DhakaTribune
Monday December 18, 2017 03:00 PM

Local software firms need public patrons to tap into potentials

Local software firms need public patrons to tap into potentials
Luna Shamsuddoha

There is no denying the fact that the emerging software industry of ours requires a large-scale government patronisation including pro-industry policy to excel in growth and tap into its huge potentials, Dohatec New Media founding Chair Luna Shamsuddoha told the Dhaka Tribune’s Ishtiaq Husain in an exclusive interview recently

As an independent software vendor and technology firm, Dohatec has been providing solutions for enterprise clients in North America, Asia and Europe for nearly 25 years. In her interview with the national daily, Luna shared insight on the development of software industry.

Do you think we are in right way to develop our software industry?

The use of ICT is ubiquitous. Policies over the last seven years leveraged the digital universe to enhance growth in Bangladesh. In terms of its applications in work or education or lifestyle, ICT is in the psyche of every citizen.

Our annual Budget has grown by 208% in five years and IT had a role.  Every ministry has IT and gender dimension in their annual plans.  Bangladesh has several e-Governance solutions like Voter Enrolment with Multi-biometric De-duplication of 80 million in 2007-2008. Our e-Government Procurement solution is known throughout the world.

Bangladesh had a huge scope to tap software business. Have we utilised it properly?

Definitely, we have a huge scope to tap the business. When I started business in 2000, we had capability, but failed to get other infrastructural support. Dohatec faced massive challenges at the initial stage. There were a few skilled manpower in IT industry. The internet connectivity was also poor and the total eco-system was absent.

How can we fulfil the five billion export target by 2021?

We should fix our priority based on demand. Bangladesh needs to develop many things using software. If we tap local business, we can easily earn foreign currency showing our local capability.

We should fix our priority based on demand. Bangladesh needs to develop many things using software. If we tap local business, we can easily earn foreign currency showing our local capability

What are the challenges to software industry growth?

We need skilled manpower in the industry as well as a pro-industry policy so Bangladeshi companies can tap local business. To benefit from it, the government has to change tender requirements. In most of the cases, Bangladeshi companies can’t take part in the tender process as the authorities concerned require past experience for the particular job. In that case, the government should relax the requirement to encourage local firms.

How can we meet those challenges?

Only the government can meet those challenges making pro-industry policy for the betterment of local companies. I can give you many examples where we had capability, but didn’t get those tenders. Last year, Dohatec successfully completed a project of employment generation for the poor under the Disaster Management Ministry. Later, the ministry floated another project. Despite previous successful track record, we were denied the job. A US-based company got the project. A Dutch company got NID smart card project worth Tk1,000 crore, but we could easily complete the work, as a local company was involved with NID first phase work in 2008. Recently, to introduce the online system for Value Added Tax payment, the National Board of Revenue appointed a foreign firm for the project worth Tk551 crore.

Skills are necessary for digital economy. How will Bangladesh face the skill shortage?

Workers across a range of occupations need to acquire generic ICT skills to be able to use technologies in their daily work. The production of ICT products and services – software, web pages, e-commerce, cloud and big data – requires ICT specialist skills programme, develop applications and manage networks. The use of ICTs is changing the way work is carried out and raising the demand for ICT complementary skills such as the capability to process complex information, communicate with co-workers and clients, solve problems, plan in advance and adjust quickly. Lastly, attainment of a sound level of foundation skills is a prerequisite for proficient development of ICT generic, specific and complementary skills.

What types of preparedness are necessary for Bangladesh?

The country needs a series of preparedness to face the challenges in 21st century. Developing human resources, connecting citizens in ways most meaningful to them, taking services to citizens’ doorsteps, making private sector and market more productive and competitive using digital technology, increasing Research and Development spending to drive growth of science and technology education and research, and encouraging IT students’ enrolment, i.e doubling IT graduates 5,000 yearly in the next 2-3 years.

How will you evaluate woman entrepreneurship in software industry?

In the context of Bangladesh, entrepreneurship in ICT sector is a challenge for the country, especially for women. Nevertheless, there are many successful women in the industry who have faced the odds and risen to the top. Social challenges are the main barrier to IT for women, but we will have to face them and overcome them with confidence.

How to bring leadership into the digital age?

To stay relevant, companies need to hire skilled workforce to meet the challenges created by rapid digitalisation. Leaders should hire people with digital mindsets and willingness to change the status quo and accept failure. Finally, the leaders have to embrace flatter structures and move away from hierarchies and foster a digital culture from the top through communication, journey management, visible changes and continuous change monitoring.

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