The policies taken by him as the Prime Minister’s ICT Advisor opened a new horizon of ICT usage in Bangladesh as the country continues to improve rapidly in all indicators of technological advancement including mobile phone users, internet users, accessing public services digitally, mobile banking, and earnings from ICT exports. His policies has already contributed to Bangladesh receiving investment from Silicon Valley3. It is a paradigm shift for Bangladesh to reach such a height in ICT from what it had been even less than a decade ago.|
Having a political leaning from family by virtue of being the grandson of the Father of the Nation, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, he was one of the key persons behind enabling Bangladesh to become a lower middle income country from a lower income one for the first time since its independence. Thanks to his vision, complimented by that of the Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, Bangladesh is now set to reach the goal of becoming a higher middle income country by 2021 and a developed one by 2041 by harnessing the power of science and technology.
Life Events Overview
His birth coincided with the birth of the country during the 1971 Liberation War of Bangladesh, and so his grandfather named him ‘Joy’ as a symbol of the nation’s victory. His father Dr. M. A. Wazed Miah was an eminent nuclear scientist. His school education was completed in India – starting from St. Joseph’s College Nainital to Tamil Nadu’s Kodaikanal International School in Palani Hills.
A versatile scholar, he earned his Bachelor of Science degree in computer science, physics and mathematics from Bangalore University. With his tremendous desire to learn more, he completed another Bachelor of Science degree in computer engineering at the University of Texas, Arlington in the United States. Finally, he enrolled in the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University where he pursued and successfully completed the Masters in Public Administration.
Journey Towards Leadership
His journey towards future leadership began when the country desperately needed a way out of the darkness that had taken over it. It was a time Bangladesh witnessed the never-seen-before rise in militancy and now-convicted war criminals overseeing ministries and Sheikh Hasina, now the prime minister coming under constant threats, including the infamous August 21st Grenade Attack in 20044. Amid such a situation, he came to Bangladesh not only to help his mother but also the country.
Later, in 2007 and 2008, the country underwent another black chapter with an unelected caretaker government usurping power with the backing of the then military establishment. The notorious 'Minus Two' formula was put in place not only to rid the former Prime Minister Khaleda Zia, but also Sajeeb Wazed's mother, the then Leader of the Opposition Sheikh Hasina. After Sheikh Hasina was arrested on non-existent charges which was subsequently found to be unsubstantiated5, Sajeeb Wazed took charge of bringing the world's attention not only to the plight of his mother Sheikh Hasina, but also the restoration of democracy in his motherland by launching several campaigns in United States and Europe.
His efforts brought fruition, and the military backed extra constitutional government was compelled to release Sheikh Hasina from prison, following which she has led two consecutive governments having won the national elections in 2008 and 2014 respectively.
His formal involvement in the party made its way on 25 February 2010 as he became a primary member of the Rangpur (the ancestral home district of his late father) district unit of Awami League6. In addition, he joined as a voluntary and unpaid advisor to the Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, looking after the country's ICT present and future, a role which he continues till date. It should be noted that using his mother's position and his own personal reputation among party leaders, he could easily have opted for a top position in the party. However, his humility, willing to learn from the bottom and leadership traits did not allow him to do that.
Working with Youth
An avid supporter of youth, and believer of youth power, he always tried to convince them that politics is for overall development of the country and not for narrow personal gains. In fact, a great amount of his energy has been dedicated so far in convincing youth to engage with political and policymaking roles, personnel and institutions.
He was the first leader to interact directly with youth and listen to their recommendations as to how the country can be governed in a better way. This was the first time that the youth got an opportunity to tell their heart out to a man of his stature in Bangladesh. His first foray into youth engagement started when he launched the social organization "Suchinta"7, which aimed to influence young people to think positively about politics and in general by engaging them in various constructive activities.
As the Chairman of a policy think-tank and research organization called "Centre for Research and Information" (CRI), Sajeeb Wazed has helped design a number of programmes for connecting youth with policymakers such as Let's Talk and Policy Cafe. In 2015, he spearheaded the formation of one of the biggest youth platforms for Bangladesh named "Young Bangla"8, which seeks to connect the various young achievers and change-makers from across the nation, support their work and help them grow further through recognition, exposure and linkages.
Sajeeb Wazed has always placed emphasis on putting down his thoughts and ideas in writing. Several reputed journals including the likes of Harvard International Review9 have carried his write ups when the country was choking into the path of darkness just before the 2008 election. Moreover, he had the reputation of writing many best rated articles on different blogs. In recent times, he has written on various political and development aspects in such international publications as Diplomatic Courier10, the Diplomat11, and the Washington Times12 to name a few. He, furthermore, has proved to be a rare type of his kind in social media interaction in Bangladesh, interacting directly with the people through such mediums as Facebook13 and Twitter14. He was the first political personality in Bangladesh to do so, and many have subsequently followed in his footsteps.
Within days of joining the Awami League as a primary member, Sajeeb Wazed, in his capacity as an IT policy analyst, unveiled the concept paper and action plan for the government’s ambitious “Digital Bangladesh” scheme; to develop a strong ICT industry in Bangladesh and initiate e-governance and IT education on a mass scale. Sajeeb Wazed emphasized the use of information technology to achieve Bangladesh’s development and governance goals. His aim was to turn Bangladesh into a potential top IT outsourcing hub in the next few years given its various advantages including the demographic dividend. He has unveiled his vision to enable Bangladesh's IT industry to overtake its textiles and readymade garments sector by 2021 in terms of earnings.
Due to visionary approach and attention to details in the ICT sector, in the last six years, Bangladesh has seen a radical transformation and uplift, currently being the 3rd in the world for IT freelancing. More than $300 million was earned in 2015 from ICT exports.
Several hi-tech parks15 are being set up. Thousands of youths are receiving IT employable skills training. Scholarships are being provided to many in the field for further research. Governance and public services are being transformed for the better with the world's largest national web portal of Bangladesh Government, several hundred mobile applications providing essential services and so on.
Digital centres16 have been set up in more than 5,000 union parishads to take the benefits of digitization to the doorsteps of the even the most rural and inaccessible parts of the country. Due to a revolution in mobile and internet usage, Bangladesh is now considered a role model in the world for mobile banking services, receiving applaud from even Microsoft founder Bill Gates17.
Awards and Accolades
In 2016, Sajeeb Wazed won the "ICT for Development Award"18 jointly from the World Organization of Governance & Competitiveness, a tri-nation treaty body ‘Plan Trifinio’, an international NGO ‘Global Fashion for Development’ and School of Business of University of New Haven, Connecticut in support of the First Anniversary of the Adoption of the UNSDGs and the Importance of ICT and Competitiveness as a Tool for Sustainable Development. The award came for his far-reaching initiatives to transform the future of Bangladesh into a digital one.
Sajeeb Wazed was the first Bangladeshi to be selected as a Young Global Leader for the year 2007 as an Information Technology (IT) specialist by the World Economic Forum19. Every year this honour is conferred upon the top 250 young leaders of the world to recognize and acknowledge their professional accomplishments, their commitment to society and their potentials to contribute to shaping the future of the world.
Sajeeb Wazed Joy, The Information and Communication Technology Adviser to the Prime Minister of Bangladesh, Sajeeb Wazed, receives the ICT for Development Award for his initiatives that have helped Bangladesh become a role model for harnessing technology for development.