Bangladesh - the next ict powerhouse

by Russell T. Ahmed, President at Bangladesh Association of Software and Information Services

With business services growing by 9% and the Information Technology Outsourcing (ITO) by about 20% in 2021, the global business and technology industry is seeing the biggest economic boom since the era. These present great opportunities as companies embark on digital transformation. But there are challenges too. And the biggest challenge facing the industry right now is the talent crisis. The UK alone has 1 million tech vacancies, with software developers being in high demand. Traditional sources like India, are themselves experiencing a shortage in human resources. This crisis is further exacerbated by the war in Ukraine. As such, the UK tech industry is looking for other delivery destinations and service providers. Bangladesh is a clear alternative.

The UK is already one of the largest export destinations for Bangladesh’s ICT industry accounting for 13% of the Bangladesh’s ICT exports. Besides, UK is the largest ICT market in Europe with over a hundred thousand software companies contributing to a US$ 210 billion turnover in 2019 collectively making them the top ICT destination in Europe and in turn making the UK the second-largest ICT market in terms of ICT spending per-capita. By 2024, the industry expenditure is projected to rise to US$ 4.98 billion which offers Bangladesh a significant opportunity.

Digital Bangladesh has long been a vision of the Bangladesh Government to bring about wholesome development and prosperity by 2021 through ICT. The tech sector has been an integral part of the Bangladeshi vision for development which projects transition into a knowledge-based and cashless developed country that we term as ‘SMART Bangladesh’ by 2041. This vision draws upon the potential and strength of digital government, human resource development, IT industry and citizens’ connectivity.

In keeping with this vision, the government declared ICT as the ‘product of the year’ to further boost this sector. It is not only just a declaration but provides a potent platform to take this call to the next level by focusing on capacity development, start-up ecosystem simplification, local market development, and persistent promotion highlighting the potential areas of future collaborations with trusted partners.

We intend to leverage this status of ‘product of the year’ to at least contribute to boosting ICT exports to US$ 5 billion by 2025. And it is not just all talk. The ICT industry has the facts and figures to show that it is indeed progressing in the right direction and gradually becoming one of the engines that drive the national economy. For instance, ICT exports are to reach US$ 1.4 billion in FY2021-22 with almost 100% value-addition done locally. This has led to a contribution of 1.28% to the GDP, creating more than three hundred thousand jobs in Bangladesh so far.

Bangladesh ranks 2nd in the world in digital outsourcing, 5th in Asia in internet usage, 7th in setting up the world's largest data centre, 9th among mobile phone users in the world, 9th among social media users, 12th among smartphone users, and 57th to launch its satellite.

BASIS (Bangladesh Association of Software and Information Services) promotes the tech industry at international events and serves the local businesses creating networking opportunities and business linkage. Looking beyond, BASIS is also aligned with ‘National ICT Policy 2018’, ‘Vision 2041: SMART Bangladesh’, ‘Made in Bangladesh: ICT Industry Strategy’, ‘National Strategy for Robotics’, ‘National Internet of Things Strategy Bangladesh’, and ‘Bangladesh Delta Plan’ which look forward to harnessing ICT Technologies, Circular Economy and Blue Economy already preparing to contribute to it and leverage it for the growth of the sector and prosperity of the country. Towards its own journey into the next century, BASIS has addressed the skills gap and started its training activities in 2007 for the first time and went on to institutionalise training activities through the BASIS Institute of Technology & Management (BITM) in 2012 and since then it has reskilled and upskilled more than 50,000 individuals. Addressing this skills gap and start-up incubation, BASIS and the Danish Federation of SME had already implemented ‘Bangladesh Information Technology Management Programme (BITMAP)’ successfully which was a pilot project sponsored by the European Commission’s Asia-Invest II programme.

Bangladesh is now dubbed as a ‘development miracle’ and has become known as the ‘land of immense opportunities’. With generous exemptions and lucrative incentives like the possibility full profit repatriation and full tax exemption for certain tech business, Bangladesh is easily the most attractive foreign investment destination in South Asia.

BASIS believes a vibrant tech industry could be the key to Bangladesh evolving into a global powerhouse where the society and people are able to reap the dividends of its success. It will be opportunities like these at the GSA-UK that provide local businesses with exposure to international practices and models that Bangladeshi entrepreneurs could replicate. While we have full conviction in the potential of our innovation, we also need opportunities to showcase them.

Watch Russell’s full presentation at the Festival of Sourcing here.

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