User Profile

Del Brill

Bio Statement Bangladesh entered the 4G era with much fanfare back in February this year. As expected, the subscribers thronged our retail outlets and walk-in-centres in large numbers to get equipped with the 4G SIMs to enjoy the bounties of 4G service. The device makers quickly joined the mobile operators in the struggle to create the eco-system for 4G services by aggressively pushing 4G devices in the market. Having received the license on February 19, Robi launched its 4.5G service on the following day in all the 64 districts of the country. This was the largest and quickest ever roll-out of a new technology in the history of the country. The intent was loud and clear: Robi is determined to dominate the digital space of the future. Our unyielding commitment to digitalization was evident in the way we carried on taking our 4.5G service to all corners of the country. Till date, Robi has on-aired more than 6,500 4.5G BTSs, covering more than 500 thanas of the country, serving three million unique 4.5G subscribers. Investing Tk3,000 crore on rolling out 4.5G network, we have created the largest 4.5G network of the country. Therefore, being the undisputed champion of the 4.5G service in Bangladesh, Robi quickly answered the call of the Ministry of Posts, Telecommunications, and Information Technology and joined Huawei to organize the first ever 5G summit of the country. When the 5G trial station confirmed that the 5G test has yielded 4.1Gbps speed on July 25, the jaws of the people present at the summit hall, literally dropped. This speed is quicker than our wildest of imaginations, but it was right in front of our eyes. The answer is simple, the world as we know it is changing right before our eyes. Digital disruption is in the process of re-designing the way the industry works across the sectors. What started with a cool smartphone is soon set to evolve into connecting all your cars, homes, factories, hospitals, schools, and all the other public utility services. According to industry experts, there would be 100 billion connected devices in the world soon thanking the 5G technology. What it means is that we are soon going to be surrounded by Internet of Things, artificial intelligence, virtual and augmented reality, and such other technologies. Each of these technological marvels will have consumer level as well as industry level applications, facilitating the creation of a truly connected society. Such a connected society will be designed to harness human ingenuity and channel it towards innovating ever new ways of solving real-life problems to fast-track progress towards sustainable development. We took 16 years for switching to 3G service from 2G, then another five years to enter the 4G era. Now 5G must come earlier; our proud nation deserves it, and Robi is committed to lead the way in the ensuing journey. I strongly believe that the Bangladesh 5G Summit has created the backdrop to start the dialogue for creating the policy framework for the introduction of 5G. One aspect is clear -- 5G will require heavy investment. Unfortunately, given the current profitability scenario of the industry, where one operator makes profits and the others struggle to do so, it would become difficult to convince the share-holders to commit to the investment required. We must rid ourselves from the archaic regulation that stifles progress. Barring the mobile operators from investing in laying fibre optic network, does not help in any ways. Thankfully, steps are under way to unify the on-net/off-net price differentiations; we strongly believe this will go a long way to address the imbalanced market competition that plagues the industry. We would also need to look closely into adopting a robust anti-competitive regulatory framework to bring back vitality in the industry. I would also urge the government to release more spectrum to us at a reasonable price. Blaming the industry for quality of service, while a massive chunk of spectrum remains unused, is not fair. We also need to remove all other roadblocks that slow us down. The country’s digital landscape is changing fast. So, when you are sure about the digital future of the country, you wonder, 5G? So, we need to adopt new technologies to cut cost and make production efficient at the same time," Rahman of BGMEA says. The collapse of the eight-story Rana Plaza building killed 1,129 people and sparked calls for tighter safety regulations in Bangladesh’s garment industry. Those new technologies require new skills. "Female workers are proportionately less knowledgeable about operating different machines compared to male workers," Moazzem says. "As women used to comprise most of the low-end jobs, they have lost the most," Moazzem says. Economists say that while moving to new technology is an important step in improving the efficiency and safety of the garment sector, it shouldn’t be at the cost of women’s jobs. MM Akash, professor of economics of Dhaka University, says despite low wages, jobs at garment factories benefit not only women but also their families and communities. The loss of those jobs, he says, is a bad sign for