ICT and Education in Bangladesh
In the beginning globalization is fully believed to be able to lead to greater economic development in the sense of greater market scale, which in turn will increase the gross national product. So people believed that poor countries or third world countries will develop faster, thus the economic gap between the rich developed countries and the third world countries will be diminished.
However, facts show the contrary. It is true that the gross national product of countries will increase, but the gap between the income of the rich and poor countries is also getting wider.
The main reason for this gap is the extra-ordinary growth of information as a result of the development of communications and information technologies in western developed countries which have full control of these technologies. This information boom enables multinational companies to compete with changes in market demands, new products and new technologies, which in turn can boost the economy of a country, increase its efficiency and win global dominance.
On the other hand, in third world countries which are also known as southern hemisphere countries, they have difficulties to seek, to receive, to process and to produce information. The lack of appropriate information at the right time will result in low productivity, low quality research works, and waste of time to pursue information and even to do research which actually had been done by others or in other countries.
Bangladesh as a third world country has a great concern over this deficiency and believe that the digital divide should be reduced so that there will be an economic recovery. Daffodil Group is very much concern about this and we are determined to utilize the information technology effectively to support efforts to increase the national competitiveness. Daffodil Group has emerged as one of the most prominent and experienced ICT and Educational conglomerate in Bangladesh. The Group took off from the incipient period after establishment of Daffodil Computers ltd. an ICT concern, widely known as â€œDaffodilâ€ which came about to be its first successful venture. Quality, trust, service & efficiency are the key performance assets of Daffodil Group, which have successfully been operating in all spheres of business activities ranging from ICT to highest level of education. Keeping pace with rapid economical and technological changes followed by the policy of Globalization, Daffodil Group has outspread their business activities within a short period of time and has been able to emerge as the largest ICT Company and premier education provider of the country.
Digital inclusion: what it is and why it matters
Since the early 1990s, an increasing number of countries around the world have developed programs to address the â€œdigital divideâ€, aiming to:
â€¢ increase availability and use of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT)
â€¢ help citizens and businesses become more sophisticated in their use of ICT
â€¢ encourage a socially equitable diffusion of the benefits of ICT.
â€œBridging the digital divide in and among countries has assumed a critical importance on our respective national agendas.â€
Leaders of the G8 nations, Okinawa, July 2000
"Technology has given birth to the information age. Now it is up to all of us to build an information society. From trade to telemedicine, from education to environmental protection, we have in our hands, on our desktops and in the skies above, the ability to improve standards of living for millions upon millions of people.â€
United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan, December2003
These triple policy goals have been pursued by political leaders both within countries and in promoting international development between countries â€“ underpinning achievement of the Millennium Development Goals. This is not about technology for the sake of technology. Political leaders have focused on the importance of digital inclusion because they recognise that the changes being driven and enabled by ICT present a historic opportunity to:
â€¢ deliver genuinely sustainable development, generating new growth, jobs and productivity
â€¢ transform public services around the needs of citizens, while also significantly increasing the efficiency of public services
â€¢ improve engagement and participation in the democratic process.
ICT: driving sustainable development of the Knowledge Economy
â€¢ The ICT sectors are significant and growing in both developing and developed countries:
- In OECD countries, the ICT sectors contributed close to 10% of business sector GDP - up from 8% in 1995
- China, India and South America, saw average yearly growth rates in ICT expenditure of around 13% during the 1990s, compared with an OECD average of 7%
â€¢ Evidence from OECD countries shows that:
- ICT investment accounted for between 0.3 and 0.8 percentage point of growth in the last half of the 1990s
- Exploitation of that investment throughout the value chain contributes to improved firm performance, helping firms increase their overall combined labour and capital productivity
â€¢ ICT professionals account for 5% of employed people in OECD countries, while around 20% more use ICTs intensively in their jobs. Higher shares of ICT users are associated with higher levels of productivity
â€¢ In the future, business leaders estimate that 85% of jobs in the UK will require ICT skills
(Sources: OECD, Confederation of British Industry)
Given the importance of policy objectives, and the decade long experience of digital inclusion policy around the world, policy makers should now have an increasingly clear picture of what works and what doesnâ€™t. Yet the existing mechanisms for networking and for best practice dissemination between Governments tend not to operate on the real-time basis needed to keep up with the pace of change. Moreover, best practice transfers between countries often fail, because they tend to be based on an exchange of information, rather than on transferring the underlying know-how about the cultural, political and contextual factors which have contributed to success.
