Exploiting ICT potential
At a time the world is getting prepared for the fourth industrial revolution, Bangladesh cannot be indifferent to the developments all around. From a humble beginning the country's Information and Communications Technology (ICT) sector has come a long way off but still there are miles to go before it earns the enviable reputation on a par with competing countries in South Asia and South-east Asia. Although the sector had undergone its initial consolidation at the hands of some bright, enthusiastic and tech-savvy young people, the government also did not take much time to recognise its potential. The incumbent government in its earlier term even made a bold declaration of making the country digitised. Digitisation is an on-going process and it has no time bar but sooner the entire country is brought under such an effective system the better.
However, the journey on the road to digitisation must have a well-defined route in order to realise the maximum benefits in the shortest possible time. How to go about the business of developing the system is the most important concern. Finance Minister AHM Mustafa Kamal has announced at the just concluded three-day Digital Bangladesh Fair 2020 various government facilities for foreign ICT companies with manufacturing plants in Bangladesh. Obviously, the emphasis is on attracting foreign investment in the ICT sector. The companies, he asserts, will not only generate revenue for the government but also create employment for local youths graduating in computer science and other related subjects. What he has not mentioned is the transfer of technology that the country needs most. If state-of-the-art ICT factories or plants are set up here, local engineers will be able to improve their skill through familiarisation with advanced technologies. The areas of technological advancement where Bangladesh is still lagging behind should be developed in this process of collaboration.
As for the achievements already made locally in software and hardware - particularly in the former - are quite notable but these are not enough for the purpose. Made-in China gadgets and components flood the local ICT market. The good news, as Post and Telecommunications Minister Mustafa Jabbar informs, is that some 'top ICT and telecommunication firms' have already set up their plants in the country. Their products are world class and therefore they deserve some of the facilities the government is willing to offer. His suggestion of a reduction in the value-added tax from 15 per cent to 5.0 per cent deserves consideration. Also, imposition of higher duty on import of comparable products can be an option.
The fact is that the young generation does not lack in talent so far ICT is concerned. What is needed is the expansion of the ICT base and development of more and more cutting-edge facilities for engaging them in the sector. Already a few of the ICT wizards here have made quite a few breakthroughs in the area. When the facilities will be open to more and more young and inventive minds, there is every chance that the country will leave its own mark on products with demand from abroad. The global ICT market is around $4 trillion worth. Bangladesh surely stands to get a share of the market.