Technological readiness is slowly making progress
Bangladesh has outperformed most of the South Asian nations in adopting information communication technology (ICT).
According to the Global Competitiveness Index 4.0 2018, released by the World Economic Forum(WEF) on October 16, Bangladesh scored 39.8 in ICT adoption, while its neighboring country India scored 28 followed by Pakistan 23.6 and Sri Lanka 32.9.
Nepal, the land-locked Himalayan country, has scored 40.4, a little bit higher than Bangladesh.
However, the overall performance and readiness for adopting technology still remains lower compared to developed countries.
“Technology is one of the areas where entrepreneurs perceived positive development in all selected indicators during 2018. Progress in ICT based activities both in public and private sectors contributed in this regard. However, overall ranking remains poor and stood at 102,” the GCI report said.
According to the report, 58% entrepreneurs admitted the improvement in quality of government services by using information technology, while another 40% opined that use of internet for selling goods and services has seen improvement.
Another 55% respondent found that businesses use ICT for their smooth transaction and easing the business.
“In technology adoption, we have seen positive changes in all indicators, though it is still poor,” Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD) research director Khondaker Golam Moazzem said, who presented the report on behalf of WEF in Dhaka.
Technological readiness is slowly making progress. ICT -led education, trainings and business activities are getting popular. It is a good sign, said Moazzem in his presentation.
The Republic of Korea is the world’s champion in terms of broad-based ICT adoption, with a near perfect score of 91.3 on this pillar. By contrast, India is among the weakest performers, with a score of 28 (117th), despite its vibrant IT sector, the report said.
ICT adoption and innovation capability are the two areas where the South Asian region lags further behind the rest of the world, with the region’s median performance is at only one-third of the global theoretical frontier, the report added.
Commenting on India and Pakistan’s performance on ICT adoption, the report stated that these two countries demonstrate the region’s lowest levels of technological readiness, confirming the challenge for large emerging economies to fully integrate their entire population— especially those living in the most remote areas—into modernization processes.
Why Bangladesh fared well among the peers in South Asia
In last couple of years, both the government and private sector invested heavily in technology as the government has given policy supports to achieve the vision of a digital Bangladesh. These helped Bangladesh to earn a better score, business people opined.
“A worker can send money to her parents using mobile banking. People can avail internet connectivity from any corners of the country,” the Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FBCCI) president Shafiul Islam Mohiuddin told the Dhaka Tribune.
In providing services to people and business community using information technology, Bangladesh has seen a lot of progress. The development happened in the economy due to joint efforts of private sector and the government, said Islam.
The government has provided policy supports and the private sector made investments. Besides, the government invested a lot to digitize public sector organizations, said Islam.
Now the government has to concentrate on more transformation to digital services and making it a sustainable one, he added.
ICT adoption given a boost to businesses
Entrepreneurs said that ICT adoption facilitated business process and gave a boost to accessing to markets across the county, and beyond.
“Due to broad-base adoption of information technology private sector is being benefited significantly. Businesses, whether it is big or small have been able to access to a bigger market place as well as customer base from anywhere in the globe,” Nihad Kabir, President of Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce and Industry told the Dhaka Tribune.
The adoption of technology reduced the cost of doing business to some extent and expedited process, said Nihad.
It has also reduced corruption, Nihad said, adding that the more on-line submission of documents and on-line payment become popular, the possibility of corruption wanes.
On the other hand, it has made information available to business people as well as common people. As a result, people do not need to move for information on like getting passports and National Identity Cards (NID), she added.
Strength of Bangladesh in ICT
In financial inclusion and introducing digital payment gateway, mobile financial services have achieved a remarkable feat. As of August, there are 2.96 crore active account holders with an average daily transaction of Tk1,109.65 crore in the economy. A total of 18 private commercial banks are providing the services through their 850,363 agents.
On top of that, access to Internet has seen a significant rise in last few years, with current 90.50 million Internet subscribers. The number of mobile subscribers rose to 154.15 million as of August.
Strength of Bangladesh is the growing number of ICT based freelancers. According to a study conducted by Oxford University, UK, Bangladesh is now home to around 16.8% of all outsourced online workers in the world, a rate that is second only to India, at 24.6%.
As many as 18,434 government offices including 58 ministries or divisions, 240 government departments and 64 DC offices of the country are now connected with an integrated network.
Meanwhile, Bangladesh government is establishing Software Technology Park including Bangabandhu Hi-Tech City, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Hi-Tech Park, Rajshahi, Sheikh Hasina Software Technology Park in Jessore ,Sheikh Kamal IT Training and Incubation Center and CUET IT Business Incubator.
More to do for further growth
The progress in the ICT adoption is praiseworthy. In maintaining the progress momentum in future, it is very important for Bangladesh to focus on information technology with more capital, targeting to bring more services under the ICT coverage.
The South Asian region will need to increase their innovation capacity and technological readiness in order to move towards higher value-added processes and production, said the report.
While Bangladesh needs to continue widening the adoption of ICT technologies and improving the quality and conditions of human capital across the country, taking advantage of an extremely young population, the report added.
“More investment is needed for digital security and better access to ICT services across the country. A Technology Upgrading Fund is required to be set up to train and educate workforce and management professionals,” said Moazzem .
“A young talented generation entered into the ICT business and came up with innovative startup ideas. What the government should do now is to foster them and provide them with low cost financing facilities,” Md Sabur Khan, former president of Bangladesh Computer Samity (BCS) told the Dhaka Tribune.
While adopting more technological methods to move for a better digitization, the government should go for more Private- Public Partnership (PPP) initiatives for new projects, said Sabur. He also suggested for strong monitoring on IT-related ongoing projects to ensure optimum outcome from the schemes.
Bangladesh is in the right track in inclusion of technology in services providing sector, but it will has to increase the area of services and concentrate on streamlining the system, said Nihad Kabir.