Our Priority in ICT Education
In this 21st century no nation can dream of success without advancement of education & ICT. This is more so far Bangladesh with 140 millions people in only 55 thousand square miles. 35 years have passed since we got independence through historic freedom fight. Unfortunately, the country has not progressed; exception of the common mass has remained unfulfilled. With the flow of time no hope of light is in sight; a sense of despair and lack of mission is engulfing the whole nation. Repeated failures of larger and larger dimensions in our national activities and in the international arena are in one hand reducing self confidence of our people and the other giving poorer image of the country in the world. The whole nation is in a vicious circle of non-development. Under these circumstances there must be some initiatives of far reaching consequences to lead the country back to the road of progress. Where else can we take the initiative other then in ICT & education?
There are many examples in neighboring countries where the development of nation has been brought about the improvement of ICT & education, with visionary initiative in the sector. Creation ok Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST), Indian Institutes of Technology, Tata Institute of Fundamental research, Indian Institute of Science are growing examples of initiative in education that have changed technological face of the country. KAIST is widely regarded as a creator of modern Korea. For the last 30 years Korea has invested in education enormously and the result is astonishing as can be seen from economy, scientific and technological progress. The same is true for Malaysia that was sending thousands of students to Australia, UK and USA for many years for education. Now they are developing a commendable education base.
Let me come back to computer education. In Bangladesh for the last 15 years more and more universities opened departments in this field. Nationally we also aspired for changing lot of our distressed people through the golden touch of information technology. Unfortunately, in none of our efforts did appear that computer education should be given some priority. There were directives from the upper level to double intake in relevant disciplines without really giving any commitment to improving ICT facilities and development in education. For the last 10/15 years we have been dreaming to change the socio economy condition of the country through reaping the benefit in Information Technology. Different governments have attached significant improvement to IT calling it thrust sector and so on. Efforts have been made to formulate IT policies in order to expedite and accelerate its progress. Meetings, seminars, festivals, exhibitions on IT have become a part of our life. The government has set up an incubator to facilitate IT development activities and has given tax holiday to our entrepreneurs. But unfortunately none of these infinitives has been rewarded with any mentionable success. A tow billions dollars ambitious target for software export has been set although there is no justifying indication in our performance. It appears that our initiatives are not mission oriented.
Time and again government has instructed to increase intake in computer departments throughout the country with a hope that these graduates will add to the IT workforce. Hoverer, there has been no government institutive to develop laboratory facilities or faculty in universities. While professionals of different fields are able to participate in IT related workshops and other training programs, as far as we know these facilities are almost never available to teachers of computers department of any university. We are aware of our deficiencies and the big responsibilities that have been placed on our shoulders without strengthening it, reinforcing it.
ICT and Modern Society
ICT applications created paradigm shifts in business, administration, financial services, education, publication, entertainment, healthcare, transportation etc. Commercial and business institutions need to accommodate new technologies, protocols and standards. In the circumstances some areas which require special attention for developing nations like Bangladesh are:
- ICT in Management
- ICT in Healthcare
- ICT in education
- ICT in research
- E-entertainment etc.
Global Context of ICT Development
The combination of global telephone networks and the global Internet comprise the larger and most complex machine ever built by man; and information related activities of the modern world are heavily dependent on it. The internet is the largest source of information of all sorts. New opportunities and new ways of solving problems have been opened up by ICT; the following list includes some of them:
- Internet communications
- Online and internet banking
- Electronic funds transfer
- E-commerce and m-commerce
- Virtual factories
- Collaborative research
- Global enterprises
- Exports and import wing W.W.W.
