IT, informal sector, and start-ups vital for growth in the digital economy : Study
Dhaka, 5 April 2021:
Three industries in Bangladesh–namely the business process outsourcing (BPO) and software industry, the informal sector, and the startup ecosystem–have been identified as key economic opportunities for Bangladesh to accelerate its inclusive growth in the digital age in a strategy primer published by the BRAC Institute of Governance and Development (BIGD) in partnership with the University of Oxford’s Digital Pathways Initiative.
The strategy primer, unveiled in an online event titled “Launching of Strategy Primer: The Future of Digital in Bangladesh” on 5 April, was crafted in close collaboration with the Information and Communication Technology Division (ICT) Division of the Government of Bangladesh and co-created through robust desk research and a series of dialogue sessions with government agencies, private sectors, and civil society organizations. The aim was to build consensus on a shortlist of strategic priorities for Bangladesh to thrive in the digital economy. The strategy primer provides concrete action plans for the next five years to realize this vision and also distributes shared responsibilities among different stakeholders within and outside the government.
It also highlights the urgent need to improve the country’s current state of digital readiness by ensuring universal access to ICT infrastructure and investing in human capital development in light of the digital age.
Zunaid Ahmed Palak MP, State Minister, ICT Division spoke at the event as the Chief Guest, along with Bikarna Kumar Ghosh, Additional Secretary, ICT Division, and Dr Stefan Dercon, Professor, Blavatnik School of Government at the University of Oxford and Development Policy Advisor to the Foreign Secretary, UK Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO).
“I cannot see a better area where opportunities lie than the BPO and Information Technology Enabled Services (ITeS) sector, given the nature of the education in Bangladesh,” said Professor Dercon, “The government needs to do the right things to make this happen and has to bring in the right partners to make this sector work. I really believe this is an incredible opportunity for the country.”
BIGD researchers Dr Zulkarin Jahangir, Research Fellow; Abdullah Hasan Safir, Senior Research Associate; and Shamael Ahmed, Research Associate, also brought up the potential for collaboration and engagements between the private and public sectors to bridge the digital divide in Bangladesh.
“The strategy primer rightly pointed out the challenges ahead of us for achieving a digital economy by 2041,” said State Minister Zunaid Ahmed Palak, “and I hope that in partnership with academia such as BRAC University and University of Oxford, and with our industry stakeholders, we can work together to achieve our targets and visions.”
Dr Imran Matin, Executive Director, BIGD mentioned how social science perspectives can be combined with technology and innovation to create opportunities for a transformative and inclusive Bangladesh.
“BIGD pledges to support and empower our stakeholders to harness the wisdom and to embark on actionable research in the near future,” he said.
The session was moderated by M. Musharraf Hossain Bhuiyan, Former Cabinet Secretary, Government of Bangladesh and Senior Advisor, BIGD.