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হোম > Status and Prospects of ICT in Bangladesh
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Status and Prospects of ICT in Bangladesh

As a developing country, Bangladesh is striving to create an environment for rapid dissemination of ICT at all stratum of the society. In this respect, government of Bangladesh has shown keen interest in this sector. ICT is regarded as a thrust sector and the present government has pledged to build a digital Bangladesh within 2021.

While the developed countries of the world have exploited the potential of science and technology in national development, developing countries have fallen behind. Resource constraint, inadequate ICT capacity, and lack of appreciation of the power of ICT may be cited as the reasons. The revolutionary development in the field of ICT has opened up new opportunities for developing countries to move forward in the path of progress by rationally exploiting its potential. In view of that, Bangladesh has been aspiring to achieve economic development through the application of Science as well as Information and Communication Technology (ICT). The government of Bangladesh has taken steps in this connection. The Government focuses on the reduction of poverty by applying ICT, increase in efficiency, productivity, transparency, access to information by the citizens. Citizens at large will be empowered with necessary information for efficiency performing their tasks.

National ICT Policy

The government is committed to make Bangladesh Digital by 2021. The present Government has considered ICT as driving tools for Socio-Economic Development. In the election manifesto of Awami League it has been stated :



“The potentials of ICT sector will be realized. Software industry and IT services will be developed by providing all possible assistance to talented young people and interested entrepreneurs. This measure will increase export and promote employment opportunities. Our vision is to make Bangladesh digital in 2021. IT education will be made compulsory at secondary level by 2013 and at primary level by 2021. The task force on ICT that was established during the Awami League rule but rendered ineffective by the BNP-Jamat Alliance will be reactivated. High-tech Park, software technology park, ICT incubator and computer villages will be set up at suitable locations in the country.”

Considering the expectation & commitment, the government has adopted the National ICT Policy on July, 2009, which can be considered as a Road Map of Vision 2021: Digital Bangladesh. The key features of the National ICT Policy are furnished here in after.

Structure

The policy document is structured as a hierarchical pyramid with a single vision, 10 broad objectives, 56 strategic themes and 306 action items.

A pyramidal framework is followed where the vision remains at the top as the ultimate goal and the other linked parameters are placed in the subsequent layers. The layers of the pyramid are defined as follows:

The vision and objectives are aligned with the general national goals while the strategic themes are areas within the broad objectives that can readily benefit from the use of ICTs. The action items are generally meant to be implemented either in the

short term (18 months or less),
medium term (5 years or less) or
long term (10 years or less).

However, some action items have been recommended for continuation throughout multiple terms, where the scope of the activity gradually expands in the longer terms.

Vision

Expand and diversify the use of ICTs to establish a transparent, responsive and accountable government; develop skilled human resources; enhance social equity; ensure cost-effective delivery of citizen-services through public-private partnerships; and support the national goal of becoming a middle-income country within 2021 and join the ranks of the developed countries of the world within thirty years.

Objectives

Social Equity: Ensure social equity, gender parity, equal opportunity and equitable participation in nation-building through access to ICTs for all, including persons with disabilities and special needs

Productivity:
Achieve higher productivity across all economic sectors including agriculture and SMME (small, medium and micro enterprises) through the use of ICTs.

Integrity:
Achieve transparency, accountability, responsiveness and higher efficiency in the delivery of citizen-services.

Education and Research:
Expand the reach and quality of education to all parts of the country using ICTs, ensure computer literacy at all levels of education and public service and facilitate innovation, creation of intellectual property and adoption of ICTs through appropriate research and development.

Employment Generation:
Enlarge the pool of world-class ICT professionals to cater to the local and overseas employment opportunities.

Strengthening Exports:
Ensure a thriving software, ITES and IT manufacturing industry to meet domestic and global demands and thereby increase foreign exchange earnings, attract foreign direct investments and reduce dependence on imports.

Healthcare:
Ensure quality healthcare to all citizens by innovative application of ICTs.

Universal Access:
Ensure connectivity to all as a public service obligation (PSO).