- Virtual institution of learning
- E-Journals & E-Magazines
Modern financial and other services performed globally depend largely on ICT resources. Many corporate bodies use networks having thousands of servers and clients and their Web sites get millions of hits per day. Electronic publishing allows items to be distributed electronically, viewed electronically and printed selectively from anywhere in the world.
Prospects of ICT Globalization
Instant access to multitude if information available through the internet from countless Web sites and quick decision making using such information are essential to be competitive in the present globalization era. The present generation must adapt to new situations some of which are outlined below:
- Instant accesses to information
- Quick decision making
- Efficient management
- Effective governance
- Global culture and global society
- Speeder research and development
- Faster changing in human activities
- Transparency through ICT
- Diminishing importance of political boundary etc.
ICT services did not expand uniformly in the global and e3xpect few countries most nations occupy insignificant positions in the ICT map of the world. Major impediments for slow growth of ICT in many countries including Bangladesh are:
- Inadequate information infrastructure
- Absence of ICT policy
- Poor quality education
- Access of education in rural & remote areas
- Lack of political will
- Digital divide etc.
Effective ICT Environment
Developments have become dependent on effective information infrastructure. Like transport infrastructure for industrial society, internet connectivity, Web contents, Knowledge based workforce and appropriate legal infrastructure for applications of ICT in the present information age.
Digital Divide and Bangladesh
With about 30% of its population, most of the people of Bangladesh live in villages where amenities for ICT are almost nonexistent. Noticeable digital divide in the country can be observed in the following areas:
- Urban and rural populations
- Dhaka and the rest of the country
- Different educational streams
- Rich population and poor population
- Male & female
- Main stream and tribal population
- Lack of education
- GOB & private organization
The city of Dhaka, with the population of about 8% of the total population of the country, is the hub of ICT activities in the country and a huge digital divide exists between the city of Dhaka and the rest of the country in the areas mentioned below:
- University campus
- Academic programs in ICT
- Internet services providers
- Cyber cafes
- Software firms
- English & Bangla medium education system etc.
We aspire a digital divide free Bangladesh with ICT education, internet connectivity and software industries evenly spread over the country.
ICT for social Development
Social development is a very complex issues and ICT should be effectively used for several crucial areas in Bangladesh and a few are mentioned below:
- Eradication of Corruption
- Politics and democracy
- Poverty alleviation
- Urban & rural environment
- Education for all
- Mediaâ€™s responsibilities
ICT in Bangladesh
As mentioned above, the success of utilization of ICT is among others depends on the infrastructure which includes the telecommunication network, the availability of internet facilities, education and the use of internet.
In general the development of ICT in Bangladesh nowadays is less encouraging compared to the developed countries, or even compared to neighboring countries such as India, Myanmar, Nepal, Sri lanka, Pakistan and others.
To give a general picture of the ICT & education condition in Bangladesh let us consider the data quoted from the bureau of statistics of the Government of Bangladesh, 2003 as follows.
Total population-140 million
Rural population as a percentage of total population-76% (estimated)
Key economic sectors-Ready-made garments, frozen foods and shrimp, tea, raw jute and jute products, leather and leather products, chemical fertilizer, handicrafts, ceramic products.
Literacy in the national language(s)-56%
Computer ownership per 100 inhabitants-0.78
Telephone lines per 100 inhabitants-4.64
Internet hosts per 10,000 inhabitants-0.015 (estimated)
Internet users per 10,000 inhabitants-19.04
Internet cafÃ©s/telecentres per 10,000 inhabitants-0.19 (estimated)
Internet users per 10,000 inhabitants-19.04
Cell phone subscribers per 100 inhabitants-3.91
Number of websites in the national language(s)-200 (estimated)
Number of websites in English and other language(s)-600 (estimated)
National bandwidth within the country-68 Mbps (data) (estimated)
National bandwidth to and from the country-112 Mbps (estimated)
ICT and Education in Bangladesh
A. ICT Education
In the development of human resources through ICT education, there are two objectives which are desired to meet the need for skilled human resources: those who can use ICT products (ICT users) and those who can produce ICT products (ICT producers).
