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TMCNet:  Feature: Even less affluent Bangladeshis benefit from Internet

[December 21, 2012]

Feature: Even less affluent Bangladeshis benefit from Internet

DHAKA, Dec 21, 2012 (Xinhua via COMTEX) -- Million of the less affluent Bangladeshis, including those in the rural areas, today enjoy the benefits from Internet.

Jahangir Alam has been living and working in South Korea since mid-2010, leaving behind his beloved spouse, mother and many relatives as well as friends.

"I don't feel alone although I'm thousands of kilometers away from home, because now I'm always in touch with my wife, mom, relatives and friends via the Internet-based social networking tools like Skype," Alam said.

Lutfor Rahman Bhuiyan, who teaches English at a university in Saudi Arabia, also said, "I could never stay in a foreign country for a long time unless I could share my everyday feelings with relatives and friends at home via Internet-based networking sites.

" "I'm now in a position to talk to any of my relatives and friends any time because most of them are now connected to me through Internet sties," Bhuiyan said.

Bhuiyan and Alam are among millions of non-resident Bangladeshis (NRBs) coming from rural Bangladesh villages who are living and working in over 100 foreign countries. They sent home about 1 billion U.S. dollars in remittances.

The majority of the NRBs are connected to their families, relatives and friends back home via the Internet.

In November 2010, Bangladesh launched rural information service centers to connect thousands of unions -- the lowest tier of local government -- to the Internet in order to give villagers the chance to share the benefits of the new information technology.

The centers in the unions, each comprising several villages, not merely help people contact relatives abroad but also provide social and commercial services and assist in getting public services, such as birth and death registrations, passport and visa support, information on public examinations, new jobs, laws and disaster management.

The Internet was first introduced in Bangladesh in l996 on a small scale with V-sat technology, and after about ten years, the country was connected with outside world through a submarine cable.

The bandwidth consumption in Bangladesh is growing up significantly, Sumon Ahmed Sabir, vice president of Internet Service Providers Association Bangladesh (ISPAB), told Xinhua recently.

He said that in 2006 the bandwidth consumption was only 150 mbps, but by December, 2012, it surged to over 2.5 gbps, showing a robust Internet usage in Bangladesh, a South Asian nation of about 153 million people whose per capita income stands at less than 850 U.S. dollars.

A boom in Internet-based service sector has also paved the way for creating huge employment opportunities, Sabir said, adding that nowadays more and more Bangladeshi are getting involved in Internet-based outsourcing and free-lance or online jobs.

"The Internet penetration is not only helping people get information but also creating a lot of employment in different segments," Sabir said.

Sabir, however, said that the optical fiber network is growing gradually and it will take some time to cover the whole country. " So until then, we have to wait for high speed connectivity," he said.

But in the meantime people in rural Bangladesh are now "wired" as six cell phone companies have already reached almost every nook and cranny of the country. There are now nearly 100 million mobile connections in Bangladesh, covering about two-thirds of Bangladesh 's total population.

Bangladesh, a country still being poorly served by broadband Internet services, made a step forward in October as the country officially entered the next generation of wireless communications when Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina inaugurated the long-awaited 3G or third generation mobile services via a state-run operator Teletalk following successful trials by leading global vendors -- Ericsson and Huawei.

With the launch of 3G system, which enhances the services such as multimedia, high speed mobile broadband, Internet access with the ability to view video footage on mobile handset, millions of mobile users now have access to high-speed 3G Internet through their mobile phones at a relatively lower rate.

"Since 3G has arrived now, even the deaf and the dumb can now communicate with people at home and abroad," said one Teletalk official.

According to Sabir, the Internet now benefits almost every Bangladesh user, from individual private users to the country's IT experts and workers of the ready-made garment industry, which now fetches 20 billion U.S. dollars a year, accounting for 80 percent of Bangladesh's total export earnings.

Bangladesh's commercial banks have already adopted the Internet- based banking system with e-banking services, targeting mainly millions of female garment workers.

"I can now easily send money at the end of every month to my poor father in our village home," said Shefali Begum, a garment worker in Dhaka.

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