Bangladesh needs to act promptly to utilise its demographic dividend to take due advantage of the new opportunities, being opened due to the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR), speakers opined at an international forum on Wednesday.
They also said the policies related to the country's education system and skill development programmes should be revised to tackle possible job losses as a result of 4IR.
The observations came at the 9th WIEF Global Disclosure on '4th Industrial Revolution (4IR): Seizing Possibility for the Future', arranged on the concluding day of WIEF-SEACO Foundation Dhaka Roundtable 2019.
The three-day programme was organised by the World Islamic Economic Forum (WIEF) Foundation in collaboration with the South East Asian Cooperation (SEACO) Foundation at a city hotel.
The Financial Express (FE) is the media partner of the event.
Prime Minister's International Affairs Adviser Professor Dr Gowher Rizvi spoke at the programme as the chief guest. University of Asia Pacific Vice Chancellor Dr Jamilur Reza Choudhury delivered the closing remark.
President of Malaysian Industry-Government Group for High Technology (MIGHT) Dr Mohammad Yusoff Sulaiman, Partner at A T Kearney - an American global management consulting firm - Dr Hasan Shafi, and Robi Axiata Ltd CEO Mahtab Uddin Ahmed spoke as panellists at the discussion.
Bangladesh Centre for Fourth Industrial Revolution (BD4IR) Vice President Syed Tamjid ur Rahman moderated it.
Mr Rizvi, in his speech, said technology and industrialisation are progressing fast to lessen burden on human and to improve quality of people's lives. But various challenges like climate change and increased consumerism have also surfaced with these at the same time.
He also said the need for quality education has long been discussed to develop set of skills and knowledge for 4IR, as the country's students have to compete in the global market.
Noting that each industrial era is getting shorter than the previous one, Mr Rizvi opined: "Knowledge is also becoming obsolete fast, and the only way we can be able to meet the need of skilled people in the fast-changing technological world is by providing training and discipline to the students' mind."
Mr Shafi said policymakers should set clear aspiration to get habituated with the changes taking place due to 4IR, as Bangladesh is still in a very nascent stage of readiness for it.
He said agriculture, textile and young population should get priority in the policies to tap the potentials of 4IR.
"Job cuts due to 4IR may take place especially in the SME (small and medium enterprise) sector. But simultaneously more jobs will be created in the sectors, of which we don't know much yet."
He also mentioned that 4IR is being built upon the technologies like internet of things (IoT), artificial intelligence (AI), automation, robotics, and additive manufacturing, among others.
Mr Choudhury, in his concluding remarks, said a number of small factories in the country's ready-made garment sector have been closed down because of technological adaptation.
Emphasising the need for properly utilising the country's demographic dividend to take advantage of 4IR, he said, "The window for demographic dividend will remain open for only 10 to 15 years staring from 2020 to 2030-35." This is the high time to take preparation to tap the opportunities of demographic dividend, because if the chance is missed, it will not return in near future, he added.
Earlier, Mr Sulaiman said Malaysia has transformed its economy from an agricultural one to a high-tech merchandise exporting one through systematic adaptation of technology.
Bangladesh also has potentials to do so, but the authorities concerned should focus on developing own brands, and should promote exporting intermediate products to established global brands, he added.
Founder Vice Chancellor of Bangladesh Open University Professor Dr M Shamsher Ali, Legislative Council Member of Brunei Darussalam Siti Rozaimeriyanty DSLJ Haji Abdul Rahman, and former chairman of National Board of Revenue (NBR) Dr Muhammad Abdul Mazid were also present at the programme, among others.