Vision 2021 laid out a clear path to Bangladesh becoming a middle-income country by its 50th anniversary. At the heart of this vision lay Digital Bangladesh, an ambitious plan to accelerate the use of ICTs across the country and drive growth across all sectors. But Digital Bangladesh represented more than hardware, software and connectivity. Instead, it embodied the very spirit of Vision 2021 – innovation, resilience and resourcefulness. Most significantly, both Vision 2021 and Digital Bangladesh were models of people-centric development. They were developed with an intricate understanding of the needs, capacity and characteristics of the population they were designed to benefit.
Digital Bangladesh was neither top down nor bottom up; it was top to bottom. It was everywhere at once, and the whole country was the target user group. The plan was: lay the infrastructure, ensure access and see what happens. The rapid rate of digitalisation in the country over the last decade or so shows that policymakers were right to gamble on innovation. The people of the country proved to be enthusiastic adopters of technology and quickly grasped how to apply it in their daily lives.
In this issue of WhiteBoard, we look at what needs to be done to take the next step in Bangladesh’s innovation journey. Fahad Ifaz examines how technology will be an essential tool in attracting a new generation to work in agriculture. Anir Chowdhury provides a detailed account of the government’s approach to innovation and offers a blueprint for the further digitisation of governance over the coming decades.
Primavera De Filippi and Morshed Mannan look at lessons learnt from the Global South in creating a legal framework for blockchain regulation, while Mohammad Raafi Hossain explains how blockchain technology can be used to significantly increase foreign investment in infrastructure.
The covid-19 pandemic led to an unprecedented turn towards digital payments and Pial Islam charts the trends that have emerged from the data available so far. Finally, Farhana Khan proposes a technological solution to increase lending to Cottage, Micro, Small, Medium, Enterprises (CMSMEs).
As Bangladesh looks to consolidate its position as a middle-income country, it is time to move on from referring to the ‘Bangladesh Miracle’ and start focusing on the ‘Bangladesh Model’. As embodied by Vision 2021 and Digital Bangladesh, this model involves people-centric policies coupled with a focus on innovation and technology. This issue completes our first year of publication, and we would therefore like to thank our readers, sponsors and contributors for their support. We will strive to provide a space where voices, both old and new, can continue debating the most pressing policy choices in Bangladesh.