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Bangladesh joins the historical celebration of ‘50 Years of the Internet’

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Bangladesh just became a part of the historical celebration of 50 years of the internet. a2i of the ICT Division joined this with a virtual global summit as the campaign partner, while participating in one of the major panel discussions. The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), the world’s largest organization for technology professionals hosted this two-day long event titled- ‘IEEE i50: A Virtual Celebration of 50 Years of the Internet’, in collaboration with People-Centered Internet (PCI), on May 19 & 20, 2024.

Representing Bangladesh, a2i’s Policy Advisor Anir Chowdhury participated in one of the panel discussions titled ‘How can we ensure AI serves everyone, everywhere?’ The other discussants were luminaries like Kate Wilson, Senior Fellow, PCI; Fei Fei Li, Co-Director, Stanford’s Institute for Human Centered AI and Keith Strier, the VP, Worldwide AI, NVIDIA; US National AI Advisory Council.

Anir Chowdhury, reflecting on the remarkable digital transformation journey of Bangladesh, said, ‘In 2008 Bangladesh’s per capita GDP was about $650, internet penetration was less than 1%, and mobile penetration was only 1/6 of the population. But today, our per capita GDP has risen to $3,000, and we have transitioned from a low-income to a middle-income country. Focussing on simplifying public service delivery, he added, ‘Our digital development impacts are being measured through three key metrics: time, cost, and the number of visits required to access government services. Out of the 3,000 services we provide, over 2,400 have been digitized, services delivered 6 billion times, saving about 20 billion workdays, $30 billion cost, and 13 billion visits.

Stressing on the possibilities of artificial intelligence and the government’s commitment in shaping the future of Bangladesh through its Smart Bangladesh vision, he stated, ‘Our journey with AI began around 2016-17, and by 2019, we introduced the country’s first AI guideline and have already drafted a national AI policy too. During the COVID-19 pandemic, we leveraged AI for syndromic surveillance by utilizing data from telcos and community diagnostics. He concluded, ‘In Bangladesh, over the last two years, we have focused on what we call “equality research endeavors” to understand the digital divide better. We concentrated on three areas: Connectivity, Digital and AI Skills, and Service Design. A focus on human-centered, inclusive AI is essential.’

Keith Strier stated, ‘The potential to harness AI, is not just to globally compete with other nations, but within the nation. We need an ai-enabled computational infrastructure to protect the health of the population, to improve the quality of healthcare and ultimately access to services. All these things make livability and quality of life higher.’

Fei-Fei Li emphasized the importance of using AI responsibly. She stated, ‘We want to improve wellbeing. We want to keep the dignity and self-respect of humanity but make the world better. That’s the intention of creating tools, but they do become a double-edged sword because there are different undesirable uses of tools. Some by intention, some are unintended. So, given how incredibly powerful AI is becoming, we absolutely should have responsible use of AI. We should put humans in the center in the design of AI in the development of AI, in the deployment of AI and in the governance of AI.’

‘The Internet has profoundly impacted people around the world over the last 50 years. If we want AI and technology to serve humanity, we must imagine, evolve and work together to achieve a future of increasing opportunity for everyone everywhere.’ – Mei Lin Fung, i50IEEE Chair, Co-founder People-Centered Internet with Vint Cerf.

Tom Coughlin, the 2024 IEEE President and CEO and IEEE Life Fellow Vint Cerf, Vice President at Google and renowned as one of the ‘Fathers of the Internet’, shared insights on shaping a future digital landscape that prioritizes people amidst the growing presence of artificial intelligence (AI). Around 30+ highly acclaimed global tech luminaries participated in 12 panel discussion sessions during the virtual global celebration.

In celebration of its 50th anniversary, three significant achievements were celebrated that greatly influenced the development of the Internet. These were: The TCP; i.e. Transmission Control Protocol (1974), that provided the framework for connecting diverse networks ; The IEEE 802 Standards Committee (1980), which was pivotal in creating global network communication standards, ensuring seamless compatibility among devices on wired and wireless networks and Google’s PageRank Technology (1996), revolutionized web search engines by employing an algorithm that analyzes web page relationships, improving users’ access to relevant information. These accomplishments collectively highlight the transformative impact of technological innovations on shaping the modern internet landscape.

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