The GSMA has released a new report that highlights the mobile industry’s unique position to play a critical role in achieving both the Bangladeshi government’s Vision 2021 development roadmap and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Titled “Bangladesh: Driving mobile-enabled digital transformation”, the report notes that by working closely together, the government and industry have the capacity to unlock digital transformation for millions of Bangladeshis, as well as drive social and economic growth for the country. The report was produced in partnership with the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida), the UK Department for International Development (DFID), and supported by the United Nations Development Programme.
“By encouraging the use of mobile technology across all aspects of society, especially driven by government agencies that may not have considered mobile a key tool they can use to achieve their development targets, Bangladesh can potentially leapfrog other developing markets in terms of growth and economic progress,” said Alasdair Grant, Head of Asia Pacific for the GSMA. “The government has already embraced the UN SDGs and incorporated the goals into the Vision 2021 plans, and it is clear that mobile can play a critical role in achieving those long-term goals.”
Vision 2021 is the government’s roadmap for Bangladesh to become a middle-income country where poverty will be completely eradicated by 2021 – the 50th year anniversary of Bangladesh’s independence. One of the components of Vision 2021 is Digital Bangladesh, which aims to bring socio-economic transformation through information and communication technology (ICT). To date, mobile has been an important element in the advances that Bangladesh has made.
“In Bangladesh, Sida focuses on deepening the support to basic health care, gender equality and women's rights, private sector development and the environment, as well as climate change adaptation, said Johan Hellström, Program Manager Specialist, Digital Development, Unit for Global Economy and Environment (GECO), Department for International Organisations and Policy Support (INTEM), Sida.
“Sida believes that mobile technology is a cost-effective – and increasingly essential – large-scale tool for inclusive development. Delivering access to information can help in reducing energy consumption and carbon emissions, and increases the effectiveness of private and public services including health care and financial services.”
“UNDP feels privileged to partner with Bangladesh on yet another transformative development initiative. Long known as a rich laboratory for innovative development solutions, Bangladesh has creatively leveraged the unprecedented availability and use of simple technologies to pioneer simplification of governance and improvement of people’s lives,” said Mia Seppo, UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative in Bangladesh. “With this new engagement, I am confident that Bangladesh will have plenty to offer for other developing nations to emulate, thereby contributing to global achievement of Agenda 2030.”
The GSMA report also lists ways in which the mobile industry can provide applications and services that are vital to a digital society, beyond basic connectivity, including :
- Providing affordable access to basic voice and data services to enable access to e-learning and online teaching networks, in order to increase digital literacy;
- Empowering women, making them more connected, safer, and able to access information, services and life-enhancing opportunities (such as health, financial services and employment opportunities);
- Improving health standards by enabling access to formal and informal health-related information via voice, SMS and apps, as well as facilitate access to a broader suite of digital health services, including remote patient monitoring, telemedicine, digital booking systems and drug stock management;
- Improving agricultural productivity by providing access to nutritional information and effective agricultural practices, as well as connecting remote communities to digital agricultural marketplaces to increase price transparency and reduce volatility; and
- Expanding access to financial services through mobile money, by providing the unbanked with the financial services they need to manage cash flows and save.
Given the progress Bangladesh has experienced during the past few years, it is well on its way to achieving its Vision 2021 goals and contributing to the SDGs. However, several challenges still remain, including population growth, poverty and inequality, urbanisation and natural disasters and climate change.
The report highlights the opportunity for the government and the mobile industry to work together to unlock digital transformation for millions of Bangladeshis, and identifies seven areas in which collaboration could accelerate impact, including closing digital access and gender gaps, increasing digital literacy and improving health outcomes and financial inclusion.