution. The country's government has been dedicated to building strong foundations for a knowledge-based, digitised economy to realise the Smart Bangladesh Vision 2041. Through this initiative, Bangladesh has made substantial progress—put to the test during Covid-19 to ensure continuity in critical areas such as smart cities, digital banking (cashless transactions, integrated banking platforms for single users with multiple back accounts, etc.), converged telecommunication infrastructure, healthcare, education, and greener, more efficient utility systems, in addition to facilitating international friendly trade and commerce.
As the country continues to emerge from the pandemic and recover from the global financial situation, Bangladesh's government is refocusing its efforts to realise its vision for Smart Bangladesh in 2041. This is especially important for bridging digital divides nationwide and digitally transforming not just major economic sectors but also the delivery of public services for key government ministries.
With the country now redoubling its digital transformation efforts, it is on track to generate new economic opportunities (and enhance existing ones) to bring the nation to a new level of competitiveness. Here, 5G, delivered by communication service providers (CSPs) in Bangladesh, will be instrumental in providing ultra-reliable, high-capacity, and high-speed data connectivity to support this revolution.
Accelerating digitalisation and innovation
Technology-driven changes and revolutions are inevitable. Across the world, digitalisation has been the transforming force pushing the revolutionary envelope for industries, boosting productivity, adaptability and sustainability in our modern world. It has the unmatched capacity to enable businesses, communities and governments of all kinds to leverage advanced technologies and streamlined processes for increased efficiency and growth.
Bangladesh is no stranger to digitalisation's benefits. The country is known for the export of its IT talent, which surged during the pandemic. However, domestically, the country is also achieving gains in areas such as banking, education, healthcare, agriculture, utilities, and transport, among others. Reinforcing these sectors' evolution has been the country's focus on strengthening the country's broadband and telecommunications infrastructures, as closing the digital divide is imperative for Bangladesh to drive further innovation to achieve its long-term vision.
5G and the digital divide
What is remarkable about Smart Bangladesh's growth journey is the country's sheer resilience. In addition to needing to chart a development plan post-independence in 1971, the country has also needed to grapple with natural disasters and today, the adverse effects of climate change.
However, this resilience still requires a boost. For the government to meet its lofty aims for 2041, more needs to be done to close the digital divides that prevail across the country.
One of the biggest challenges is closing the digital gap between urban and rural communities, which is required to foster more inclusive, broad-based transformation. Still, even as the government works to connect the country, it must also consider the affordability of broadband and telecom connectivity, along with improving the speeds required to power current Industry 4.0 technologies and newer innovations in the future.
Here is where 5G will make the difference. For one, it can help bridge the digital divide by providing broader coverage and bringing digital services and opportunities to all communities.
This is because 5G, especially when delivered via fibre, can overcome the limitations of traditional fixed-line infrastructure and provide high-speed, reliable broadband access to underserved regions. This plays a pivotal role in bridging the digital divide by delivering a converged network. Simultaneously, reducing the need for multiple parallel communication infrastructures will significantly reduce asset management costs for the government and CSPs, and these savings can then be passed on to end consumers.
Countries such as Canada and Brazil have exemplified how 5G has helped to bridge the urban-rural digital divide. While Bangladesh has its own unique set of challenges and potential, this still highlights the innate value of 5G in improving technology service access on a nationwide scale.
Setting the stage for Bangladesh's brighter future
While Bangladesh has made significant progress towards realising its digital ambitions, there is still much that it must do to ensure that no one is left behind in its transformation journey. The government is already prioritising broad-based connectivity across the country via the Rural Connectivity Improvement Project (RCIP), but more must be done towards digital inclusion. What is fundamental to achieving Bangladesh Vision 2041 is a good alignment among the regulatory bodies and government ambitions, with very clear and articulative government policies and action plans inclusive of all private and government agencies.
Here, 5G can catalyse longer-term transformation using a multivendor convergence network that provides a single platform of economically viable and sustainable connectivity infrastructure for public and private entities. This is especially true as the country has already deployed a 4G Plus network, which has a transition path to a 5G network to bring connectivity and opportunities to all segments of Bangladesh's industry. The stage is now set for Bangladesh, particularly its CSPs, NTTNs, and ISPs, to work with the country's government, businesses, and communities to foster inclusive growth towards holistic socio-economic prosperity.
Arif Islam is the Country head of Nokia in Bangladesh
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions and views of The Business Standard