Dhaka, Bangladesh
Digital economy growing substantially

Digital economy growing substantially

Mazharul Islam Mitchel In the last three years Bangladesh has seen tremendous growth in the information and communications technology (ICT) sector. It has a market of 160-million-plus people, where consumer spending is over USD130 billion and growing at 6 percent annually. After telcos launched 4G services in 2017, internet penetration in Bangladesh grew by 9 crore active users to date. Of the active Internet subscribers (BTRC, July 2019), nearly 96 percent are mobile users. With growing Internet connectivity, availability of cheaper smartphones, and rapid rise in social networking (23 million plus Facebook users), authorities have seen an increasing emergence of digital-savvy consumers. Digital economy has been the focus of countries across the globe as its size is growing substantially, $1.26 trillion in the Asia-Pacific region by 2021, 60 percent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and 4.4 trillion Euros in the EU by 2022. With this in view, the governments are setting out their national plans, visions and digital strategies for the future. According to a United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (Unctad) report, Bangladesh stands to capitalize on improvements made by the country to bolster e-commerce-friendly infrastructure. The Rapid eTrade Readiness Assessment by the UN found Bangladesh having laid an essential foundation for a technology-driven and skill-based digital economy, but still needs to introduce a comprehensive national e-commerce strategy and improve delivery logistics. While receiving the assessment, Minister of Post and Telecommunications, Mustafa Jabbar said: "All commercial activities are going to be digital, and all current business laws, regulations, and policies are to be made compatible with the digital-commerce revolution," Completed by the Unctad at the request of the Bangladesh government, the assessment pinpoints crucial improvements that will help the nation deliver on its e-commerce hopes, which include: advances in telecommunications infrastructure, trade logistics, payment solutions, laws and regulations, skills development, and financing that can accelerate e-commerce and spread its benefits throughout the economy. Shamika N Sirimanne, director of Unctad's Division on Technology and Logistics, said this e-Trade Readiness Assessment recognizes growth and employment gains yet to be "made by a comprehensive pivot to e-commerce." Laying due emphasise on impact of digital economy on sustainable development, experts further mentioned that digitization is 4.7 times more powerful than the average impact of broadband rollout in boosting economic growth. Bangladesh Association of Software and Information Services (BASIS) president Syed Almas Kabir narrated timber harvesting that is extracting and transporting trees or logs from the forestland to a final production site. One of the most important aspects throughout the harvesting operations is maximising the material recovered while keeping the overall cost at minimum level. He also opined, "Digitalization and sustainability are two of the most powerful influences in today's economic landscape and each has generated massive amount of research on how it influences different aspects of peoples live." He noted that out of the 17 SDGs are the ones impacted most by ICT and, lastly, which sectors of the digital economy has the highest impact on SDGs achievement. "ICT can pave the way for the age of sustainable development transformation where technology is a key enabler for planetary and human wellbeing", BASIS director Mushfiqur Rahman opined. A fellow member of the Institute of Cost & Management Accountants of Bangladesh (ICMAB) and Deputy Managing Director of Prime Bank Limited, Touhidul Alam Khan, said despite many bottlenecks and limitations, work is in progress for the realization of Digital Bangladesh. Over the past nine years, the government has implemented a large number of projects relating to digital technologies. In a bid to fulfill the aim to transform Bangladesh into a technologically advanced nation by 2021, the country has come a long way. The country has seen exponential growth in internet connectivity, mobile phone usage, IT export earnings and use of ICT in education and accessibility of public services, driven by widespread digitization in the public and private sectors and policy support. ICT training by the government has opened a new horizon in youth employment through outsourcing. According to a study conducted by Oxford University, Bangladesh is now home to around 16.8% of all outsourced online workers in the world, a rate that is second only to India, at 24.6%. Under the Professional Outsourcing Training Program, the government has set a target for training 13,000 unemployed people in three key ICT areas: graphic design, web design and development, and digital marketing. Of the target, a total of 11,920 people have already completed their training. The business process outsourcing (BPO) industry in Bangladesh is growing at breakneck speed. The export revenue of the BPO industry has been growing rapidly. At present, the industry employs more than 40,000 educated Bangladeshi workers. According to the GSM Association, Bangladesh has the potential to be the 10th largest internet using country in the world by 2020. Almost all services including those related to education, health- nutrition, agriculture, birth-registration, allowances under social protection programs are now easily and comfortably delivered to the doorsteps of intended beneficiaries through union information centres at union level, e-service centres in DC offices, e-centres in 147 upazilas and village post offices and 254 agricultural information centres. As many as 18,434 government offices including 58 ministries or divisions, 240 government departments and 64 DC offices of the country are now connected with an integrated network. A total of 883 video conferencing systems have been installed for live communication, sending messages and information, and conducting meetings. As part of the agenda of Digital Bangladesh, the government is trying to ensure greater transparency in its work through measures such as the introduction of e-filing in government offices, application of e-GP in government procurement. The government has already planned to set up 12 IT parks at the district headquarters of Gopalganj, Mymensingh, Jamalpur, Rangpur and Barisal, Keraniganj in Dhaka, Comilla Sadar (South), Chittagong Port, Ramu in Cox's Bazaar, Singra in Natore, Companiganj in Sylhet, and the KUET Campus in Khulna. Around 8,000km of optical fibre cable has been installed across the country. A second submarine cable has been installed in Kuakata through which Bangladesh will get 1,500GB/s bandwidth. In his budget speech in June, Finance Minister AMA Muhith reaffirmed that Digital Bangladesh is one of the key commitments of the government. He said: "We built an extensive essential IT infrastructure for delivering quick and easy services to the doorsteps of the common in particular those who are marginalized. "With our sincere endeavour, mobile network service could be introduced in all upazilas of three inaccessible hill districts, which is major leap forward towards socio-economic development in this region." Posts, Telecommunications and Information Technology Minister Mustafa Jabbar recently said all the union parishads across the country will be brought under digital connectivity within one year. "In addition, a digital laboratory will be established in each of the educational institutions across the country," the minister said. The government has facilitated the growth of mobile banking, which launched in 2010. At the end of May, the average daily transactions through mobile banking amounted for more than Tk1,058 crore. The latest achievement of Bangladesh is to enter to the space age through successful launching of the first satellite into space on 11th May, 2018, which gave Bangladesh a newer height in using information technology.

Share |