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The Financial Express

Software industry fears $1.0b loss due to virus pandemic

Seeks grants, soft loans to absorb the shock


| Updated: April 26, 2020 10:12:26


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The country's software development and information technology sector has estimated that it would suffer a loss of US$ 1.0 billion unless the situation emerged due to coronavirus pandemic becomes normal by the end of May.

Talking to the FE, experts said the government's vision for 'Digital Bangladesh' will also be severely affected if the government cannot take proper measures immediately to address the crisis.

At present, the country's software developers' export earnings will be at around US$ 1.0 billion while the government has a vision to increase the software exports to US$ 5.0 billion by 2021.

"We are in dire straits. Most of the software firms are out of work since the outbreak of the virus," vice president of Bangladesh Association of Software and Information Services (BASIS) Mushfiqur Rahman told the FE on Wednesday.

He said that the government's stimulus package should have specific allocation for the software and information services sector, especially to provide salary of the employees.

Around 0.3 million people are engaged in this sector and most of them are well educated and skilled human resources.

BASIS wants Tk 6.7 billion in grants from the government to pay the salary of the workers and Tk 5.0 billion in soft loans to absorb the shock of the lockdown.

The government's stimulus comes mainly in the form of loans but most of our outlets do not have credit record with banks so they will face difficulties in processing loans under the declared package, Mr Mushfiq pointed out.

The software and information services have a local market of US$ 1.5 billion, a lion's share of which comes from the government procurement.

The months of April, May and June are the peak period of a fiscal year for awarding such government job, but this year everything is closed, the software developers said.

The government should expedite its plan of automation and digitalisation of its different agencies to enable the software developers offset the losses.

According to BASIS officials, the government plans to implement 1,100 software applications in different agencies and departments this year, but so far the progress is highly upsetting.

"Even 11 of these 1,100 software applications are not implemented" a member of the BASIS said.

Pointing to the long term effect of the present crisis, industry insiders said if job losses cannot be prevented, the sector will lose skilled hands.

Recently, the country has seen a surge in software education resulting in the creation of huge human resources.

"But if the job security cannot be guaranteed due to the negative growth of this sector, students will be discouraged to get IT education."

"This will pose a serious threat to the prospect of this promising sector," the BASIS vice president argued.

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