Digital transformation changes lives

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The Maheshkhali Island, a popular destination for tourists, has now been transformed into a digitalised locality with modern facilities, such as distant education project, health services, e-business through various technologies.

Such a recipient is the island’s Tasnia, a third grader who learns different subjects directly from teachers in Dhaka through video call under the distance learning programme of JAAGO Foundation.

Like Tasnia, several hundreds of other students are being taught by experienced teachers from Dhaka through e-learning.

“A teacher from Dhaka is teaching us English through video conference. We’re enjoying the class and learning new lessons regularly,” Tasnia said.

Anwara Begum, a resident of the island, recently took her 6-year-old daughter to the Upazila Health Complex. As her condition was critical, duty doctor Shib Shekhar Bhattacharya consulted a specialist physician through video conference and prescribed medications for the girl.

It saved a family of unnecessary worries, time and money.

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Availability of technology also led to sprawling online business and employment generation.

Didarul Islam, Marufa Nasrin Lopa, Romana Akter and six other youths launched an online trading platform ‘E-business Centre’ for selling dried fishes produced on the island.

They are supplying dried fish to all corners of the country in addition to local buyers and tourists. These products are also being sold through online shopping platform Daraz.

All these changes were possible thanks to the implementation of a public-private partnership (PPP) project. The ICT Ministry, Bangladesh Computer Council, Korea Telecom and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) jointly undertook the "Digital Island- Maheshkhali" project.

JAAGO Foundation joined the project as an implementing partner in April 2017.

Prime minister Sheikh Hasina declared Maheshkhali as a “Digital Island” on 27 April 2017. Since then, residents in the Moheshkhai municipality and two adjacent unions are being provided with digital services, including e-service centre, digital school, e-commerce centre and high-speed internet for all.

Locals said the project helps local teachers improve their capabilities through e-learning and e-teaching.

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Currently, 25 schools in the island are being provided with high-speed internet. Besides, a good number of students of ten primary schools are being taught directly from Dhaka through video calls.

Patrick Charignon, head of transition and recovery division (TRD) of IOM, said Maheshkhali Island was selected for the project as it is one of the least developed areas of Bangladesh. The illiteracy rate here was higher than other parts of the country. Besides, salinity of the soil impedes crop cultivation. The future of the island was uncertain as youths were migrating to other places.

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The Digital Island Project aimed at creating opportunities for the inhabitants through expanding the existing services under the Department of Information and Communication Technology, he added.

The project achievements include the renovation of an existing tower and installation of giga microwave technology that enabled the residents to access internet with a speed of up to 100MBPS.

Md Jamirul Islam, Upazila Nirbahi Officer (UNO) of Maheshkhali, said the Digital Island is a multipurpose project that connected one of the isolated sections of Bangladeshi people with the world.

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“The island underwent a positive change thanks to the pilot project. The results are now visible. People are availing different services like telemedicine, distance-learning and community clubs. The upazila administration is performing 80 per cent of its official activities through e-filing,” he said.

Moksud Mia, mayor of the Maheshkhali municipality, said inhabitants of the island are being benefited by the project in many ways. Students are getting standard lessons thanks to access to internet.

Currently, the project is being implemented in three unions of the upazila. It should be expanded to seven other unions, he added.

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