Wednesday, 6 July, 2022

Modernization of BITAC and Economic Development

Md. Nurunnabi

Modernization of BITAC and Economic Development
Md. Nurunnabi

Bangladesh Industrial Technical Assistance Centre (BITAC) is one of the less-heard and self-governed saturated bodies in the skills development as well as industrial technical assistance arena under the Ministry of Industry (MoI) in Bangladesh. It would be a great misery if we don’t appreciate the unparalleled and rich vision behind establishing BITAC. The preamble of BITAC was an elevated thought of putting our industry sector aligned with the highest standard to the rest of the developed world. The salient features, infrastructures and strength of BITAC as Skills Training Provider (STP) are unanimously credible to the Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) scholars. Besides, BITAC has the potentiality of turning our industrial sector self-reliant through development of product, process and skilled manpower. There are several inventions of BITAC, though unheard and unpublished, that make us optimistic about the organization. Further, the government's perspective and realization, though it’s been too late, about the modernization of BITAC could onboard this organization at the leading role resulting in radical changes in the industrial sector in Bangladesh. In addition, BITAC’s inevitable strength of enhancing the innovation of technology and its transmission through research as well as development surely puts this organization in a unique position. However, through some measures it might be an incubation center for entrepreneurs, a guide for the local industries and a contributor to the national economic development as well.

The Pakistan Industrial Technical Centre (PITAC) was resurrected from the merger of two productivity oriented public organizations namely Industrial Research & Development Centre (IRDC) and Pakistan Productivity Industrial Services (PPIS) in 1962.  PITAC was renamed as BITAC after the birth of Bangladesh. At present, five BITACs are performing the key roles while four others are in the pipeline to be escalated very soon. The intervention of the Tool and Technology Institute (TTI) in BITAC is a landmark that would significantly assist in reaching to the modernization of BITAC. Though BITAC was born even before the liberation of Bangladesh, unluckily for plentiful reasons, this primeval organization could supplement very little to the advancement of the industrial sector in our country. Hence, the long cherished and justified BITAC law was passed in the national parliament on 14 November 2019. As part of the strengthening process, BITAC initiates a development project under MoI which includes curriculum upgradation, setting-up new machineries, infrastructural development, professional development training, and extensive support to the light engineering sector. Besides, establishment of a modern BITAC Center in Mirsharai Sheikh Mujib Shilpo Park, a modern BITAC Foundry Training Center in Jashore, and a modern welding as well as motor mechanical training center at Bangladesh Small and Cottage Industries Corporation (BSCIC) industrial city in Narayanganj are in progress as a manifesto of reaching Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) based modern BITAC.

Industry is the key agent that can bring a vital change to the socio-economic development of a country. No other sector can bring changes to the economic shift in a country as the industrial sector does so far. The Industrial Revolution that took place in 1760 to sometime between 1820 and 1840 was a transition to new manufacturing processes in Great Britain, continental Europe, and the United States (US). After the industrial revolution, most of the developed nations in the global map have enormously positioned themselves on the economic driven seat exploring the productivity of their own industries. However, the new BITAC law, 2019 comprehensively aspires to engulf skills training, manufacturing sophisticated machine parts, imparting advisory services, innovating new technology, developing linkage with national and international universities, and disseminating technology to the public and private industries.

BITAC’s contribution to the skills development training and spare parts production is playing a significant role in the economic development of Bangladesh. It provides skills development training for Skills for Employment Investment Program (SEIP) and Self-Employment and Poverty Alleviation (SEPA) projects. It’s an Information and Communication Technology (ICT) cell that complies with the announcement of digital Bangladesh. The research and development program of BITAC works uncompromisingly to produce machines and technologies that are ecologically suited with our context as well as 4IR. The outstanding invention of the ‘Green Jute Chipper’ machine, for paper mills to produce pulp from green jute, is aptly acknowledged by this industry player. Besides, BITAC’s invention of high powered reduction gearbox along with digester gearbox has now been possible to produce locally for the paper mills. This has saved one third of the imported price for the paper industry. In addition, BITAC’s invention of an aerator machine, to be made locally for prawn cultivation in the coastal areas, also saves huge amounts of imported money every year. The Thrust Bearing Oil Cooler of BITAC for power plants and the Salt Iodization Plant for mixing iodine in table salt are now very popular in this industry sector. The nomination of BITAC’s experts, instead of foreign ones, for solving the nuclear reactor’s leakage of the Atomic Energy Commission has been highly entrusted. While Carew & Co (Bangladesh) Ltd was suffering, BITAC came forward and successfully made a Filling Machine of Distillery Unit resulting in a swift solution without hiring foreign experts. The automatic hydraulic lift for physically handicapped and wheelchair users has been made for making their movement easy. Most of the industries of Bangladesh depend on the assistance of BITAC for repair and maintenance of their machineries as well as technologies.