the country’s economy as a whole. Bangladesh is Google’s new niche. BANGLADESH has a population of 163 million, while the UK and Australia have about 65.64 million and 24.13 million. However, there are some unique characteristics about Bangladesh that make it interesting to Google. They’re perfect for Google’s newest venture — Kormo — incubated inside of its Area 120 program and led by long-time Google-r Bickey Russell. The project also perfectly fits into the company’s ambitions to "solve day-to-day problems of the next-billion users through technology". "Kormo is an app that is trying to help solve the issues in Bangladesh’s informal jobs sector. Employers in the country looking for delivery and logistics support staff, grassroots-level managers, and salespeople, for example, struggle to find the right people for the job," explained Russell in an exclusive interview with Tech Wire Asia. "Similarly, new workers, especially those outside the personal network of those offering the jobs, find it difficult to look for suitable jobs. That’s where Kormo comes in. And although a big challenge for Bangladesh, the problem isn’t unique to the small Southeast Asian country. It’s something countries like India, Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines also suffers from. Their combined population makes for an even more interesting proposition for Google. Russell started the program while in Mountain View, California, but chose Bangladesh simply because he understood the land and the people having been educated in the country’s capital before moving to the UK for his graduate course. Kormo, the Bangla (language) word for work, is well-understood in Bangladesh. When it’s scaled out to other countries, the name might need a re-think and Russell is entirely comfortable with the idea so long as it resonates with the people his app serves. Bangladesh’s new Digital Security Act is an attack on freedom of expression that is even more repressive than the legislation it has replaced, Amnesty International said in new briefing published today (Monday 12 November). The briefing - Muzzling Dissent Online - warns that vague and overly broad provisions of the new law could be used to intimidate and imprison journalists and social media users, silence dissent and carry out invasive forms of surveillance. In the past six years, the Bangladesh government used the Information and Communication Technology Act (ICT) - the forerunner to the Digital Security Act - to arrest more than 1,000 people. "Instead of breaking with the past, where the Information Communication Technology Act was used to arrest at least 1,200 people in Bangladesh, this draconian new law threatens to be even more repressive. "The Digital Security Act criminalises many forms of freedom of expression, and imposes heavy fines and prison sentences for legitimate forms of dissent. It is plagued by a lack of clear definitions, explanations and exceptions, including repressive non-bailable penalties for at least 14 offences. When Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina took her post in 2009, few observers of the region thought the developing nation would ever become a powerhouse of innovation and technological prowess. But fast forward just a few years and Bangladesh’s Information, Communications, and Technology (ICT) sector is producing unprecedented economic growth and opportunity. Under Sheikh Hasina’s leadership, the governing Awami League government introduced a first-of-its-kind plan — known as Digital Bangladesh — that is leveraging digital tools and know-how to deliver government services to the country’s 166 million residents. Its Digital Bangladesh goals envision accelerated development of information and communications technology in both the public and private spheres. Programs long underway are already making many facets of society more transparent and accountable, helping to boost the Bangladesh economy. Because of this concerted digital push, Oxford University’s Internet Institute discovered something remarkable last year: Bangladesh is the world’s second-largest supplier of online labor for companies around the globe, trailing only India. The work includes software development, sales and marketing support and creation of multimedia content. This is the future of Bangladesh — a Digital Bangladesh. 300 million, a more than tenfold increase. The Digital Bangladesh program has already transformed the lives of more than 100 million Bangladeshis. Digital Bangladesh is leveraging digital tools and know-how to deliver government services. The government has built 5,000 digital centers that provide internet and other information technology services to citizens, enough so that no village is more than 2.5 miles away from one. The Teacher’s Portal, with more than 220,000 teachers participating, is an online tool that allows experienced teachers to train less-experienced ones remotely, thereby improving the quality of education. All of this comes at a time when Bangladeshis are rushing online and going mobile. In 2012, 31 million citizens had internet subscriptions. Today, 80 million — or roughly half the country’s