At the beginning of the 21st century, technology began to level the playing field for entrepreneurs around the world. Over the next decade, this flattening of the global economy has continued with new technological advances. Today, there are more than 150 distinct technologies that are changing the world around us faster than ever before.
As technology quickly eliminates geographical barriers, it has begun to allow a group of entrepreneurs in Bangladesh to compete globally. At the same time, the challenge of widening the digital divide in the local population remains. The successful adoption of modern technologies can help address this challenge effectively.
The economic inclusion of citizens has had some success in Bangladesh. Advances in the successful adoption of computer science in the delivery of health care services have been recognized by the World Health Organization. In addition, information access programs (a2i) provide Bangladesh with digital means. The adoption and proliferation of the right type of technology will help accelerate the integration of people throughout this digital journey.
The first requirement of this trip is to create a digital identity for every resident of the country. The advancement of technology has facilitated the collection of biometric data on individuals; these biometric data can then be used to create digital identities. An identity can be made unique by applying the right kind of technology, popularly known as data deduplication. Subsequently, interfaces can be built for the secure verification of this identity through inexpensive processes and tools.
In this respect, India's digital identity creation program can be a good point of reference. The Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) began creating unique identification numbers for each Indian resident seven years ago. According to the UIDAI website, he has created unique identification numbers for more than 111 individuals crore. This means that the registration took place at an average speed of five people per second. The successful deployment of a program on this scale depended significantly on the deployment of the right technology: technology for data collection, technology for data deduplication and technology for identity authentication. .
For a country like Bangladesh, technology will be important for data collection, especially for the collection of biometric information. Hardware devices must be easily portable because data collection will also be done in remote areas. In addition, hardware and software must be robust enough to operate in environments that are not always clean and supportive. Finally, data collection kits must be inexpensive to ensure their widespread use.
The technology used in the backend will also be very important to keep the collected data secure and yet easily accessible. The complex work of data deduplication can also be effectively managed using technology. In fact, deduplication is necessary to maintain unique identities, thus avoiding profit leaks.
The real benefit of unique identities becomes evident at the moment of identity authentication. Therefore, the authentication process must be fast and error-free. Again, choosing the right technology will help achieve that goal. Portable but secure biometric sensors, a lightweight and reliable authentication technique, and broadband Internet connectivity are key success factors for achieving this.
For example, today, a Bangladeshi citizen must submit a photocopy of his national identity card (NID) when buying a new mobile connection. With an integrated identity authentication process, a retailer should be able to authenticate a point-of-sale client in seconds using sensors and biometric software. This will make the authentication process efficient and robust.
Bangladesh spends tens of thousands of billions of taka each year subsidizing the cost of chemical fertilizers. In an inclusive environment, the government should be able to distribute this subsidy directly to farmers according to their individual rights. This will help the government to optimize the amount of the subsidy and monitor the corresponding production. A similar approach will be effective in distributing food subsidies, cooking gas subsidies and other profit distribution programs.
The achievements of subsidized cooking gas retailers in India demonstrate the power of distribution of technological benefits. These kitchen gas companies collectively identified more than four crore customers as suspected duplicates using the technology. This resulted in a rigorous audit of the beneficiaries and a termination of the duplicate connection. He helped the government prevent further leakage of profits. Through this initiative, the government of India has saved several trillions of rupees. The money saved has helped the government set up a separate program to provide free cooking gas connections to poor families. This speeds up the inclusion of more families to use a cleaner cooking fuel.
Bangladesh already has some of the basic ingredients needed for a successful inclusion program. Currently, the country has more than 13 crore mobile subscribers. Bangladesh also has an impressive clientele in mobile financial services. In addition, the national identity system is able to capture biometric data while creating an individual's identity. A strong framework with the right set of technologies to integrate all of these components into a reliable, efficient and sustainable benefits delivery and monitoring system will accelerate the digital inclusion of the Bangladeshi population.
The author is a partner at PwC. The opinions expressed here are personal.