The covid-19 pandemic, wars, climate change and the rapid growth of AI have ushered in a new age of uncertainty. The ability of the international order and individual states to deal with these challenges is in sharp focus. Policy-makers are under pressure to come up with long-term solutions.

The SMART Bangladesh agenda has laid out an ambitious, time-bound vision with measurable targets to be achieved by 2041. But the government can’t go it alone. The country can only advance by pooling resources, sharing knowledge and seeking expertise from across sectors. In this issue of WhiteBoard, we look at how collaboration and partnerships are the need of the hour. 

Public–private partnerships have a key role to play in establishing a functional blended learning system, argue Chanchal Khan, Shamsul Huq and Zareen Mahmud Hosein. Teacher training in information technology, content development and provision of technology are areas in which the private sector can be pivotal. 

Senjuti Saha and Yogesh Hooda look at how to foster a culture of excellence in research. Bangladesh cannot make gains in cutting-edge fields like health research without better local PhD programmes. Increased cooperation between industry and academia, more transparency and information-sharing on research funding and a greater emphasis on multidisciplinary approaches are some of the policy options discussed.

A technology-based society will have AI at the forefront. Regulation of AI is a global challenge, but Bangladesh must define its own approach based on ground realities, according to Moinul Zaber and Shahrima Tanjin Arni. A multi-stakeholder approach is essential in developing regulations as AI promises benefits and poses legal challenges across all sectors. 

Labiba Rahman also advocates for a whole-of-society approach, in this case to combat air pollution. This is necessary not only to accurately rank the drivers of pollution but also to find innovative solutions and practical policy measures. A similar approach is needed to combat illegal wildlife trade in Bangladesh, according to Alifa Bintha Haque and Samia Saif. With multiple agencies and cross-cutting jurisdictions dealing with this issue, coordination will be the key.

Also in this issue, James Kirkham and Shamima Ferdousi Sifa look at why the cryosphere matters and Zarif Ahmed makes the case for securitised financial products to aid the country’s competitiveness. Soma Dhar and Neha Goyal address the underreported but critical issue of gender selection in emerging markets.

Truly effective long-term policies require ownership. Ownership requires the free exchange of ideas and open debates. The challenges facing Bangladesh, and indeed the world, cannot be tackled using traditional top-down approaches. Policymaking can not be a closed shop. Here at WhiteBoard, we hope to provide a space where fresh perspectives are welcomed, discussed and fine-tuned. 

Radwan Mujib Siddiq is a trustee of the Centre for Research and Information. He is a strategy consultant and youth advocate. He is also the patron of ground-breaking political history projects such as the graphic novel Mujib and Hasina: A Daughter's Tale, a docu-film. He advises various international organizations and government agencies on strategy and communications. He pursued his graduate studies from the London School of Economics and Political Science.