With the curtain raised on the Dhaka International Trade Fair on the New Year's Day, the 26th edition of this commercial and trade event has started a new journey. It is a new journey on several counts: first, the annual fair had to be abandoned last year due to the Covid-19 pandemic; second, it gets a permanent venue or home for organising the event at the Bangabandhu Bangladesh-China Friendship Exhibition Centre on the outskirt of the city at Purbachal; third, there has been at least some attempt to curtail the retail sale of commodities that actually frustrates the purpose of arranging such a month-long fair. This year's event marks the Mujib centenary and the Golden Jubilee of the independence of Bangladesh. It had the potential of rising up to the two stellar occasions but for the lingering shadow of the highly transmissible Covid-19 variant, Omicron.
Declaration of ICT (information communication and technology) products and services as the "products of the year" by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is certainly a paradigm shift not only in terms of conventional products but also in giving a free rein to the soaring spirit originating from the unique faculty called mind. One indeed has to be brave enough to declare the digital technology and devices as the products of the year for a country with many of its limitations on this front. This in turn is likely to inspire the young generation of tech and gismos wizards in this country to set their eyes on the top notches of accomplishment in software and apps development. Here is an area where the turnout can be raised to billions of dollar transaction provided the right kind of incentive is there and infrastructure developed to speed up the process.
The DITF has for long remained confined mostly to retail trade, hardly highlighting the strength of products of Bangladesh origin. The most important issue is branding of Bangladesh products. To say that it has not happened at all would be a misstatement. But the little that has happened is far from what the country's potential suggests. Although, ICT products and services are a new territory, an enterprising army of tech-savvy young people has proved their mettle even without much government patronage. Now that the government has come forward to support their adventurous journey on the digital highway, there is no reason why they will not match the feats of their counterparts in the neighbouring India and other advanced countries.
The 26th edition of the DITF can thus act as a seminal event in expediting the branding of digital products and services of Bangladesh origin. True, there is a need for diversifying products in the export basket. But the country's options in heavy industries are not wide simply because of its small territory and a lack of mineral reserves. So ICT is an area, where there is no need for huge plants and offices, that suits the country's purpose well. To make the matter happen, short- mid- and long-term plans have to be taken for developing the industry. The human resources are on the right track, what they need are facilities for research experiment and development.