Saturday, May 18, 2013

Media Blackout in Digital Bangladesh is complete

History is being made by the second. History is being made every day. 

The 17th of May, 2013 was World Telecommunication and Information Association Day. The purpose of World Telecommunication and Information Society Day (WTISD) is to help raise awareness of the possibilities that the use of the Internet and other information and communication technologies (ICT) can bring to societies and economies, as well as of ways to bridge the digital divide.

Ghana, on the 16th of May, launched its first ever satellite into space. Scientists at the Intelligence Space Systems Laboratory of the All Nations University in Koforidua, have launched the CanSat, a miniature satellite 5 inches in diameter and 8 inches in height, with a powerful camera attached to it. Experts say Ghana is probably a good five years or more from developing its own operational satellites, which could one day be used to confront everything from natural disasters to the smuggling of natural resources. Perhaps in anguish at the above development, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on Friday the 17th of May said that works for launching ‘Bangabandhu-1’ – the first satellite of Bangladesh – had progressed ‘a lot’. She added that her government was prioritizing the IT and telecommunication sectors.

What she failed to mention that on the 16th of May, her government had done the opposite of what she had been preaching. 

To the bulk of us, a Digital Bangladesh meant easier access in terms of download and upload speeds. To the government of Sheikh Hasina, the concept of Digital Bangladesh is a bit warped. The commercial nature of the Digital Bangladesh dream is clear when we look at the following information. According to banglanews24, every gigabyte of data purchased by the mobile phone operators such as Grameenphone and the others from the government costs 5 to 15 taka. Yet customers get that 1 GB at 300 taka (345 taka including VAT). A more atrocious condition is observed in the smaller data packs. Grameenphone gifts you a 15 MB data pack at 35 taka, Banglalink a 20 MB pack at 23 taka, and Robi a 1 GB pack at 275 taka. Compare that to India where 1 GB is available for about 70 taka.  

The more evident facet of the Digital Bangladesh dream dreamed up Hasina herself is the cutting of internet speed along with the slashing of prices that apparently have not benefited the end user one bit. The newest of the new in establishing the goal to a Digital Bangladesh decrees the slashing of upload bandwidth by the Bangladesh Telecommunications Regulatory Commission (BTRC). On the 16th of May, a day before the World Telecommunication and Information Association Day, the telecoms regulator has asked the international internet gateway operators to reduce upload bandwidth of the ISPs by 75 percent. The lame excuse doled out was an effort to prevent illegal VoIP. A nice blog post by Nabil Ahsan details the apparently facetious nature of the official Digital Bangladesh endorsed and implemented by the government of Bangladesh.
Activists and concerned international media personnel have seen through the façade. This was a move to suppress. 
As one internet activist wrote on his blog, “In a time of political contestation this cannot be read as a simple managerial issue targeting illegal Voice over IP traffic. It is very timely for the government in that it hinders further video uploads of its atrocities and creative engagement with the internet.”
Crude but down to the earth, one tweet summed it all up.
Coupled with an already prevalent censorship on a horde of local media and unofficial restrictions on international media, this has become one big media blackout.
The end is nigh.

1 comment:

  1. This article clears all the doubts and confusions that will have issues while pretending & not getting there where they want to. Excellent Article!!!
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