Environment, Climate and Disaster Management:
Enhance creation and adoption of environment-friendly green technologies, ensure safe disposal of toxic wastes, minimize disaster response times and enable effective climate-change management programmes through use of ICTs as Bangladesh is facing the dual scourge of environmental pollution due to rising industrial and consumer wastes and also global-warming-induced climate-change due to excessive carbon emissions of the industrialized countries

Supports to ICTs:
Develop appropriate infrastructure including power, and regulatory framework for effective adoption and use of ICTs throughout the country

Policy Ownership, Monitoring and Review

The ICT Policy must be owned by all stakeholder groups who will continually seek to have the mandates of the policy adhered to in all spheres of national life. The policy must have a Champion in the highest levels of the Government. Accordingly, the following Policy Ownership arrangement is envisaged.

The National ICT Policy shall be monitored and coordinated by the Minister in charge of ICT while the associated action programmes will be implemented and/or supported by the Bangladesh Computer Council or its successor organization; all government agencies and quasi-state bodies will implement ICT policy in their respective area. Instruction from National ICT Task Force will be taken for any deviation in implementing the Policy.

The action plans under the policy shall be reviewed at least once a year for implementation status checks, necessary reprioritizations and changes in programmes. The strategic themes shall be reviewed every three years along with realignment of specific goals with new developments. The whole policy itself shall be reviewed in totality every six years and long-term goals adjusted according to achievements and failures along the way.

With the aims and objectives of the National ICT Policy 2009 materialized, Bangladesh is expected to become a ‘knowledge society’ within one generation.

Liberalization Foreign Direct Investment Policy

The Government has also liberalized the trade regime, investment environment as well as other macro-economic policies and has provided attractive packages of incentive towards encouraging foreign direct investment (FDI) in the country. For foreign investors in the ICT industry, Bangladesh offers a range of services and incentives as follows:

Growth of ICT Infrastructure

Computer and Internet

The growth of PC use and Internet user’s growth is increasing gradually but still it’s not quite remarkable due to lack of content and affordability.

Telecommunication

Telecommunication is growing very fast in Bangladesh. The teledensity (fixed line and cellular) in Bangladesh is 34.768 percent (Source: BTRC).

A total of 12 landline operators have so far been awarded licenses. (landline subscribers: 1.6 million).

The total number of PSTN phone subscribers has reached 1603.187 thousand at the end of November 2009.

The total number of Mobile phone active subscribers has reached 50.55 million at the end of November 2009.

At present 6 mobile phone companies are operating in Bangladesh. About 50.55 million subscribers have come under the coverage of mobile network as on November 2009.

Domestic ICT Industry and Software Market

The market size of the ICT Industry in Bangladesh is estimated to be around US$ 200 million/year (excluding the telecom sector).

Out of this the software segment is estimated to be more than US$ 30 million/year.

Locally there are over 500 software companies with 50,000 knowledge workers are operating in the country, mainly catering to the customized software development and maintenance segment of the market.

An encouraging sign is that 57% of the software companies are involved in Government sector IT projects.

It is a positive sign since the Government sector is potentially the biggest client for the software industry, with the National IT Policy guideline of allocating upto 5% of ADP, and 2% of revenue budget for IT.

Currently more than 100 companies are exporting software and outsourcing to more than 30 countries.

At least 40 Offshore Development Centers (ODC) and Joint Ventures started working during the last 2-3 years, out of which 10 are with Danish IT firms.

Growth of Software Export

The growth of software export in 2008-09 is 24.82 million USD which shows a increasing trend in comparison to the export in 2007-08 after collapse of the global economy.

Government Initiatives for Promotion

01. Exemption of Tax/VAT on Computer Hardware and Software;
02. Deregulation of Telecom Sector & Establishment of BTRC;
03. Installation of Digital Data Network in all Districts and Upazilas;
04. Creation of Equity Entrepreneur Fund for the Investors;
05. Protection of Intellectual Property Right

Distribution of computers to School/Colleges; 06. Establishment of ICT Business Promotion Council; 07. Standardization of Bangla for Use in Computing Equipment.

