2 years ago

Experts discuss digital promise and role of governance

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The Economics Study Center (ESC) of the University of Dhaka organised the first panel discussion of the week-long 4th Bangladesh Economics Summit, which was on ‘Digital Promise and the Role of Governance.’ 

The panellists for this session were Professor Mushtaq Khan from SOAS, University of London and Mehnaz Rabbani, Head of Operations and Strategic Engagement and Partnership, BRAC Institute of Governance and Development. 

The session was chaired by Dr Shahadat Hossain Siddique, Professor, Department of Economics, University of Dhaka, who opened the session by describing the premise of the discussion and gave an overview of the digital economy in Bangladesh. 

Professor Mushtaq Khan stated that digitisation enhances transparency but not necessarily accountability. He used the Adhar Card System in India as an example of information asymmetry and how governments might exploit it against minorities. 

Mehnaz Rabbani emphasised gender disparities in digitalisation. She cited the difficulties faced by female online company owners in registering and accessing financial services. 

On the other hand, she emphasised the significance of linking female entrepreneurs with accessible resources. 

During the open discussion, Professor Mushtaq Khan stated that one must grasp the many digitalisation limits, and that economists and policymakers need to understand the political economy to make better decisions. He said that making the digital system more efficient is a huge opportunity for innovators. 

“Digitalisation cannot solve problems of weak governance,” he concluded. 

According to Mehnaz Rabbani's research, there is no clear link between language barriers and low digital literacy, yet internet use is higher in areas with high migration rates. She also discussed the feasibility of adding more intermediaries based on cost-benefit analyses. 

Dr Siddique summarised the session by pointing that Bangladesh is in a transition phase and the only way to embed the system is ‘learning by doing,’ to which Professor Mushtaq Khan added that we have to focus on improving governance and separate politics and governance from the question of digitalisation. 

He concluded by saying that the young generation must be aware of both the opportunities and dangers of the digital economy.

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