The Financial Express

Bangladesh in 2071

Preparing for a changed world, facing unique challenges

| Updated: April 02, 2021 20:40:18

Preparing for a changed world, facing unique challenges

Groups of people from different generations forecast doomsday from time to time. Movies were made, articles published forecasting that the entire civilisation would come to an end soon. And the year 2020 came with the pandemic, as a delayed version of earlier fear.

However, people always tried to overcome using their knowledge, science, and courage. The development of the vaccines for coronavirus is the result of the indomitable spirit of the human race.

Bangladesh has recently graduated from the status of the least developed country to a lower-middle-income nation, progress which was once unthinkable to those who called it a basket case or test case of development.

Of course, we cannot foretell what would happen in the future. However, we may encourage the youths to think of a world that would go through changes and how far they themselves are prepared to overcome the challenges, still not known.

Way to go in technology

In the 50th year of birth, Bangladesh is aiming to progress technologically. Nonetheless, "during the pandemic, it became clear that Bangladesh is yet to be a tech-savvy country," said Fawzia Shuprova, a third-year student of Electrical and Telecommunication at Alma Mater Studiorum- Università di Bologna, Italy. She went on to say, "A lot of my friends from the country didn’t have a proper mobile network in their area, let alone a proper internet connection."

The people living in the remote villages have to come out of their house to receive a mobile network. Even people using broadband keep getting frequently disconnected. "Right now, only 5.0 per cent of the objects around us are dependent on microchip technology. If the research goes the right way, almost 50 per cent of things will become electronic within the next 2/3 decades. For example, books, tables, chairs, and even spoons might have sensors attached to them which would allow the people to find or control them easily," says Rafa Islam, a fourth-year student of Electrical Engineering studying at The University of New Mexico.

Observing the use of technology in America, Rafawarns that Bangladesh can somehow manage with its outdated technology in 2021 but the world wouldn't be the same after 50 years.

Depending on how the government and the citizens are willing to work, the year 2071 could be a dystopian society or a utopian one. Fawzia says, "Dependency on humans would be decreased and the whole world would do most of their work using AI in the future."

All the households might not have working robots, but the dependency on technologies in daily life may touch another level. Streets might be buzzing with more autonomous cars than human-driven ones.

“The country has to create a modification in the root level which is the educational system. The students should have the opportunity to learn all the basics of education firsthand and practically. Students of every age should be allowed to research and apply for internships," suggests Fawzia.

With these opportunities, we can assume, the future generation would grow up to be more self-sufficient and self-conscious.

"There should be enough scope for scholarships. The potential student could receive the scholarship in return for their service to the country in the future," noted Rafa.  

Fintech and connectivity

The citizens of Bangladesh are leaning towards embracing mobile financial service (MFS) which has got an acceleration during the pandemic. According to the World Economic Forum, all governmental services, such as passport and visa applications of this country will be digitised, by 2023.

Every citizen living in the remote corners of the country would have access to a proper mobile network, and they would all know the basics of using MFSs like bkash, Rocket, and Nagad. In 50 years from now, these services might be used in every corner of the country in all sorts of transactions, from paying for local rides to shopping in a departmental store.

And that would be the need of the time because, in 50 years, we might see a world economy running in a complete cashless transaction system.

Currently, development in the e-commerce field, freelancing, IT outsourcing, and various online sectors have helped to advance in both technological and economic terms in Bangladesh.

Pandemic exposes number-driven economy

However, SaeefaSamsad doesn’t want to call them anything more than numbers. This final year Economics student at Jagannath University believes, "Our GDP would surpass many others’ but it would only be on numbers."

There is a widening disparity in society. Also, the pandemic-hit economy has suffered a great deal with 16 million people having lost their jobs since March 2020, according to the Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies (BIDS).

Despite the current uncertainty, one has reasons to be optimistic about Bangladesh’s future. The country encounters a downturn but still, an increasing number of entrepreneurs and startups have kept going. Hopefully, Bangladesh would be ranked among the developed nations by the year 2071.

According to the World Economic Forum, Bangladesh would be able to transform itself into a developed country during the Fourth Industrial Revolution period. Bangladesh is likely to turn into the 24th largest one in the world by 2030.

New parameters to measure progress

Presently, a country's development is measured by its economic factors like GDP. However, Peter Maurer, the President of International Committee of the Red Cross, mentioned in an interview that the coming world might have newer elements to measure growth and progress.“It’s unlikely that traditional measures of the economy will still be relevant. The basis of power will have shifted. New criteria determining influence and status will emerge, like achievements in social and environmental goods. Sustainability, justice, the use of resources, or human development will be important indicators.”

Protection of environment to be a major challenge

The only environmental good that has occurred during the pandemic-induced lockdown is the availability of less-polluted air and a relatively more lucid sky for a small period of time.

Syeda Rizwana Hassan, a lawyer, and environmentalist said during an interaction that Bangladesh has a commendable amount of environmental policies and laws. However, they are not being implemented properly. Bangladesh is one of the very few countries that have any environmental court.

Even though the government has started implementing the environmental law, the nation still lacks enough commitment. So, Bangladesh might have to face serious consequences in the future unless some practices are reversed.

The country might be ranked number 1 consecutively in the category of being one of the most polluted countries in the world, as predicted by analysts. Climate experts have already predicted that by 2050, 17 per cent of the nation’s land might go underwater because of the rising sea levels.

Readiness for natural resource crisis

Natural resources are like a non-renewable blessing in disguise. Every student of Bangladesh knows about the abundance of its natural resources from their textbooks. But, this blessing is being taken for granted.

The drinking water supply pump stays open every day for 3 hours whether anyone's using it or not, says Noshin Tabassum, an Environmental Science student at JU. Hence, a significant amount of water goes to waste in her residing area. 

Sadia Afroz, a 23-year-old student of Environmental Science and Management at North South University, says, "The government and the citizens cannot comprehend the proper exploitation process, let alone utilising them. The number of technological equipment and manpower is also inadequate."

Optimistically thinking, people would be more concerned about the environment and natural resources in the coming days. The environment would be a little less polluted and most of the industries would be able to recycle their waste. Noshin hopes that in the future, "the citizens would be extra careful while using any kind of natural resources."

The world is not always sunshine and butterflies for everyone. Therefore to avoid having to confront a scarcity, "The government has to create a particular framework of environmental policies which would be implemented and pursued appropriately. Adequate training should also be given to avoid mishaps while maintaining the resources," said Sadia Afroz.

Only if the right policies and timely actions are executed, Bangladesh would be able to avoid a predicted scarcity of natural resources before 2071.

"People would probably have to live on cylinder-based gas. The price of gas and oil might touch the sky, there would be groundwater scarcity, and soil pollution, if the tendency to waste does not stop," Noshin cautioned.

The national strategic plan of Bangladesh titled Vision-2041 has mentioned that 80 per cent of the citizens would be living in urban areas. Nevertheless, the demands of these future citizens cannot be predicted accurately. 

According to the World Bank, the citizen's energy demand has also increased by an average of 10 per cent annually in the last decade and the demand could increase twice before 2030. And to meet that demand, Bangladesh is rising high on the back of an increasing number of coal-fired power plants, which is increasing the amounts but damaging the environment at the same time.

Hopefully, in 2071, this nation would be more prepared for being competitive on the global scene in any respect. Maybe, not an alien invasion but unthinkable issues as traffic in the air might arise in the year 2071. Bangladesh and Bangladesh’s new generations would need to be prepared for challenges that would come out of the development the nation is pursuing.

Anan is a student of English at Jahangirnagar University.

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