Harnessing the potentials of IT

A lot have been only contemplated so far about the great possibilities of Bangladesh in the realm of information technology (IT). But compared to the projections, the attainments have been not so much.
For Bangladesh the basics are there such as a young and dynamic workforce who can be quickly trained up to make the country an IT powerhouse at an early date. But successive governments have paid only lip service to this sector without addressing the real needs of it. For example, the allocation for developmental or promotional activities in the IT sector was a meager 1.25 billion Taka in the last fiscal year. There is noted no significant improvement in the allocation pattern in the present financial year. For a high tech park to house IT projects at Kaliakaur in Dhaka, the tasks such as acquisition of land and related works, are yet to be completed. The country depends on two submarine cable connections but one line gets frequently sabotaged or cut leading to intermittent losses for IT businesses.
E-governance is suggested all the time in every seminar. But such governance has taken-off only partially when there are very exciting possibilities of better governance and effective governance with extensive use of information technologies. The few functional projects of extending IT to government departments like in the Chittagong Customs House, have shown how application of IT can very substantially improve earnings, decrease operational costs and attain major efficiencies. Almost the entire field of government administration still remains unserved by computers. Where computerization has been introduced, the same are more adorning the desks of officials in many cases than rendering a service in terms of speeding up functions or making the same easier or faster .
In this setting, the present government declared its vision of a ‘digital Bangladesh’ by 2021. The date setting is appreciated. It sets a time-bound target and the urgency thereof of reaching it within the due date. But the actual reaching of the target also vitally involves starting early works to produce a comprehensive plan for addressing various needs in the IT sector. The core planning will have to be done very soon followed by its fast implementation because this government will have two years only to lay the foundations for a take-off in the IT sector for realizing the ultimate vision in the IT sector by 2021.
The first tasks in the order of priorities would be fast expanding the facilities for IT education. Officials and employees in the various government departments would have to be subjected to training to make them fully suitable for the introduction of e-governance. IT parks should be established and operated fully at the fastest. This development would have two-fold benefits. First, potential entrepreneurs would find the incentive to set up their projects sooner than later. Second, IT graduates or programmers and workers at different levels can quickly find employment in them.
Bangladesh has very good prospects in IT which can indeed change the face of the nation remarkably fast from opening up a very rich source of wealth creation, earnings and employment. The international market for IT services and products is estimated to be $ 600 billion annually at current value. If Bangladesh can carve out a market share of even one per cent in this market, then that would mean a huge addition to its present foreign currency earnings.
Software export, outsourcing and call centres can lead Bangladesh to this goal within a couple of years provided there is systematic developmental activities in this sector with the government playing its supportive role to the optimum. According to several studies conducted by reputed international bodies, Bangladesh presently enjoys a substantial comparative advantage in these fields in relation to competitors such as India, Philippines and Vietnam.
Thus, the potentialities are there. What is of greatest importance is to harness them at the soonest under a plan that has looked into and addressed all the requirements very thoroughly.