As the country looks to diversify its export baskets, which is going to be one of its key challenges in the post-LDC era, the importance and potentials of the information and communication technology (ICT) sector cannot be emphasised enough. The Software and IT-Enabled Services Industry has been expanding rapidly since the government kick-started digital Bangladesh campaign back in 2009. At present export earnings from the technology sector is about USD 1.5 billion, and the government has a plan to raise earnings from this sector to USD 5 billion by 2025. By that time, as the finance minister expressed his hope in his budget speech, as many as three million jobs will be created in the ICT sector.
There is no denying that the ICT sector has the potential to become an important economic pillar for Bangladesh in the near future after RMG. Many even claim that export earnings from this sector will surpass that of the RMG sector in 10 years.
The investment in the ICT sector is also one step forward to becoming a knowledge-based economy, which the country aspires to become by 2041. It will require investment in human capital, adequate budgetary allocation to education and research, facilitation of start-ups with innovative ideas, among others. In the 2022-23 budget, the government has adopted policies to facilitate start-ups, but the slapping of additional tax on laptop imports might be counterproductive in this regard.
The growth in the ICT sector hinges on human resource development. Thus the government has made skill-based education a focus area. However, in spite of the mushroom growth of universities and training centres, lack of quality education and training has remained a cause for concern. In the previous year’s budget the finance minister had spoken about hiring skilled teachers from abroad, but the idea has been shelved since then for some mysterious reasons. We hope necessary measures will be taken to overcome the situation.