Some ICT education which have been done and are still being done in Bangladesh are among others:
1. Formal Education
a. Vocational School program in Information Technology
Through this program it is anticipated to get skilled manpower at the basic level in ICT, who can fill the position of ICT operator, technical support, help desk and web designer.
b. Diploma program in ICT
This program is anticipated to produce semi-skilled manpower to meet the need for skilled ICT manpower for industry.
c. Undergraduate program in ICT
This program is expected to produce ICT programmers, software engineers, analysts and designers.
d. Graduate program in ICT
Through this program it is expected to provide manpower with more specialized skills in the areas of ICT engineering.
2. Non-formal Education (out-of-school)
Besides ICT educational programs through formal educational institutions/schools in various levels, in Bangladesh there are many out of school educational efforts which teach various areas of ICT skills, which covers certain areas for example preparing manpower for responsibilities as network technicians, computer technicians, programmers, graphic artists, animators, operators, Web designers, etc. Some of these non-formal educational institutions or ICT training centers are organized in partnership with foreign ICT training center, while others are totally motorized by local experts.
3. ICT Literacy
a. Development of software in the Bangla language
One of the obstacles to the use of computer for the Bangladesh society is their low mastery of English, so that they are reluctant to use computer. To overcome this obstacle and to support efforts to make the populace ICT literates, the government had issued the Presidential Decree about the Utilization of Computer with Application Programs in Bangla Language through the development of application programs in Bangla language based on an open source platform, LINUX & windows platform.
b. ICT training in schools
The Directorate of Vocational Education has started this program since 2001. Its objective is to train teachers and students in using information technology especially the internet. For this activity the Directorate of Vocational Education cooperates with the Network of School Information, a community of Vocational Schools which are internet users. This network provides the training.
c. Socialization of computer-assisted learning media in High Schools
In 2002 the Directorate of Secondary Education conducted a training program on the use of computer-assisted learning media in cooperation with the Center for Information and Communication Technology for Education. This program was conducted in face-to-face interaction involving 2300 high school teachers from 250 schools in 12 districts.
d. Healthy Internet
There are indications that internet users in Bangladesh comprising mostly of youths, especially use it to get access of negative information such as pornography, racial issues, etcetera. To make community of internet users avoid such negative contents, some private parties motored by ICT Watch (an NGO organization), Association of Bangladesh Internet Service Providers and Association of Cyber Cafe had done a campaign called Healthy Internet. This activity consists of campaigns, training and distribution of information through print materials.
ICT for Education
As mentioned above, to improve the quality of human resources, we had used ICT to expand the educational opportunity, to improve the quality and relevance of education, and to increase the efficiency of the educational system.
Various efforts to use ICT in education are among others:
Starting from 2001, the Ministry of Science & ICT in cooperation with the Directorate of Secondary Education, and the Directorate of Vocational Education are developing an e-learning program. The objective of this program is to improve the quality of education at high school and vocational school levels through the use of internet. But due to lack of coordination and GOB initiative this program is yet to see the sun light. We have a plan to initially 360 upazilla under this program and set up 360 institutes in each upazilla. At this preliminary stage, learning materials are being developed for the following subjects: Mathematics, Physics, Chemistry, Biology, Electronics, and Information Technology.
2. Online Courses
Aided by Daffodil International University we have a plan to provide lectures through the internet for some courses.
One use of information technology for education at higher education is for tutorial purpose for institutions of distance education. BSDI that has made use of tutorial via internet is the Daffodil International University.
