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Visitors at the Digital World Expo in June 2014.
Visitors at the Digital World Expo in June 2014.

The concept of ‘Digital Bangladesh’, adopted by the current government, has been a major leap ahead to embrace the immense possibilities of modern civilisation. I think it is safe to say that the positive changes brought about by this agenda have been innumerable.

However, like most things information technology comes with its fair share of adverse effects. Even major life-saving drugs today have substantial side-effects. Nonetheless, people are using life-saving drugs like chemotherapy. Scientists, instead of asking people not to use those drugs, are working on how to make them safer, minimising the side-effects.

So IT has had severe side-effects in Bangladesh too. While it is easy to submit tax returns online, making our lives easier, it is also very easy for a criminal to post a video clip of a rape online. The same technology that lets us transfer information over large distances in a matter of seconds, also makes it impossible to stop the spread of confidential information (the alleged question leaks, for example). So, do we stop using IT altogether? The answer is surely no. But we do have to be very cautious, aware and well-equipped to prevent the possible side-effects of IT.

The proposed ICT Hackathon, to be held in December 6-7, 2014, aspires to “feature social-public related issues as problem statement and ask the participants to innovate new solutions to solve the problems.” It is a laudable initiative to advance the application of IT in solving our problems, and more so to do it by our own human resources. It can be assumed that Bangladesh’s IT sector will keep growing to include many other sectors including health. And the side-effects will be even worse for even a minute leakage in the safety and confidentiality protocol in health sector. There will be serious ethical issues in any such disaster.

We do have many Bangladeshi IT security experts of global stature. For example, Dr. Ragib Hasan is an Assistant Professor working at SECRET Lab at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. He has been teaching IT security, and has been writing on this particular issue. I am sure there are many such experts who will be willing to help us with that.

We do have bylaws to punish people for wrongdoing in this aspect, but prevention is better than cure, as always. More rigorous safety and security measures are mandated. The advocacy of keeping away from Digital Bangladesh, blaming its side-effects, is surely analogous to suggesting decapitation for headache. However, not taking adequate precaution to prevent headache is not justified and ethical either!

One Response to “Digital Bangladesh: information safety first”

  1. Syed Imtiaz Ali

    A very apt and informative as well as cautionary piece. This is seriously to be taken into account for even national safety and security. I am sure those who are working at it are adequately focused and should seek expert opinion/consultation where necessary.

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