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Year 2014: South Asia seeks to bridge the digital divide


01 January 2015

Ashok Kumar and Rubaina Sangha

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Digital initiatives launched by India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan and Sri Lanka are a stunning reminder of a vital role played by technological interventions in developing countries.

New Delhi: Year 2014 saw South Asian countries use digital technologies not only for fighting widespread economic inequalities in the region but also for bringing about good governance and transparency in the public domain.

A slew of measures taken during 2014 include introduction of e-office suite in Pakistan, plan to set up the first digital university in Bangladesh and Bhutan’s pledge to bridge the digital gap by 2020.

While the island nation of Sri Lanka made the provision of providing ICT training to teenage girls in the country, the new government in India launched the digital India campaign.

E-office suite in Pakistan to promote good governance

The Pakistan government is planning to roll out e-Office Suite for the promotion of transparency and accountability in the government departments. On December 4, 2014, the Minister of State for Information Technology and Telecommunications, Anusha Rehman, revealed how e-Governance was being adopted for better transparency and accountability and for delivering cost-effective public services to people.

The Minister also informed that the present government was planning to roll-out e-office suite at federal level in its pursuit of good governance. The e-office suite is being implemented in Federal Ministries and Divisions in phases and the process is expected to be completed soon. The e-office suite, consisting of six modules will ensure efficiency, accuracy and effectiveness in the government sector.

Bangladesh to set up its first Digital University

With the aim of improving the standard of information and communication technology education in the country, Bangladesh is all set to establish its first digital university.

The new digital university to be established in Gazipur's high-tech park will provide distance and online education. Two Information and Communication Technology (ICT) entrepreneurs will also be represented on the academic council of the upcoming university.

Bhutan to bridge the digital divide by 2020

Bhutan is moving forward to bridge its digital divide, in terms of internet broadband connectivity by the 2020, said Lyonpo DN Dhungyel, Bhutan’s information and communications minister, at the 19th International Telecommunications Union (ITU) plenipotentiary conference, held in Busan, South Korea.

Recognising the high costs of building ICT infrastructure, Lyonpo said that the high internet connectivity costs was a big challenge for the landlocked country. “We’re confident that by 2020, more than 90 percent of our rural population and 50 percent of all households will have access to affordable broadband connections,” the minister said.

Sri Lanka to provide ICT training to teenage girls

Sri Lanka’s national mobile service, Mobitel, along with a leading telecom firm has signed a memorandum with the Open University of Sri Lanka (OUSL) for delivering information and communication technology (ICT) training to teenage girls from farming communities through ‘Connect to Learn’. This initiative includes delivery of laptop computers, broadband internet access and online educational resources and relevant skilling.

Another programme to boost literacy and encourage development throughout the country called e-Library Nenasala Program (eLNP) was launched under the National Development policy ‘Mahinda Chinthana’ for providing free access to computers and internet to people in rural areas.

Indian states to have SMART police stations with automated kiosks

In line with the government's Digital India project, the Ministry for Home Affairs has started the process of building smart police stations with techno savvy features including CCTV, record room, and communication room for wireless, computers, and automated kiosks for filing of complaints by the public.

The Indian Prime Minister introduced the concept of SMART Police (S-Sensitive and Strict; M-Modern with mobility; A- Alert and Accountable; R- Reliable and Responsive; T- Trained and Techno-savvy) during the 49th Directors General/ Inspectors General Annual Conference in Guwahati.

As a first step towards SMART policing, India’s Home Minister Rajnath Singh has decided to establish one model SMART Police Station in each State and has asked the State Governments to submit their proposals with specific location by January 31, 2015. The ministry has decided to allocate specific funds for setting up of SMART Police Stations in each state shortly.

Digital India Campaign: The Indian government started a Digital India drive aimed at providing government services to citizens all over India including the remote areas where mobile phone is used to make an instant connect between people and the government.

The government aims to connect every nook and corner of the country with various ICT facilities like broadband Internet for electronic delivery of services through the use of mobile phones.

 
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