A report of the Economist Intelligence Unit and Internet.org presents rather disheartening data concerning the number of internet users in Bangladesh. It says that 141.5 million people in Bangladesh are deprived from the use of Internet. This places it fifth lowest among internet-deprived countries in the world. Bangladesh doesn’t fare well in the use of Internet either, coming 64th among 75 countries.
The Bangladesh government claims that there are 67 million internet users in the country, that is, 40 per cent of the entire population. But if the EIU research is taken into cognizance, then only 13 per cent of the population are internet users.
The government projects that the country will be entirely digitalised by 2021, but these figures belie such aspirations. If in a country of 160 million people, 141.5 million are deprived of Internet, it is hardly feasible to be digitalised so soon. The government must take action.
Why is there such discrepancy between the government data and that from outside? Which is accurate and which is inaccurate? Most importantly, there is no room for complacence over 70 million people using the Internet in the country. Just using the Internet one day may add the individual to the statistics of internet users, but that does not fulfill the vision of an entirely digital Bangladesh.
Mobile phones users in the country exceed 130 million. However, high costs of internet use over the mobile phone are a disincentive. Many elements of the Internet are not in Bangla.
Another factor is that a large percentage of internet users in the country do not use the net for any productive purposes, but limit themselves to Facebook, games and YouTube. The government must promote e-commerce, internet-based education and such. This will increase the number of internet users significantly.