Industries are the driving force of triggering the wheel of economic development. Very few sectors have the potential to contribute to the national GDP as industries do so far. Hence, industry can be the component of positive reinforcement to a country’s movement towards reaching sustainable development. This movement would be possible exploring advanced technologies. BITACs play a major role to ensure the advancement of the industrial sector using technology and local context. For importing required parts of the machines, it would cost a huge amount of foreign currency which, in turns, BITAC could repair with one-fourth of the total imported cost. Thus, BITAC saves vast amounts of foreign currencies and promotes our ownership as well. Hence, if we want to be self-reliant we can’t but intervene with new technologies in our existing industrial set up. We must have to produce machine parts of our own capacity alongside we discourage the idea of importing repairable parts at high cost from abroad. BITAC is our national asset and it has ample capacity to strengthen the whole industrial sector of our country. So, the emergence of upgrading BITAC is very rational and a time oriented demand.

Mr. Shaheen (disguise name), a graduate from Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (BUET), is a reputed engineer at Oklahoma in the US Department of State. While I was there and talked to him, he raised reasons for leaving Bangladesh in search of a job in the US. Like Mr. Shaheen, we have thousands of brain-drain resulting in losing potential talent. This surely impacts on BITAC as well. BITAC’s TTI project suffers from the lack of committed engineers in its research, 

development and innovation team. It also flops to represent its position to the development partners and inter alia in terms of prospects and possibilities in a win-win situation. The poor number of linkages with national and international engineering academia has alienated BITAC from the advanced world to another planet.  In spite of being a member state, BITAC fails to get the in-built support of the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO). On 7 September 2017, LI Yong, Director General of UNIDO along with representatives from MoI, met Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to strengthen collaboration through inclusive and sustainable industrial development including the required acquisition of the technical skills in the modern manufacturing sector. Several years have gone yet to reach the decisions of the meeting so far. However, Old and outdated machinery, insufficient technology, accommodating towards accepting new and advanced technologies, thirst for achieving new invention, absence of competitive advantages and few training opportunities for professional development are the major hindrances in establishing modern BITAC. The mentioned issues stand as obstacles in front of BITAC to draw the attention of the government in resource allocation.

Government initiatives of strengthening BITAC can be observed in different comprehensive and strategic actions. The Industry minister and his team e.g. the Director General (DG) of BITAC are working relentlessly for the incarnation of a revolutionary BITAC in the industry sector in Bangladesh. Besides, the senior Secretary, Finance Division, Ministry of Finance envisions a technology enhanced modern BITAC and favored SEIP project to make it happen. Subsequently, the Technical and Madrasah Education Division (TMED) secretary who was the then Deputy Project Director (DEPD) of SEIP project took the lead of the modernization in close collaboration with BITAC and the Korean University of Education and Technology (Koreatech). With that beginning, the modernization of BITAC has now stepped into the realm of reality having full support from SEIP. A twelve storied modern workshop along with new technology and advanced training comprising precision engineering, mechatronics, electrical technology, mechanical technology has been designed as well as developed with the support from Koreatech and ADB’s financing. In addition, Koreatech agrees on providing technical advisory services and cooperation for BITAC’s advanced training, curriculum development, training of trainers, and training implementation support. Thus, SEIP is conspicuously upgrading and equipping BITAC enfolding the benchmarks of 4IR and onward.

The National Skills Development Authority (NSDA) has been formed as an apex body to take forward the mandates of NSDP 2020 enclosing extensive support to the STPs. BITAC is one of the radiant and state owned registered organizations of NSDA. It has noticeable strengths and the ability of materializing the mission and vision of NSDA than other STPs. Hence, BITAC might be a unique repository of NSDA that can equip 4IR based potential resources exploring its technology enhanced setting. The surveyed and forecasted skills of NSDA would easily be produced in BITAC’s premises and engaged them in the national and international periphery. Hence, the tripartite ties among NSDA, MoI and BITACs should be strategic in implementing NSDP 2020.

BITAC is a rising sun in the industrial horizon of Bangladesh. The proximal development and increased productivity of our industrial sector would be possible through modernization of BITAC. Thought provoking measures and their implications would turn BITAC to a new dimension and the highest form of development. Besides, the government's positive outlook and apprehension of the intervention of 4IR based technology might institutionalize BITACs as an incubator for industrial as well as skills development centers. In addition, NSDA should facilitate linkages between BITACs and industries to ensure support through training, consultancy, and technology transfer, testing facilities for instruments or parts, etc. both nationally and internationally. Bangladesh Economic Zones Authority (BEZA) should assess their skills demand and employ the skilled graduates of BITAC for the economic zones. The development partner e.g. ADB and World Bank should extend their support to this promising organization. However, a strategic plan along with the implementation timeline might strengthen BITAC to bring a revolutionary change in the industrial sector in Bangladesh.

The writer is a Project Officer at SEIP, Finance Division, Ministry of Finance. Email: [email protected]