population — do. 300 million for Bangladesh’s economy. The high cost of mobile broadband service is constraining Bangladesh from tapping into its freelancing employment potential. Bangladesh is already ranked second in the world for the number of freelance workers in relation to the country’s population, at 16 percent, only trailing India, with 24 percent. With the proper implementation of broadband access — which is coming soon — Bangladesh is poised to be the world’s leader in the IT freelance economy. Mobile phone usage grew from less than 1 percent in 2003 to 67 percent in 2013, which has helped connect millions of Bangladeshis to entertainment, basic communications and social media. To truly become a global leader in ICT, Bangladesh needs to increase broadband infrastructure, which it is doing. Most cable TV operators have already developed a fiber optics system capable of transmitting large amounts of data at a reduced cost. A prime example of expanded technological opportunities is illustrated by Moheshkhali, a small island located along the southeast tip of Bangladesh. It is home to 320,000 people and is one of the nation’s densest, poorest and most remote areas. Many basic educational, medical and government services were inaccessible due to its remote location. As part of its Digital Bangladesh initiative, the Bangladesh government connected Moheshkhali to the mainland with 14 miles of fiber optic cable. The lives of citizens there have improved markedly as a result. Schools are linked to the internet for the first time, finally giving many children a chance to see the outside world. Thanks to high-speed web video, students on the island can interact with teachers on the mainland in real time. Healthcare has also improved. The Digital Island project introduced handheld ultrasonic devices to four community clinics — with more to follow. These will allow doctors at hospitals in bigger cities such as Dhaka and Chittagong to examine and diagnose patients remotely. Bangladesh has introduced many programs focused on giving lower income women and young people ICT skills. More than 3,300 people have been trained under the Women ICT Freelancer and Entrepreneur Development Program, which is aimed at helping underprivileged women. Another example of Bangladesh’s coordinated effort to create a pool of skilled labor is the Skills and Training Enhancement Program, or STEP. STEP offers workers vocational training and gives development grants to 33 polytechnic institutions to improve quality of skills-training programs. Developing skilled ICT human resources is necessary not only to manage the increase in ICT infrastructure, but also to increase productivity, which is necessary for Bangladesh to maintain its robust gross domestic product growth of more than 6 percent annually. Expansion of Bangladesh’s ICT economy has played a major role in this economic diversification effort. Much of Bangladesh’s growth in past years came from the ready-made garment industry. The garment industry employs between 3.5 million to 4 million people and accounts for about 12 percent of Bangladesh’s GDP. 28 billion garment industry is the second largest in the world, only trailing China. While the ICT sector in Bangladesh accounts for a relatively small percentage of total GDP, since the Digital Bangladesh initiative was first enacted, the industry has enjoyed a staggering 40 percent rate of growth in the past several years. With mobile phone subscribers reaching 120 million this year, Bangladesh is now the fifth largest mobile market in the world. Bangladesh’s large population and predominantly flat land have helped the country become a significant telecommunications hub for the region and a lucrative investment for both foreign and domestic companies. Bangladesh’s ICT innovations have not gone unnoticed on the global stage. Consulting firm A.T. Kearney recently selected Bangladesh as one of the top 50 IT destinations in the world. The increasingly skilled technical workforce has led to Samsung and Accenture establishing research and development centers in Bangladesh. Google, Dell and Microsoft are outsourcing many of their technical needs to Bangladeshi Companies. Bangladesh’s ICT companies are also beginning to form partnerships with tech companies from around the globe. These partnerships can be attributed to conferences such as Digital World 2015, which brought 120 private companies and governmental organizations from 25 countries to the capital city of Dhaka for a four-day conference. Note: This article was written by opinion contributor Casey Botticello and originally appeared in Beaming Bangladesh 2019: A Magazine of the Embassy of Bangladesh. Casey Botticello is a serial entrepreneur, private equity investor, and freelance writer. He currently works for a bipartisan lobbying and strategic communications firm. He also manages investments in a number of technology startups through his private equity fund Botticello. Casey is the founder of the Cryptocurrency Alliance, an independent expenditure-only committee (Super PAC) dedicated to cryptocurrency and blockchain advocacy. He is also the editor