Nearly 400,000 people visited last weekend’s Bangladesh ICT Expo at Bangabandhu International Conference Centre.
The high level of public interest shown in the three-day showcase bodes well for initiatives aiming to unlock the economic potential of the IT sector.
In his inaugural speech, the planning minister highlighted the government’s allocation of Tk8,000 crore to construct new ICT parks and new economic zones like the Hi-Tech park already being developed in Gazipur. He expressed hopes that Bangladesh can earn $5 billion through digital exports by 2021.
The expo organisers are right to set bold targets for new investment in manufacturing and development into the country. Bangladesh Computer Samity points to reports by the Japan External Trade Organisation, highlighting the competitiveness of Bangladesh’s low production costs.
With our own fast-expanding domestic market and Bangladeshi brands like Walton already investing strongly in manufacturing, there is a real prospect of Bangladesh becoming an attractive destination for investment in ICT manufacturing, instead of just being a user country and assembly location.
For such ambitions to be fulfilled, however, the government needs to recognise that competitive costs and incentives are not the only ingredients needed for success.
Investment in IT skills development and research is essential to realise plans to become a software hub and manufacturing base.
A skilled and able workforce is imperative to sustain the expertise needed for ICT software and manufacturing to flourish.
Investment in higher technology manufacturing should go hand in hand with building a stronger R&D sector across industry and universities.
By systematically improving skills and encouraging collaboration on training, centres of excellence can emerge to spur investment in technology-led businesses and create the jobs the economy needs.