Joy of big dreams
From the days of Bengal renaissance, dreaming big has been distinct Bengali quality. That is why Gopal Krishna Gokhale said: “What Bengal thinks today, India thinks tomorrow”. Bengal was broken up by the 1947 Partition, but great Bengalis never ceased to dream big in post-colonial South Asia.
Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman dreamt real big, far ahead of his times, as he conjured the vision of ‘Sonar Bangla’ (Golden Bengal). In 1974, as Indira Gandhi’s India exploded its first nuclear device at Pokhran, Bangabandhu drew up an ambitious project to launch a satellite in space.
Revival of his grandfather’s dream is Sajeeb Wajed Joy’s one of the many contributions to Bangladesh, which at 50, is dreaming and making it big. The satellite, named after Bangabandhu, went up in 2018 to make Bangladesh the 57th nation to send a geostationary communication satellite into orbit.
Joy, who has turned 50 today, is widely credited for unleashing the country’s digital transformation, making the Awami League’s 2008-electoral promise of Digital Bangladesh a reality. He also foresaw Bangladesh’s amazing economic turnaround much before it had begun.
As his mother Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s ICT adviser, Joy has presided over the penetration of GenNext InfoTech into all spheres of life – from online schooling to digital monetary transactions.
Bangladesh has got the best of that digital transformation during the coronavirus catastrophe across the world. It managed to keep its economy going through a wide spectrum of digital activities, including telemedicine, virtual court, and delivering money to poor people through mobile platforms and e-commerce. Its better growth trajectory during COVID than its bigger neighbours owes much to this all-encompassing digitalisation.
A University of Texas graduate in Computer Engineering and a Harvard post-graduate in Public Administration, Joy is more drawn to InfoTech than politics. Being the first grandson of Bangabandhu and the only son of Hasina, entry into politics should have come easy and natural to Joy. But he has remained content as his mother’s ICT adviser, pushing for digitalisation in all spheres of national life and creating a unique digital consciousness that will help Bangladesh overcome the forthcoming challenges of economic growth as the country moves to a middle-income economy well before the target dates.
As the chairperson of the Centre for Research and Information (CRI) of Awami League, Joy is giving wings to his dreams to create a GenNext of super-achievers.
With his CRI team, he launched a series of interactive programs with young Bangladeshis. The Joy Bangla Youth Award, the country’s first initiative to recognise, award and network young changemakers, is CRI’s signature programme.
The Joy Bangla Youth Award has helped showcase silent but transformational initiatives – from educating street children in Dhaka to helping the poor and vulnerable tea worker communities in Sylhet. Most global experts credit Bangladesh’s amazing economic turnaround to its silent but more significant social transformation — and Joy’s place as a youth icon is indisputable.
Joy prefers substance, not rhetoric and interviews he gives are marked by straight, simple answers minus the usual jargon loved by the high and the mighty. During the pandemic, he just kept insisting on following health guidelines, repeating the advice again and again until it sank into the national consciousness. Using the CRI’s Let’s Talk programme, he urged young Bangladeshis to act rather than debate endlessly.
Born amidst the turmoil of the 1971 Liberation War, Joy’s childhood was bereft of joy.
As a child, he had to come to terms with the ‘Midnight Massacre’ on the fateful night of Aug 15, 1975, when Bangabandhu was gunned down with much of his family. Only Hasina and her sister Sheikh Rehana with their families survived the horrific carnage. But in the unfolding of ‘Daughter’s Tale’, the amazing CRI-driven docu-feature on the horror-to-light story that encapsulates Bangladesh’s amazing transformation under Hasina, Joy has played his role as a silent game-changer. The Child of 1971 is the Youngman of 2021, carrying forward the flag of hope, passionately holding high the values of the great Liberation War and ceaselessly working on the contours of future growth that is making Bangladesh a rising Asian Tiger.