Aspire to Innovate-a2i of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the ICT Division of the Bangladesh Government jointly launched a global campaign called ‘Zero Digital Divide’ on 09 September 2023, at the BCC Auditorium of the ICT Tower, with an aim to eradicate digital inequality globally.
Mr. Zunaid Ahmed Palak, MP, the Hon’ble Minister of State for Information and Communication Technology (ICT), and Ms. Kanni Wignaraja, UN Assistant Secretary-General and Assistant Administrator and Director of the Regional Bureau for Asia and the Pacific, UNDP inaugurated the campaign.
The Centerpiece of this ambitious endeavor is the establishment of the e-Quality Centre, designed to ensure equitable access and participation in digital platforms worldwide. The ‘Zero Digital Divide’ campaign seeks to raise awareness about this Centre’s pivotal role in eradicating digital disparities.
During his speech, State Minister Zunaid Ahmed Palak, MP, highlighted the government’s commitment to reducing digital inequality through innovative projects. He said that Bangabandhu has always worked to ensure the equality of the country. His daughter Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is similarly making all-out efforts to reduce the digital disparity of the country’s marginalized people under her visionary leadership. He has provided all digital services starting from internet services right from the village. As a result, discrimination at the marginal level has reduced a lot and the government’s digitization efforts have resulted in significant savings for public service recipients. Specifically, service recipients saved 19.1 billion days, $21.8 billion in costs, and 12.9 billion in visits”- referring particularly to the last mile citizens who have also greatly benefitted.
State Minister Palak emphasized Bangladesh’s role as a pioneer in technology-based public service innovation in the Global South. He noted that Bangladesh has extended its hand in knowledge sharing and technological support, enabling Southern countries to transition from importers to exporters of technology. The country aims to further support digital progress by sharing its technological expertise, thus narrowing the digital divide between underdeveloped and developing nations.
Furthermore, stating that Bangladesh will take a step forward in fulfilling the goal of Smart Bangladesh through the ‘Zero Digital Divide’ campaign, the state minister said that the Prime Minister’s dream of a Smart Bangladesh by 2041 with the initiative of the e-Quality Centre, will fulfill that goal. Bangladesh will take a step forward.
Kanni Wignaraja, the UN Assistant Secretary General emphasized the importance of South-South and Triangular Cooperation to reduce the digital divide between Southern countries and underdeveloped nations. She expressed the United Nations’ commitment to supporting the initiative in creating an inclusive and egalitarian digital society, ultimately launching the e-Quality Centre to meet Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) targets. She said, ‘Bangladesh has a ray of hope. Here we are witnessing a lot of improvements. In 2010, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina & former head of UNDP Helen Clark, jointly inaugurated what is now a network of 9000 digital centres across the country but they started it from a remote island called Char Kukrimukri.’
‘And now, in partnership with UNDP, the Bangladesh government is taking another audacious step forward: the launch of the ‘Zero Digital Divide’ campaign. This initiative is not just a mere slogan; it’s a commitment to ensuring that no one is left behind in the digital revolution,’ Kanni Wignaraja, further added.
The campaign launch ceremony also featured speeches from H.E. Ambassador A F M Gousal Azam Sarker, Chairman of Bangladesh Institute of International and Strategic Studies (BIISS); Anir Chowdhury, Policy Advisor of a2i; Farida Yasmin, President of the National Press Club; and Nasima Akhtar Nisha, Founder of Women and E-Commerce Forum (WE) and Ms. Mohua Paul, co-founder of Access Bangladesh Foundation and Regional Representative, Commonwealth Disabled Peoples Forum (CDPF). The event was presided over by Md. Mamunur Rashid Bhuiyan, Project Director (Joint Secretary) of the a2i.
Purabi Matin, Head of Culture and Communications of a2i, delivered the keynote presentation of the global campaign, which was attended by Stefan Liller, UNDP Resident Representative in Bangladesh and Mr. Mohammad Navid Safiullah, Additional Secretary, Information and Communication Technology Division. This event was attended by officials from public and private organizations, including the Division of Information and Communication Technology, UNDP, and a2i.