of several Medium publications, including K Street, Side Hustle, and Wall Street. Previously, Casey worked at several tech startups and in real estate development. He is a graduate of The University of Pennsylvania, where he received his B.A. After a wave of student-led protests in Bangladesh this year, the government is tightening control over social media, especially Facebook. In recent months, the Awami League-led regime has cleared projects that will enable them to keep a close watch on social networking platforms. "We’ll monitor social media, check rumours, and then find out their sources," Mostafa Jabbar, the Minister for Post, Telecommunication and Information Technology said. The government also wants Facebook not to allow information that is against the state to be posted, he said. Since April, the country has been gripped by recurring agitations. In April and May, university students organised multiple protests against quotas in government jobs , which reserve 56% of openings for various categories and 44% are for general candidates. In both movements, social media played a key role in drumming up support. Facebook, in particular, was used to schedule protests and meetings and encourage people to come on the streets. However, the platform was also reportedly used to spread rumours and misinformation, including false reports of students being raped and killed. Ministers in Sheikh Hasina’s government and Awami League members also alleged that Opposition leaders were using social media to fuel disinformation and incite anger against the ruling party. The government has responded to these protests with a massive crackdown involving widespread arrests. So far, 97 people have been arrested for alleged violence and rumour-mongering on social media. Some of these arrests have been made under the Special Powers Act, which allows for preventive detentions. After the protests ended, a government representative called on an official from Facebook and had a long meeting with him, Jabbar said. "Aside from spreading rumours, a lot of anti-state activities were conducted using these platforms," Jabbar said. Jabbar said the Facebook official had been told that if they want to run their operation in Bangladesh, they need to do so by abiding by the laws of the country. "As a sort of a publisher of news and posts, Facebook too needs to take the responsibility," he added. The minister said the government may even block the social networking website if necessary. "The first priority is security of the state and its people," he said. 28 million for mobile phone, email and social media surveillance. This technology will help ramp up the operations of the National Telecommunication Monitoring Centre, which functions under Bangladesh’s Home Ministry and is tasked with providing "lawful communication interception facilities". The Centre is used to tap phone conversations or electronic communication when required by law enforcement and intelligence agencies. The deal reportedly allows the National Telecommunication Monitoring Centre to buy equipment from international firms for remote call interception, to monitor the deep web, and for content blocking and filtering, among other things. This is not the first time that the government has clamped down on social media. In June 2016, the government had made an arrangement with Facebook, Google and Microsoft according to which it can request any information from them in case of any "unexpected incident", which has to be provided within 48 hours. A cyber security law expert, who did not wish to be identified, said that government monitoring of social media poses significant risks to privacy and free expression. Even public social media posts can reveal extensive private details about a person, said the expert. Messages and posts that are not marked public on social media (that is, can only be viewed by those on one’s friends list), may contain especially sensitive information. "In light of the absence of internet privacy law, the government has enormous power over the use of citizens’ personal information and internet activity since nothing demarcates lawful use of user data from its unlawful use," said the expert. Article 43 of the Constitution of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh recognises an individuals right to "privacy of correspondence and other means of communication". However, there are no data privacy or protection laws that outline how this information should be safeguarded. DHAKA -- Bangladesh defies economic and political gravity. Yet, with remarkably little international attention, Bangladesh has also become one of the world's economic success stories. Aided by a fast-growing manufacturing sector -- its garment industry is second only to China's -- Bangladesh's economy has averaged above 6% annual growth for nearly a decade, reaching 7.86% in the year through June. From mass starvation in 1974, the country has achieved near self-sufficiency in food production for its 166 million-plus population. 1.25 per day -- has shrunk from about 19% of the population to less than 9% over the same period, according to the World Bank.