IT sector can be the next golden goose

Although the garments sector was able to cope with the effects of a lingering global recession and growing workers induced troubles, under the circumstances one should not realistically pin too much hope on the sole garments sector to keep economic growth and employment creation reasonable in the context of Bangladesh. Bangladesh requires, specially, the rise of some other sector rapidly to offset the losses which are already noted in the manpower export sector to maintain its macroeconomic stability.
There are limitations to the country’s traditional economic sectors in rapidly expanding or increasing earnings. For example, no substantial increase in earnings from export-oriented jute, leather and frozen foods industries can be expected. The same have to go through the whole hog of investments in their capital machinery, benefit from favourable demand situation in importing countries and other related factors, to be able to expand in the medium and longer terms when what Bangladesh badly requires is the fastest development of some other sector in the ‘short’ term with least capital investment to face up to its present economic difficulties.
Out of the emerging new sectors, shipbuilding shows the possibility of turning into a major sector but that too could happen in the mid and longer terms. Only informationtechnology (IT) related outsourcing activities seem to indicate any immediate major earning prospect for the country in the ‘short’ term which is the imperative. Investments in IT infrastructures would be relatively much less and already the country possesses considerable capacities in the sector. Only proper policy implementation by the government and enabling supports, can lead to the taking-off of this factor at the soonest.
The already existing facilities for IT outsourcing activities in the country have been pointing to its potentials. But regrettably the same are not being exploited fully as these should have been. Bureaucratic impediments are complained to be the main impediment facing the growth of outsourcing in the IT sector. In a recent study by the world famous IT organization, Gartner, Bangladesh was included among 30 countries with the most IT outsourcing possibilities and in the Asian region its position was 9th in this regard. According to a recent World Bank report morethen 8,000 Bangladeshi young software developers had found jobs in the industry in the past two years in Bangladesh and nearly 1,000 of them were working in Denmark-Bangladesh IT joint ventures. Industry sources said Bangladeshi IT industry had also developed business relations with clients in Japan and other parts in the world .
Safquat Haider, a director of the Bangladesh Association of Software and Information Services, said the IT potentials of Bangladesh had increasingly been pointed out by industry monitors globally. ‘The IT industry is warming up for a breakthrough, as global clients are calling local companies increasingly and a significant local market is also being readied,’ said Haider, whose IT company, CIPROCO, develops telecommunication, geographic information system and enterprise resource planning solutions for clients at home and abroad.
It appears that only a greater supportive role from the government can lead to a decisive breakthrough for IT outsourcing activities in Bangladesh. It is relevant to mention here that the renowned Intel company was allowed in 2005 to train 5,000 IT teachers in Vietnam and later on to invest about a billion dollars in the IT sector of that country. This allowed the IT sector of Vietnam to flourish very quickly. It is now in a leading position for outsourcing from the Asia region.
A far greater offer than Intel in Vietnam was made to Bangladesh by Microsoft’s Chief Bill Gates when he also visited Bangladesh in 2005 when a BNP led government was in power and offered to the Bangladesh government a proposal to train 10,000 IT teachers and train up 0.1 million trainee workers for IT outsourcing tasks. But nothing happened afterwards. It appears that the bureaucracy in Bangladesh characteristically reacted to this wonderful offer by shelving it and forgetting it. But Bangladesh would be well set on its way to become a formidable IT outsourcing power by now if this very promising offer from fabled Bill Gates was taken up and positively acted upon in time.
Like the golden goose, the IT sector could be laying the golden eggs by now to secure the country’s economy from the threats confronting it from shrinking opportunities for our migrant workers and growing squeeze on the employment conditions in the country.
A booming IT outsourcing industry could absorb millions of educated and even semi-educated young people and create alternatives in the horizon of employment when employment prospects abroad are becoming tougher and bleaker. It has been estimated that out of the emerging sectors in the economy, IT outsourcing holds out the most promise to even surpass the garments and manpower export sectors at the earliest provided it is not frustrated by bureaucratic obstructions.
The present Awami League led government is taking a lot of interest in the IT sector. The same should be reflected in the fastest establishment of an IT park at Kaliakaur near Dhaka. It should also address many bright suggestions from our experts that have been made for the development of our IT sector.