Policy reform a must to subsidise ICT, experts say at BIMSTEC talk

Simplifying government policies would help develop the Asia-Pacific Information Superhighway, speakers have suggested at a roundtable discussion of the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC).

Staff Correspondentbdnews24.com
Published : 6 March 2017, 05:44 PM
Updated : 6 March 2017, 06:26 PM

Abu Saeed Khan, a researcher of "Asia-Pacific Information Superhighway", stressed coordination among government policies across Asia.

"Government reforms could meet up 40 percent of Asia's infrastructural deficiency, the private sector will need to do the rest," said the senior policy fellow of LIRNEasia, an ICT policy and regulation think tank active in the Asia Pacific region.

Saeed presented a paper "Rewriting the rule book of regional connectivity" at the talk held at BIMSTEC Secretariat in Gulshan on Monday.

He stressed expanding fibre optic network on the Asian Highway and Trans-Asian Railway route to curb the expense of building an internet infrastructure.

Saeed said that “Internet connectivity in the US is at its peak while the situation in Europe is also satisfactory.”

“But, unfortunately, there is no cross-border connectivity in Asia where 60% people of the world are living. They are entirely relying on submarine cable,” he lamented.

“I do not deny the importance of submarine cable. But we have to keep in mind that this technology is expensive.”

Drawing an example of optical fibre connectivity from Djibouti to Australia, Abud Saeed Khan said “distance is no matter nowadays. Good optical fibre connection can reduce the distance considerably. Djibouti has been used as the central point in connecting Europe and Australia. This is a reality.”

The Lancashire fellow stressed the expansion of the Asia-Pacific super highway. “With this Europe and Asia will come closer. This will be the longest optic fibre route.”

“With the installation of optical fibre route along Asian highway, 32 countries can be connected. They will equally share the expenses and enjoy the benefit.”

“For India, Cox’s Bazar is an important gateway after Chennai and Mumbai. They want to take the internet to north-eastern states.”

He said that “there is nothing called right technology or wrong technology. The important thing is who is using technology effectively and efficiently.”

He said that the regional cooperation concept had been changed in the 21st century, so the BIMSTEC countries and other developing nations in Asia should bring in changes in their connectivity policy.

Citing examples of transpacific railways and super train in China, Sayeed said that “you can see how it saves time and reduces complexity in communication.”

Saeed also said that the train service from China to Madrid and London is an ‘economic bridge’ between Europe and Asia.

“Other routes are opening up. Though railways are a bit expensive that waterways but it save time.”

“Commerce and business are of importance in present day world. People are least bothered about politics and diplomacy,” he said highlighting the Asia-Europe connectivity.

In reply to a question, he stated that “the Asian highway was built when the cold war at its peak. Despite political differences between Japan, China and Turkey, they agreed on building the highway. More than 90 percent of the road is now in use.”

BIMSTEC Secretary General Sumith Nakandala said that “We have to see the issue of connectivity with an open mind. Though we are now connected there are many obstacles in this connectivity. We have to remove those barriers.”

The first secretary of Indian High Commission in Dhaka told the roundtable that “the work is in progress to build rail track connecting Kolkata-Agartala-Mizoram and Myanmar. Bangladesh will benefit from this track.”

Canadian High Commissioner Benoit-Pierre Laramee, Thai Ambassador Panpimon Suwannapongse, Sri Lankan High Commissioner Yasoja Gunasekera, Bhutanese Ambassador Sonam Tobden Rabgye and Nepal Embassy Chargé d'affaires Dhan Bahadur Oli, among others, were present at the round table.

Bangladesh Enterprise Institute President and CEO Farooq Sobhan also attended the programme organised in association with bdnews24.com.