About two decades back Prof. Abdul Kader started a monthly magazine Computer Jagat with the hope of popularizing ICT in Bangladesh. He also hoped that a populous country like Bangladesh with so scant natural resources will need to bank upon innovative application of versatile technology like ICT to walk along the path of progress and development. I am sure he would have been utterly disappointed to see the progress Bangladesh has made compared to neighbouring countries had he been still alive. Our ICT developments can be summarized by invasion of foreign software and after so much hue and cry and initiatives we have earning around 33 million dollars compared to 70 billion dollars of India from software export market. Can we name a sector of Bangladesh economy that has been patronized as much and still performed as poorly as ICT that has been strengthened with the ICT Task Force with the Prime Minister in the chair, with a ministry renamed duly and so on?
I must thank Prof Kader for taking initiative with young Zakaria Swapan, a graduate of CSE Department BUET for organizing computer programming contest possibly in the very second year of Computer Jagat. Possibly he understood in spite of all our superficial commitments we may fail to invest adequately in ICT education. Then the only way that will be left for our meritorious young kids to develop their ICT skill is through popular programming competitions. While we usually fail to continue with our initiatives, like continuing with TechBangla 2000, shared office in Silicon Valley, we did not do so in this case. A team of school students participated in a programming contest in Sri Lanka several years later. Then in 1997 Asia Region Dhaka Site ACM International Collegiate Programming Contest was held. Since then Bangladeshi young students did not look behind. Students of BUET could participate in all ACM ICPC World Finals since 1998- such long a streak of performance can only be claimed by 4/5 universities of the world. Not only that in this big league NSU, AIUB, EWU and DU have also written their names although none of our universities are ranked in a list of top universities if its length is 500, 1000, 2000, 3000. BUET somehow penetrates into the list if it is as large as 4000. So just imagine the success of BUET students. BUET team occupied 11th position in the World Finals of ACM ICPC 2000 held at Orlando leaving behind teams from MIT, Stanford, Harvard, Berkeley no to speak of teams from the neighbouring country that could not be ranked. In 2009 the World Finals of ACM ICPC was held at Stockholm. There were 3 teams from Bangladesh and two teams from India. DU team qualified from India and NSU from Malaysia. The only two subcontinental teams that could be ranked come from the soil of Bangladesh. These are BUET and DU. Not only that BUET team became runner up in ICPC Challenge and was awarded in the same podium in which the finest minds of the human races are awarded Nobel prizes.
We have one of the most honourable and celebrated Judge of the world finals and he is Shahriar Manzoor- a BUET graduate and faculty member of SEU. He judges programs of the best young talents of the world. Many of our young ACM programmers have earned name and fame as problem setters, whose problems are being set in neighbouring countries. Not only that Malaysia is now attracting Bangladeshi young talents so that they can do well in ACM programming, our students have been doing well also in programming contests organized by different professional societies and online sites. Performance of our students in Valladolid Site (acm.uva.es/problemset) is very praiseworthy in which in country ranking Bangladesh occupied the topmost position among around 250 countries. The then Prime Minister Shiekh Hasina awarded a cash prize of taka one lac to each of the nine students who performed so well there.
In 2008 10 students crossed the 3rd round as many as Indians. In year 2006 our Istiaque Ahmed Dollar could make it to the top 100 computer wizards selected from thousands of students from around the world for a contest held at New York, and he occupied 81st position in Google Codejam. So we have one of the top 100 young computer wizards in Bangladesh. Can we claim to have such a student in any other discipline or in any form of business or in any other endeavour? This is why many of our students have got lucrative Microsoft, Google and other famous company jobs even before the completed their graduation. Students from SUST, AIUB, NSU and DU have also attained similar feat. This is not only programming contest that we have successes in. Our students have shown remarkable and commendable skill in research as well (www.csebuet.org). It is not only our students our faculty members have also achieved remarkable success. Many of our faculty members have received the prestigious Fullbright scholarship. Professor Md Saidur Rahman and Dr AKM Ashikur Rahman have coauthored/ authored books published by reputed foreign publishers. Similar feat has been attained by Professor MMA Hashem of KUET. Again we may not be able to find any field of science in which such a feat has been achieved.
We have not only created a stimulating vibrant environment in which our university students are developing their commendable programming skill. Many of our faculty members are pioneering current movement of Mathematics Olympiad and Olympiad in Informatics, that too with praiseworthy dividends. Our Math Olympiad students have brought two bronze medals from IMO held in Germany in 2009. Not only that efforts of Bangladesh Informatics Olympiad Committee headed by Professor Md Zafar Iqbal with professors of CSE departments of different universities as members have resulted in Md Abirul Islam, a student of City College, earn the first silver medal from International Olympiad in Informatics held at Plovdiv, Bulgaria during August 8-14, 2009. Abirul Islam topped the list of 8 contestants from the subcontinent- 4 from India, 3 from Sri Lanka and one from Bangladesh. Just imagine the feat that possibly cannot be claimed in any other discipline.
So the best chances that Bangladesh can have in harvesting benefits of ICT is through patronizing ICT education. ICT education should be the highest priority for the government if its commitment for establishing Digital Bangladesh is ever to bring any degree of success.
It should be mentioned here that ICT magazine Computer Jagat throughout its continuous and regular publication have been a source of encouragement for our young talents. As we all know, Computer Jagat initiated the very first programming competition in Bangladesh in September 1992, which played a vital role to encourage all of us in this field, may be it was a defining factor regarding the very success of our students in different international programming contests. Arguably we mast say that Monthly Computer Jagat and success of ICT in Bangladesh is deeply co-related.
Writer : Professor, Department of CSE, BUET