The number of internet users in Bangladesh is the lowest among South Asian countries as only 13 per cent of the country’s people use internet, according to a survey conducted by LIRNEasia, an Asia Pacific based think-tank.
The findings are part of AfterAccess, an international-award-winning effort to collect reliable data on access to and use of mobile phones and internet in the Global South.
The Bangladesh-specific results of the AfterAccess surveys were released by LIRNEasia at a programme held at the Sonargaon Hotel in Dhaka on Tuesday.
The report was prepared based on interviews of around 2,000 people aged between 15 to 65 years in 42 districts both in rural and urban areas in Bangladesh in November, 2017.
According to Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission, 9.05 crore internet connections are active in the country as of August this year, which was more than 50 per cent of the country’s population.
At the report launching programme, BTRC director general (engineering and operations) Md Mustafa Kamal said they used a separate definition for internet users and if anyone used internet even for a single time in last 90 days he or she would be counted as an internet user.
According to the LIRNEasia survey which was conducted just few months before the launch of 4G internet service in Bangladesh in February this year, about 18 per cent of men and 7 per cent of women were using internet.
‘Bangladesh has the worst gender gap not only in internet use but in mobile phone use as well as in access to mobile phone,’ said LIRNEasia chief executive officer Helani Galpaya in the report unveiling ceremony.
The report said that about 64 per cent of the people surveyed were using smartphone, which was also the lowest among the 18 countries in the Global South.
At the programme, Robi managing director and chief executive officer Mahtab Uddin Ahmed said they were facing huge challenges from the government’s regulation side, which was also hindering their efforts for achieving the optimum growth.
‘Bangladesh is the lowest revenue per-users but highest taxed country; licencing regime is going against time; there is no consistency in the policies as well, which are also hindering investors in their plans to invest more,’ said Mahtab.
Michael Patrick Foley, chief executive officer of Grameenphone, said in the industry they had invested billion dollars as there were potentials but regulatory shift was obstructing them to get growth with the fastest internet.
The LIRNEasia report also found that the urban-rural divide in mobile ownership in Bangladesh was 7 per cent, the lowest among the all countries surveyed in Asia, Africa and Latin America.
After unveiling the survey report, LIRNEasia senior policy fellow Abu Saeed Khan said the report highlighted key issues in Bangladesh’ telecommunications sector and provided deep insights on disparity in use of mobile phones, internet, social media and other platforms.
‘It also underscores the potential for growth of a Digital Bangladesh, and we must use this data to frame future policy, regulatory and industry decisions,’ he said.
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