Bangladesh's demonstration of a much improved performance in innovation capabilities ---by as significant as 14 notches move up in the Global Innovative Index (GII) ---in 2022 could be quite savouring but for its still poor ranking compared to its neighbouring peer countries. At 102nd position out of 132 countries brought into reckoning, the country has miles to go before it catches up with the stellar performers like India in the region. Even Sri Lanka and Pakistan, the two countries that were and still are profusely haemorrhaging from raw economic gashes, find themselves at 85 and 87 slots respectively.
Consisting of almost 80 indicators, grouped into innovation inputs and outputs, the GII aims at capturing the multi-dimensional facets of innovation a country has to its credit in a single year. Actually the deciding factor is the measures a country takes on a host of issues including political environment, education, infrastructure and knowledge creation.
It is important to have an idea of the area where this country has been able to advance its causes and where regressed and where it has scope for improvement but fails to do so and why. Notably, as reported, with a score of 19.7, the country's performance is said to be consistent with the level of its development. This is somewhat intriguing. Then how can Pakistan's and Sri Lanka's slots in the GII ranking be compatible. The other day, Pakistan's incumbent Prime Minister Mian Muhammad Shehbaz Sharif made an interesting observation: "It's shameful for a nuclear power to beg". It says all.
Then where does Bangladesh falter and Pakistan score higher? It seems it is education and educational institutions. In both Quacquarelli Symonds (QS) and Times Higher Education (THE) rankings, Pakistani universities earn positions far ahead of those in Bangladesh. Otherwise, in Human Development Index (HDI), per capita income and other global achievements, Bangladesh is way ahead of Pakistan.
The United Nations' World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), which is responsible for preparing the GII, points the accusing fingers at Bangladesh's 'weak education system, a lack of human capital and research, and shortfall in business sophistication.' Will the new education system that is set to have a partial introduction from this year help the matter soon by boosting human capital and expanding the research base? Signs are not very encouraging so far with a half-way-house approach to the execution of the new education curricula.
The WIPO finds, unsurprisingly, Bangladesh's ranking unchanged on the education criteria at 129th position but in the political environment segment one slot slip from 111th position a year earlier. Its advancement by one spot in the human capital and research segment is negligible and corresponds together with the lack of progress in some of the key categories to the reality. This is why the country trails some of its peers in the South Asian region.
Then where did Bangladesh improve its performance in order to pull it 14 notches up? The greatest gain was made in the creative output category indicating the fact that its young generations are highly talented to prove their mettle braving all odds. If they get some opportunities to do so, they can compete with the world's best. In a number of global university-level competitions ---including one sponsored by the US National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) ---teams from Bangladesh universities have emerged champions rather consistently. No wonder, the country was placed at 87th in the creative output category against 123rd position of the year 2021.
Industrial design, global brand value and mobile app development have been its forte by this time. Like the entrepreneurial savvy the young generations have come up with for expanding the outsourcing business, software and programming have made a giant leap in order to carve a niche in the global IT sector. This explains collaborative ventures' success in the private sector without enough government patronage. Computer science and engineering (CSE) education in different universities is up to almost the global level which is reflected in the improvement in position by 13th notches to 109th in institutional category.
But when economy is of a great concern, its business sophistication performance leaves much to be desired. Its failure to draw net foreign direct investment (FDI) flow even at a time when industrial giants and multinational companies are transferring plants and factories from China is a major cause for ranking poorly in the GII. In today's world, international collaboration and foreign investment speed up wealth creation through introduction of cutting-edge technologies and the accompanying innovative process in both manufacturing and businesses.
Clearly, the education system remains at the centre of attention. Whatever progress thus far has been made in the institutional and ICT sector eludes the majority of learners or students all across the country. On that count, the advancement on this front is sporadic and exclusive, not inclusive. The need is to make it cohesive, collective, inclusive and comprehensive for the population, particularly for the young generations. The country is enjoying many of the cutting-edge technologies without contributing to the development of those, let alone invention. This situation has to be changed in order to develop a strong domestic base of technological innovation.
Is not it time to ask how the school or college students who made robots that can speak and perform several tasks are faring now? They worked wonder with artificial intelligence (AI) at home in remote areas with no facility or high-tech environment. The 5th Innovation Summit is going to be held on February 18 next. Let those special talents be invited to the summit and given all the support they need for fruition of their genius in the innovative field.