Increasing use of digital technologies and mobile will be crucial to implementing Bangladesh government’s 2041 perspective plan
Digital technologies and, mobile in particular, will be crucial to implementing the Bangladesh Government’s 2041 Perspective Plan, achieving the SDGs and recovering economically in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a report “Achieving mobile-enabled digital inclusion in Bangladesh”, published on 30 March 2021 by the GSMA.
The report also states that enhancing digital inclusion, by increasing the coverage and usage of the mobile internet, will be essential to maximising the impact of digital technologies on the government’s development aspirations. The new GSMA report analyses the barriers to coverage and usage of the mobile internet in Bangladesh, and concludes with recommendations on how to strengthen efforts to increase mobile internet adoption and support infrastructure deployment.
A virtual roundtable discussion was also organised on 30 March 2021, jointly by GSMA and AMTOB where stakeholders from the government, regulator, mobile industry, and development community discussed how Bangladesh can advance digital inclusion by addressing two of the country’s key barriers to mobile internet usage and adoption: Affordability and Digital Knowledge and Skills.
His Excellency Mustafa Jabbar, Minister of Posts and Telecommunications Division, said, “The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the importance of digital technologies in keeping our citizens connected; and the need to accelerate the progress of digital transformation in Bangladesh. The ministry recognises the urgency of this and remains committed to ensuring that everyone in Bangladesh can utilise the Internet in order to be a part of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. To achieve this, we will continue to work collaboratively with key stakeholders, including the mobile industry, to understand and address the barriers that prevent the people of Bangladesh from using the internet.””
Julian Gorman, Head of APAC, GSMA said, “The internet drives economic growth, so improving access to and usage of the mobile internet remains a key priority for the GSMA. This GSMA report provides insights on what can be done to address the barriers to mobile internet access and adoption. We remain at hand to help both our members and the government achieve our shared goal of leveraging the full power of the mobile internet to connect more citizens and further drive digital inclusion.”
Mahtab Uddin Ahmed, AMTOB President, said, “The report shows us that some parts of the population are still uncovered by mobile broadband networks; and within those areas covered there is a significant lag between 4G coverage and usage of 4G services. Addressing the factors behind these key issues will be fundamental to ensuring a Digital Bangladesh for All. The mobile industry will continue its work to improve access to and usage of the mobile internet, and calls on the government to implement the report’s recommendation to aid us in doing so”
Among the panellists, representatives from a2i, the Alliance for Affordable Internet (A4AI), Bangladesh Telecommunications Regulatory Commission (BTRC), GSMA, and the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) participated. The event ended with a closing note from AMTOB Secretary General Brig Gen S M Farhad (Retd.).
Key findings from the GSMA report “Accelerating mobile-enabled socioeconomic progress in Bangladesh by improving Digital Inclusion”
- The internet and digital technology have played a key role in helping to drive economic growth and societal development in Bangladesh. Mobile, as the primary means of internet access and the principal form of digital technology use in the country, has been at the forefront of this digital transformation.
- 170m mobile connections, serving 90m unique mobile subscribers – a penetration rate of 54% – (December 2020)
- 102m mobile internet connections, serving 47.1m mobile internet subscribers – a penetration rate of 28% (December 2020)
- 1.6m cellular IoT connections (December 2020)
- 32.3m active mobile financial services accounts and average daily transactions of $2.1bn (November 2020)
- $16bn of economic value from mobile technology and services in 2019, equivalent 5.3% of GDP
- 4G network coverage reaches around 95% of the population
- Digital technologies, and mobile in particular, will be crucial to implementing the 2041 Perspective Plan, achieving the SDGs and recovering economically in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Enhancing digital inclusion by increasing the coverage and usage of the mobile internet will be essential to maximising the impact of digital technologies on the government’s development aspirations.
What are the barriers to digital inclusion in Bangladesh?
- Despite the investments of the telecoms sector to expand 4G mobile broadband coverage, which now reaches 95% of the population, 4G is yet to emerge as the dominant form of mobile technology and accounts for only 28% of total mobile connections in Bangladesh.
- This suggests a lag between 4G coverage rollout and usage of 4G services.
- This lag in usage is largely explained by issues related to the affordability of devices, low levels of knowledge and digital skills, a perceived lack of relevance, as well as safety and security concerns.
- High sector-specific taxes, a fragmented licensing regime, as well as issues with the pricing and usage restrictions on spectrum have been identified as barriers to expanding coverage.
- Recommendations to improve digital inclusion
- Addressing the barriers to coverage and usage, to achieve digital inclusion, will require concerted government and regulator action to implement policies and regulations that strengthen efforts to increase mobile internet adoption and support infrastructure deployment.
- Government leadership will also be essential to establish an enabling environment and develop the momentum for greater stakeholder collaboration, including public and private sector consultations on key policies to incentivise innovation and investment in digital inclusion initiatives.
The GSMA report is available at: https://www.gsma.com/mobilefordevelopment/resources/achieving-mobile-enabled-digital-inclusion-in-bangladesh/
 Total unique users who have subscribed to mobile services at the end of the period. Subscribers differ from connections such that a unique user can have multiple connections.
 The penetration rate is unique subscribers as a % of the total population
 The penetration rate is mobile internet subscribers as a % of the total population
 Account with a transaction made in the last three months.