My day job, how I earn my living, is technology, and my passion is the effect of technology on society. As a result, I feel I am qualified to make the following statement: People can not eat bytes, and I can assure you that they will not care one little bit if Bangladesh is digital or not if they are hungry and struggling to make ends meet.
When Bill Clinton was campaigning against George Bush Sr. in 1991 (who had 90% approval rating at that time), a Clinton adviser, James Carville, hung a sign in his office that said “It’s the economy, stupid.” This referred to the fact that Bush’s 90% approval rating came from winning the 1991 Gulf War but the economy was getting bad and it will hurt Bush soon. That’s exactly what happened–in 1992 Bush had 64% disapproval, and “It’s the economy, stupid” became immortalized as the phrase that best describes what voters care about the most. We saw another example of this when Clinton was president: despite personal scandals, Clinton oversaw a booming economy and is still hugely popular in the USA–the voters really did not care what he did that did not affect the country or the economy.
There is no reason to think that Bangladeshi voters are any different. They punished AL in 2001, BNP in 2008, and will do it again in 2014 if AL can not deliver on its promises.
So here is my humble suggestion: take care of building a solid Analog Bangladesh before trying to go digital.
In the Bangladeshi context, what does this mean? The answer is simple: Food and essentials prices, law and order, transportation.
First, kill Trading Corporation of Bangladesh (TCB). Since 1974, TCB has never been able to control market prices–so why carry this white elephant?
Second: remove the requirement for government licenses to import food. Why would a marchant need a new license to import Onions or Rice if he already has a license to trade? This only keeps out competition, and makes the Khatunganj syndicate stronger. AMA Muhith spoke last night about breaking up the syndicates. Give everyone the power to import, and the syndicates will vanish on their own.
Third: Accept that police officers are sometimes corrupt. Change the current process called “closing” when a police officer is caught. That is nothing but a joke. The current laws of the republic are sufficient: just enforce them. Establish an “Internal Affairs” department under the ACC, give them the power and the task to root out police corruption and misdeeds, and see what happens. Start with Kohinoor Mia and the other corrupt police officers who framed Joj miah for the bus bombings.
The PM has kept defense in her own hand, and a former DGFI chief, Major Gen. (rtd) Tarique Ahmed Siddik is now her security adviser. Can we expect that crimes committed by the Army will not be swept under the rug any more? Specifically, I am referring to the Chalesh Ritchill Sangma’s death, and the judicial commission that was set up to investigate it. Let us, for once, see that a uniform does not grant a virtual indemnity, and that justice is served. Set one example, dear Prime Minister, and the rest will follow.
Fourth: Ask each Minister to take a public oath that they will not call any police officer and ask them to release any criminal.
Fifth: Establish an efficient mass transit system in Dhaka. Please, I beg you. Just an overhead light rail will do. Start with Mirpur to Motijheel by 2012, and add routes in the next few years if possible.
Then we can talk about a Digital Bangladesh.
J @ Shada Kalo [http://shadakalo.blogspot.com] writes using a pseudonym and is best known for exposing government, military, corporate foul plays through whistle-blowing investigative reports.