The Financial Express

Inferior digital items, online classes  

Inferior digital items, online classes   

A middle-aged petty businessman purchased a smart phone, his first --- upon entreaties of his daughter. In accordance with the present trend, he had chosen one made by a well-known company. It was expensive by the standard of his monthly income. For the one-year warranty period, the phone performed well with no glitches. Just two months from then, it started showing signs of trouble. At one moment, the phone virtually became inoperative.

The dejected and mentally shattered gentleman rushed to the shop he had bought the phone from. Since the 'warranty period' was over, they referred him to their mechanic who could try to fix the phone's problem in exchange for money. After keeping him in bated breath for two hours, the mechanic returned the phone to the gentleman. Grinningapologetically, the young man said he had tried his best to fix the phone. But he failed. The gentleman now cannot use any SIM in the phone, since a small component of its intricate set-up has gone wrong. The only function he could expect from the smart phone was that offered by the 'Messenger'. For it, he should have a 'Facebook account'. The perplexed man said he didn't have any.

The episode is one of the frequent ones being encountered nowadays in Dhaka and many smaller towns in the country. The mobile phone market remained awash with glitzy,sleek phones even six months ago. After the Covid-19-prompted half-year hiatus, the phone markets at the big-city and small-town shopping centres have once again begun to be abuzz with phone aficionados. Of them many keep allegedly being caught in the maze of sloppily manufactured phones. A vast section of them endurethe disillusionment and pains caused by these 'freshly imported' android phones. Few of them are aware of the know-how of how to pick the genuine phone, and keep themselves from being shortchanged. Quite often, the smart phone outlets point the finger at shady wholesalers allegedly engaged in manufacturing or smuggling in counterfeit electronic products.

 Mobile phones occupy the most dominant place in electronic markets. The products cover all types of digital gadgets.  They include desktops, laptops, tabs etc. A vital aspect of this messy situation is it is the students and school authorities in the main who are bearing the brunt of these poorly functioning digital products. Thanks to the ever-increasing supply of shoddy digital communication products in the country's markets, the future of online teaching is feared to be shrouded in uncertainties. Reports on the seizures of counterfeit digital gadgets were once recurring items in the media. Over the last couple of years, these reports continued to become rarer. Insiders suspect the syndicates involved in supplying sub-standard products are always on the hunt for cunning ways of pushing phony gadgets into the market.

The most distressingly serious impact of low-quality smart phones is feared to be felt in the ongoing digital-school classes. In the urban areas, the mid-term online exams have lately been over. Parents have almost completed the submission of the exam scripts to the school authorities. The results of the exams are expected to be announced online. Despite being a stop-gap solution, the imparting of school lessons to students online has gone a long way in keeping lots of students engaged in curricular activities. The digital communication network has made it possible. With the unabated increase in 'attendance' at the virtual classes, the digital education's taking root in Bangladesh has emerged as a reality. In short, the virtual mode of education enjoys great prospects in Bangladesh --- unlike in many other middle-income aspirant nations. This achievement has enabled Bangladesh to recoup its corona-prompted losses in many other sectors.

It's true that due to infrastructural deficiencies and many other limitations, the benefits of the digital mode of education couldn't be taken to all parts of the country. A most prominent of these impediments is the insufficient electricity coverage of large rural areas. This hindrance has created spaces for the large-scale entry of mobile phones. That these phones can be operated by powering them with purchased mobile data have made them popular in areas without electricity. This has enabled many tolerably well-off youths to procure a smart phone. Before the serious students the smart phones eventually opened a wide vista of opportunities to attend online classes. Even many insolvent parents have put in their best of efforts to buy their sons and daughters smart phones. With the easy availability of these phones at small towns, and even at village markets, youths carrying smart phones now comprise a typical rural spectacle. The scenarios spoke eloquently of bright prospects for school-level online classes. But it may not happen. Given the nearly unchallenged dominance of unscrupulous elements dealing in phony digital gadgets, the future remains vulnerable. Few have ever thought of deterioration of the situation on this scale. Chance purchase of sub-standard android phones, laptops, tabs etc do happen, but on rare occasions. In the recent times, its frequency has increased alarmingly. This could be heartbreaking news for a young student from a poor family. If these alleged syndicates engaged in the backdoor business are allowed to go scot-free, more innocent and unwitting students are feared to fall victim to their evil practices. This might result in the failure of the government's ambitious project of online classes and examinations. At the same time, the authorities should resume their operations against the quarters suspected to be engaged in businesses of low-quality electronic products. The march of digital Bangladesh should remain free of all hurdles, especially at this critical time of remaining connected digitally.

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