When it comes to rank Bangladesh in terms of adopting digital practices in all walks of life, the position might seem like a bit disappointing to an average Bangladeshi citizen.
However reputable global bodies which do credible rankings put Bangladesh in a list of breakout countries which is on the verge of having a digital revolution. The Fletcher School of Tufts University in its Digital Evolution Index 2017 said Bangladesh is on the track to have one of fastest digital growth.
It said, “Though China, Malaysia, Bangladesh, Philippines, Indonesia, India, and Vietnam are still at lower absolute levels of digital advancement, these countries demonstrate the fastest momentum and are poised for growth.”
Projecting Bangladesh’s digital revolution in international arena, State Minister Zunaid Ahmed Palak, the eloquent young leader from Bangladesh said, Bangladesh has one million internet workers and currently the country is holding the second position in term of the number of online worker across the world.
The State Minister was talking at a panel discussion in the World Economic Forum’s Impact Summit at the Wharton Forum Plenary Hall in New York in September 19. Facilitated by Njideka Harry, Minister for Youth and ICT of Rwanda Jean Philbert Nsengimana, Minister of State for ICT Anusha Rahman Khan and CEO of Turkcell kaan Terzioglu were participated to the panel discussion.
The plans on the plate
Speaking on the occasion, Palak said, Bangladesh has a very specific target to create two million jobs in the ICT sector by the next three years. “For this, we are building 28 Hi-Tech Parks in which 200 thousand youth can develop their career. Along with this, 40 Percent of public services is delivering through digital manner and by 2021, we are planning to uplift this to 90 percent.”
Palak said, in advancing towards these digital goals, Bangladesh can draw on one of the largest and youngest populations in Asia. Of its 163 million people, almost 65% are under the age of 25.
He said that this vast human resource is the “raw material” of the industry. “There must be a long-term plan on where Bangladesh wants to take its human resource to tap the huge opportunity of demographic dividend,” he said.
Palak said, with employment costs are rising in countries like India, China and the Philippines, there are vast opportunities for Bangladesh in the outsourcing industry as global employers are out looking for alternatives. “And we are cashing on that.”
He said, there are 650,000 registered freelancers and about 500,000 are working regularly, making $100 million annually. One of the biggest advantages of these freelancing is that one can work from home.
Under the Professional Outsourcing Training programme, the government has planned to train 13,000 unemployed people in three key ICT areas: graphic design, web design and development, and digital marketing.
Already, a total of 11,920 people have completed the training and of them, 5,680 people have earned Tk 3.44 crore. Aside from being self-employed, many of these successful freelancers now provide jobs for others.
There are logistical challenges, however: the high price of bandwidth and a lack of quality internet service is a problem for freelancers in rural areas. Although there are broadband connections in some areas, it is too slow to suit their work. “But from the government side, we are trying hard to overcome those problems,” he said.
On the mainstay of economic plans
Palak told the audience in the World Economic Forum that the Prime Minister of Bangladesh Sheikh Hasina has declared the vision of 2021. In 2021, Bangladesh will celebrate the Golden Jubilee of our Independence.
“To achieve the target of becoming middle income status by 2021, we’ve identified four pillars—Human resource development, providing internet connectivity to all, e-governance and industry promotion—to build Digital Bangladesh.”
He said that in the last eight and half years, Bangladesh has taken a lot of initiatives to provide the internet connectivity to all. “In the last three years, we have connected all of the government offices to a single government intra-network and now we are working to roll out the broadband connectivity up to the village through Info Sarker-3 and Connected Bangladesh program.”
“We are doing all these activities to expand the network with PPP model with the help of Telco’s and NTTNs as well as the help of local ISPs,” he said. ■