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Dhaka Tribune

Make ICT a top priority

For Smart Bangladesh to be fulfilled, ICT in the country must reach its full potential

Update : 01 Jun 2023, 12:29 PM

The government has adopted 14 action plans in an effort to put Smart Bangladesh 2041 into action. Smart management policies, smart agriculture, smart trade, smart trade, smart education, and smart healthcare are some of these key components of Smart Bangladesh.

The government's ambitious plan to establish Smart Bangladesh by 2041 is a bold one, and carrying it out will be extremely difficult. To do so however is essential if Bangladesh wants to mold and reinvent its future in order to meet the challenges of the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) and make the greatest use of our demographic dividend. 

According to a number of analyses and projections, Bangladesh's economy will progress from being labour-driven to becoming advanced and knowledge-based by 2041.

The country hopes to transition to a knowledge-based economy by 2041, and it is investing in the ICT sector even more, which will be a significant step in that direction. 

Investment in human resources, proper budgetary support for research and education, assistance of start-ups with creative ideas, and other factors will be necessary. 

In order to make Bangladesh prosper, Smart Bangladesh aspires to incorporate artificial intelligence (AI) into every aspect of life. Universities require additional funding to integrate emerging technology into their curricula and every university in the nation needs to establish specialized labs. 

Of course, Bangladesh has already started with certain initiatives; the setting up of 57 such specialized labs, the Sheikh Kamal IT Training and Incubation Centre in 64 districts, and the establishment of 92 Hi-Tech Parks and Software Technology Parks, and thousands of Digital Centres and Sheikh Russel Digital Labs are all currently underway. 

To move forward with creating a Smart Bangladesh, these tasks should be finished as quickly as feasible.

The adoption of Digital Bangladesh led to the growth of the digital economy in Bangladesh. The ICT sector's exports have now surpassed $1.4 billion. 39 Hi- tech parks and IT incubators all around the country are being established. Nine parks are host to commercial activities. 

So far, these parks have garnered roughly $439m in international investment and about Tk 2,000 crore in domestic private investment. Major funding is being allotted for this sector to carry out our future plan, which calls for increasing ICT exports to $5bn and IT-based employment to 3 million by 2025. With the right moves, there is no doubt that Bangladesh's ICT sector has the potential to soon establish itself as a significant economic pillar.

Budget reforms

The budget currently places a 15% value-added tax (VAT) on imports of necessary ICT equipment, including laptops and printers. This will result in higher costs for both businesses and customers. Computer hardware and component VAT should be no more than 5%. 

There should also be a strategy to increase local laptop production by creating a speedier ecosystem. Otherwise, the cost of imported computers might be too high for independent contractors to afford. Additional taxes on essential ICT items and internet traffic would also impede the development of Bangladesh.

Currently, the nation is home to more than 2,500 startups. The startup industry has employed almost 1.5 million individuals both directly and indirectly. To exempt startups from all forms of reporting requirements, with the exception of filing income tax reports, is the appropriate approach to help foster the sector. 

Adopting a reasonable stimulus plan at a government-subsidized interest rate of 5% for the ICT sector is the way we should move forward to continue to build up the ICT sector of the country.

Al-Amin is serving as an Assistant IT Officer at Bangladesh Institute of Governance and Management.

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