July 19, 2024, 11:29 pm

Diplomatic correspondent

2024-06-24 18:19:47 BdST

Dhaka calls for BIMSTEC co-op on digital transformation

State Minister for Post, Telecommunication and ICT Zunaid Ahmed Palak has urged the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) Member States to build a platform for promoting seamless connectivity, cross-border data flow and development-oriented innovation for meaningful digital transformation in the region.

He made the call while speaking as the chief guest at the closing session of the two-day “Regional Consultation on Global Digital Compact (GDC)” held in Dhaka on on Sunday.

The two-day regional consultation was jointly organized by the Government of Bangladesh and BIMSTEC Secretariat.

The consultation aimed to identify and promote shared objectives and relevant priorities towards facilitating a unified voice in the ongoing negotiations on GDC at the UN in New York.

It is expected that the GDC would be adopted by world leaders at the UN Summit of the Future in September this year, said the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The state minister reaffirmed Bangladesh’s interest in digital diplomacy in keeping with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s Vision-2041 of a “Smart Bangladesh”.

As a case in point, he recalled the proposal mooted by the Agency to Innovate (a2i) under ICT Division on a “Zero Digital Divide” at the UN last year. He also highlighted a number of initiatives shared by Bangladesh with other countries in the Global South on digital public service delivery and innovation.

State Minister Palak stressed the need to ensure data privacy and security while upholding human rights and fundamental freedoms.

He said that the government finalized the draft of a Data Protection Act in compliance with relevant international norms and standards.

The meeting Chair Foreign Secretary Ambassador Masud Bin Momen assured of taking forward the momentum created by the regional consultation in Bangladesh’s capacity as the next BIMSTEC Chair.

Among other issues, he underscored the need for promoting digital literacy and human-centric application of artificial intelligence and other emerging technologies.

In his remarks, Secretary of ICT Division Md. Shamsul Arefin proposed the establishment of a “BIMSTEC Centre of Excellence” for sharing best practices on digital connectivity, cyber-security and digital literacy among the Member States.

The UN Resident Coordinator Gwyn Lewis appreciated Bangladesh’s initiative to host the regional consultation around the UN initiative to promote an open, secure and inclusive digital future for all.

She reiterated the UN’s commitment to support countries to follow up on GDC implementation in the coming years, including for ensuring digital inclusion of those lagging behind.

Professor Veranja Karunaratne from the Sri Lankan delegation, Mahishini Colonne, Director (Science, Technology & Innovation) at BIMSTEC Secretariat, and A H M Bazlur Rahman, Executive Coordinator, Bangladesh Initiative for Unified Voices on Global Digital Compact and UN Summit of the Future 2024 also spoke at the event.

The two-day consultation consisted of five technical sessions where BIMSTEC Member States discussed shared priorities concerning five key GDC objectives.

The consultation involved relevant stakeholders, including government officials, academics, entrepreneurs, IT professionals and youth participants.

The technical discussions were chaired by Faiyaz Murshid Kazi, Director General (UN & MEA) of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

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