3. Joint Research
As a medium which provides for collaboration through the use of information technology, a joint research program has been conducted.
There will be a network of electronic library called BSDI Digital Library Network which is a network of electronic libraries from the DIU central library (Digital Library). BSDI Digital Library Network is meant to support efforts to improve the quality of university graduates, to increase sharing of information among institutions of higher learning and research institutions in Bangladesh.
4. Computer Assisted Instruction (CAI)
This is an off-line instruction program so it does not depend on access to the internet. BSDI have developed computer assisted instruction learning materials for various subject matters and courses. These are interactive learning materials which students can learn on his/her own with minimal assistance from the teacher/lecturer.
Issues and Problems
Issues Concerning Education
1. Preparation of New Legislation Draft on National Education System
At present the government (cq. The Ministry of Education) prepared a Draft on National Education System. The draft also includes arrangement on ICT education and ICT for education. BSDI will follow the draft with minimum revision and implement it in its 360 upazilla based institutes.
2. ICT Curriculum for general school
With the development of a new curriculum for elementary and secondary schools which is competency â€“based, this year the government is doing some limited try-outs in certain schools. This curriculum also includes ICT education which will be taught since elementary school, junior high school and senior high school and vocational school. Hopefully by teaching ICT from the very beginning, Bangladesh will have enough qualified ICT manpower.
3. Preparation of ICT teachers for general school.
To implement the competency-based curriculum especially in correlation with ICT teaching in schools, the government needs to do various activities to prepare the teachers who will teach in schools. We can work with the government to implement the agenda.
4. Increasing the role of non-formal education
Non-degree education to train skilled manpower in ICT needs to be encouraged. Because non-formal education has a significant role, even a decisive role, to help prepare skilled non-degree educated manpower in ICT in the future.
5. Inducing the local government to do its role
With the newly implemented decentralization system of administration, where the local government has autonomy to self-administer in their upazialla, the success of provision and development of ICT skilled human resource will be determined by the role of the local government. As such, BSDI can take a series of activities to induce the local government in socializing; utilizing and providing ICT trained human resources.
6. Promoting private sector participation
The role of the private sector in ICT mastery is very important. Both its role in developing ICT resources and its infrastructure or in developing human resources, the private sector has a very important role. However, we further needs to collaborate with the private sector to take greater role to promote ICT education.
1. Economic Crisis
No wonder the biggest obstacle faced by Bangladesh regarding ICT is the economic crisis. This condition forces the government to prioritize on short term programs to help improve the economy of the general population through social security net, aids to poor students to decrease drop-out rate, improvement of teacherâ€™s welfare, etc.
As such the government has to postpone various programs that had been planned including the program to support education & ICT development. The despondent economy also makes the peopleâ€™s spending capacity shrunk, so they prioritize their spending on primary needs such as food and clothing, so that the need to use ICT to get access to information become the last choice. In that case allocation of huge fund can only solve the problem.
Another obstacle to the development of ICT is the poor condition of the infrastructure, in terms of quantity and also quality. Of course this poor condition affects the ease to get access to information. In connection with the availability of infrastructure it makes access to information costly, which in turn makes the use of ICT low.
3. General public awareness and knowledge of ICT low
The public ICT literacy is still very low. What concerned us most is that ICT literacy among students and teachers are also low, especially those that live in the perimeters or remote areas. We have to take huge public awareness campaign through various media.
The prime objective for Bangladesh â€“ a populous country with cheap labor force â€“ is to turn its huge population to ICT literate manpower of international standard. Our general likeness for education in liberal arts should be shifted to ICT related technological education and our research and development activities in information processing and ICT should be directed to solving indigenous problem.
Poverty and underdevelopment is in-built with our culture. Information propagated across the country by many of our rural bards, preachers and poets illustrate that the world is an inn and discourage material development and accumulation of wealth, and that poverty glorifies a human. For sustainable socio-economy development we need to change this attitude and give proper attention to education & ICT.