Inspired by India, Bangladesh prepares to lead South Asia into a new era of global technology.
Despite its small geographical size, Bangladesh has a population estimated at 156 million in 2009. Although the rate of growth has declined, the existing population does not actively contribute to the economic development of the country due to lack of job opportunities or educated manpower. Therefore, agricultural and garment production remains the sole source of income. However, ‘outsourcing’ has recently caught the attention of the Bangladeshi youth, providing them an alternative source of income.
Freelancing or outsourcing has a large impact on any country’s economy. Despite this, many in Bangladesh view freelancing as a scam. However, for the youth that is unable or unwilling to get a job, freelancing has become a popular and quick way of making money.
Bangladesh today continues to struggle with a severe lack of resources. As a developing country, its IT sector has seen little investment from the government side. The urban-rural inequality is threefold. In Dhaka most do not feel that the Internet connection is slow and costly compared to the neighboring country, India. In rural areas however, the only way to connect to the Internet is through a mobile phone SIM. Although most mobile phone operators have good internet coverage across the country, common problems related to internet speed and availability still exist. Internet facilities for city dwellers have increased after WIMAX services with 4G technology were introduced. In the cities, a subscriber can get an expected speed of 128 kilobytes per second to one mbps at an alarmingly high rate. Despite
Though Bangladesh remains crippled by greater concerns such as flooding and power shortages, investment in technology is critical to long-term development.
that, the service isn’t satisfactory.
What IT development can be expected from a country that offers poor internet service? Without internet availability, in today’s world, a country is already left behind. Though Bangladesh remains crippled by greater concerns such as flooding and power shortages, investment in technology is critical to long-term development.
Over the years, the country’s advancement in the IT sector has been significant, largely due to government policies. In a roundtable meeting at the Dhaka Press Club last year, Mustafa Jabber, President of Bangladesh Computer Samity said, “The development in the ICT sector is a contribution of today’s youth in Bangladesh. The government literally didn’t do much.”
Awami League, the ruling party in Bangladesh, has promised its people a digital revolution known as “Vision 2021.” As part of the progress to developing a Digital Bangladesh, the government has recently started contributing fervently to IT development. Licensing 3G Internet connectivity, removing tax from freelancers’ income and producing a domestic laptop, DOEL, are few of the remarkable steps that are being taken.
However, inventing a laptop at a relatively cheaper price (with cheap machinery) is not enough. Numerous universities focusing on advancing technology exist throughout Bangladesh but their teaching is archaic for what is necessary to contribute to IT development. Students who freelance for IT firms are often self-taught.
Today, the people of Bangladesh embrace and readily adapt to technology. The revolution of mobile phone usage in Bangladesh proved that fact a long time ago. Though the government has a positive attitude in improving the overall IT sector in Bangladesh, the progress is slow due to government advisors who have inadequate knowledge of Information Technolo- gy and development. Even forty years after independence, the country lacks a smooth and affordable Internet connection and an uninterrupted power supply. Prices of computer accessories are skyrocketing, e-commerce is yet to emerge and a big source of income, outsourcing, remains underestimated and underexploited.
Khalid Biju, CEO of WEBEXBD, an outsourcing firm in Bangladesh, argues that outsourcing firms receive no financial or any other kind of support from the Bangladeshi government. While there is no lack of encouragement, the government does not directly support outsourcing firms although it would ultimately result in the betterment of the country’s economics. “Imagine what would have happened if we were given all the resources we need,” he added.
While the youth in India has greatly contributed to economic development, poverty in Bangladesh becomes its greatest hurdle. Bangladesh’s IT sector models itself after India’s industry. For example, 3G was licensed in Bangladesh after it became available in India and it was only after a $35 tablet was available in India that Bangladesh produced a new kind of Chinese tablet, Chorui, priced at around $100. Most large-scale introductions or innovations are inspired by India.
In recent days, Bangladesh has been in the spotlight among technology experts and enthusiasts from South Asia after hosting the regions’ high profile technology event - EASIA. The 3-day event took place in Dhaka and was attended by many speakers including odesk’s Vice President Matt Cooper and others. EASIA 2011 created a buzz among the general public as well as the media.
After a successful completion of EASIA 2011, questions arose whether Bangladesh could become the next IT hub in South Asia. Unfortunately, the country is not ready yet. IT development is slow though the movement among the youth is rapid. Bangladesh is mainly known for its outsourcing functions; an industry that cannot represent the larger IT sector. Though seminars and events can take place in Bangladesh, the under developed country is not ready to serve as an IT hub for South Asian countries, let alone the world.
To sum it up, Bangladesh has serious technology proposals in place backed by a positive government attitude towards development of the IT industry. Unfortunately, the country still lacks enough resources for that to happen. With adequate resources, the youth of Bangladesh can take the country to the next level in the Information and Communication Technology field, outrunning other countries in South Asia.