for HRD

01. ICT Training for the Government Employees;
02. Computer Training for Secondary School/College Teachers;
03. Introduce Post-Graduate Diploma (PGD) Program in public Universities to produce quality ICT Professionals;
04. ICT Internship program to provide on the Job training to new graduates;
05. Govt. is providing 60% of their monthly allowance & 40% by the organization;
06. Standard computer training centers at Divisional & District headquarters;
07. Establishment of Bangladesh-Korea Institute of Information and Communication Technology (BKIICT) in collaboration with KOICA;
08. ICT Professional Skill Assessment and Enhancement Program (IPSAEP) through establishment of a government owned company ICT Capacity Development Company (ICDC) Ltd;
09. Establishment of training Laboratories in the educational institutions at Upazilla level;
10. Establishment of Community e-Centers in the rural area throughout the country by the Government & NGO.

for Infrastructure

01. Steps to establish central data center to last all government website and data;
02. Establishment of ICT Incubator for the Development of Software and ICT enable services;
03. Hi-Tech Park- A would class Hi Tech Park will be established on 231 acres of land near Dhaka with all modern facilities;
04. 128 Computer Labs in Schools and Colleges are going to be established in 64 district headquarter and another 1500 at upazilla level;
05. Information Highway project under SASEC;
06. Empowering rural people through community 5e-Centers under SASEC and 128 under GOB program;
07. Establishment of IT Village in Mohakhali is under consideration of Government;
08. Development of National Infra-Network for Bangladesh Government (BanglaGovNet).

for e-Governance

Ministry of Science & ICT and Bangladesh Computer Council are implementing e-government activities in the country. The Projects includes various development activities.

for Legislations

ICT (electronics transaction) Act-2006 has been enacted, which will legislate e-commerce, digital Signature, protect cyber crime etc. An amendment has been made on Bangladesh Telecommunication Act. 2001 in February 2006 for the legalization of the Lawful Interception in Communications. Necessary provisions have been incorporated in the Copy Right Act 2000 (Revised) to protect the IPR of software.

Controller of Certifying Authorities (CCA) has been appointed.

National ICT Policy 2009 adopted. National Broadband Policy 2008 passed.

National ICT Act. 2009 (Amendment)

Potential of Bangladesh ICT Sector

Huge Youth ICT savvy Workforce, Financial support in the form of Entrepreneur Equity Fund (EEF) has enabled growth in this sector. In recent years a thriving ICT industry has emerged in Bangladesh. It can be described with four words i.e. high quality, low cost;

Many of Bangladeshi ICT companies have considerable experience with overseas clients and a successful track record in managing outsourced software projects for foreign companies.

Low salary cost and low production cost in general are a major attraction for the ICT industry in Bangladesh. Monthly earning of a trained software engineer here ranges from US$ 200 to 250 that is a fraction of salaries in Europe or USA and also less than salaries of this type of workforce in other countries in the South & South-East Asian region.

More than 50 Universities and 60 colleges offer ICT courses at Bachelors and Masters Levels, many of them cooperate with overseas universities and institutions in US, in Europe and in Australia and guarantee international standards.

By one estimate, Bangladesh’s institutions produce more then 4000 ICT graduates per year; the output is expected to rise to 10,000 in the coming years.

A favorable demographic profile with nearly 60 per cent of population are between the ages 15-59, and nearly half of its population below the age of 21. In contrast, countries including the US, Europe, Japan and China have a more aged population with dependency ratios likely to increase over the same period. We have a relatively large, expansive and established network of academic infrastructure. The most of its strengths are the unleashed English speaking youth force, skilled professionals working aboard, universities & other educational institutions turning out huge ICT graduates, substantial number of ICT graduates studying abroad and skilled work force available at most competitive wages.

Bangladesh has become an ideal ground for advanced economies to invest due to its business friendly policy for the foreign investors and providing various incentives including tax holidays and simplified regulations.

Bangladesh is one of the most populous nations in the world and recent economic indicators showing positive outlook. In addition, there seems to be acceleration in the amount of focus and investment from multinational IT vendors and IT promotion bodies that is generating a greater level of marketing and awareness that we expect to boost the demands.

Conclusion

Like most of the developing countries around the world the Government of Bangladesh has also attached significant importance on making Bangladesh Digital with the effective use of ICT as a useful tool for development.

Acknowledgement :

01. Awami League, Election Manifesto 2008
02. National ICT Policy-2009
03. BTRC website

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