With its mandate for a digital Bangladesh, the present government was more than expected to put all kinds of thrust on making the country’s information technology (IT) sector well set for the all important take-off. Surely, considerable progress has taken place in IT-enabled activities with more and more initiatives in the pipeline. But observers are yet to see any dynamic move towards facilitating the sector going global-in terms of software development and overseas marketing.
All that the sector now needs is to proceed towards attaining the right branding, a key precondition to go global. Entrepreneurs in the sector at a recent workshop held in the capital expressed the critical need for branding which they said should cost the government no less than $200 million. To put it plainly, the sector suffers from poor global visibility. It needs international recognition, and this can only be achieved by reaching the target markets in a befitting way, in terms of product, preference and costs.
Sector insiders believe that with the required amenities in place, the country can set its IT export target at $5.0 billion by 2021, that too with very little or no import content. Whatever exports that are taking place at present are mostly through individual-level contacts. Absence of liaison offices in potential markets is believed to be one of the main reasons why the country’s IT industry is faltering despite having huge prospects. Presence in the marketplace facilitates more than anything with the precise market demands.
In a dynamic area such as the IT with shifting trends every other year, it is extremely important that clientele needs are very closely monitored. It may be recalled that the Digital Bangladesh Taskforce, the apex national policy forming body for digitisation, decided to appoint business consultants in major cities such as London, Tokyo, San Francisco and Dubai to find opportunities for Bangladesh. The decision has not yet materialised.
The IT industry in Bangladesh has gradually come of age and today accounts for more than Tk 25 billion or US$350 million in annual revenues. It is no doubt a tiny blip compared to the global growth, but what is noticeable is that the industry is growing markedly every year. Twenty years ago the IT industry was predominantly a hardware vendors’ market with little or no value addition locally.
Today, there are more than 300 software and IT services’ firms registered as members of the Bangladesh Association of Software and Information Services (BASIS). They add more than US$100 million in value through a full spectrum software and IT services for both domestic as well as overseas clientele.
In view of the technical nature of the IT-related activities, lack of proper coordination between the entrepreneurs and the government had been an impeding factor for a while in the past. This must not be so now as the government is seemingly more proactive in IT matters. To ensure that both sides are comfortably at ease with each other, there should be continuous dialogue in order that a comprehensive package of actions is in place.
The sooner it is the better.