The Financial Express

Developing hi-tech park

Photo courtesy: Bangladesh Hi-Tech Park Authority Photo courtesy: Bangladesh Hi-Tech Park Authority

The Bangabandhu Hi-tech Park at Kaliakoir, Gazipur has reportedly attracted $1.5 billion investment - one of the massive private investments in the country -- from nine companies, both local and foreign. Agreements signed between the park authority and the companies separately at the beginning of the year have opened up the vista of the country's largest and most advanced technological hub. To be established on 232 acres of land, this hi-tech city is likely to change the nation's face in terms of manufacture, development and, maybe, innovation of ICT (information, communication and technology) products. The nine companies, Robi Axiata, Xenex, BJIT Software, Fair Electronic, KDS Group, Intercloud, Business Automation, Nasdaq Technology and JR Enterprise have been allotted in total 20.50 acres of land for setting up their own factories.

This is not the only bunch of companies to have received allotment of land in the hi-tech park. Establishment of factories by many of the companies is in progress now. By the next 10 years the hi-tech city may have taken a definite shape. Let those take a prestigious look and shape like the Wipro and Infosys in Bangalore. The hope is that 70,000 techno-savvy youths will get employment there and some of them will play the role of advancing scientific and technological knowledge to a new high so much so that their works will be rated favourably with the world's best.

Credit goes to the government for conceiving the idea of such an exclusive hi-tech IT park. The fact that Bangladesh is a land-scarce country, it can ill afford putting large areas of land to industrialisation, particularly those demanding sprawling spaces. On that count, information technology does not require large space in order to produce high-value knowledge, data and products. That the country's young people are smart and intelligent enough to do IT solution on a par with their counterparts in advanced countries goes in favour of prioritising this sector for generation of both employment and income, most importantly from countries abroad. The good thing is that they do not have to migrate for jobs; rather can do the work from local offices or even home.

How youths in this country have advanced their case mostly on their own initiatives is proved by the fact that the country has already earned $1.0 billion in foreign exchange from outsourcing. A target has been set for the information, communication and technology (ICT) sector to raise the earning to $5.0 billion by 2021. Bangladesh is second to India, the largest recipient of foreign exchange, in respect of earning from outsourcing. When the companies start developing software, hardware, internet of things (IOT), business process outsourcing (BPO) and running training centres and data centres among others, the output is expected to be many times more than the input. Also many companies will set up plants for manufacture of IT devices such as personal computers, laptops, smart phones, cell phones and their accessories not only to meet the local demand but also for export.

The prospect ought to be bright by all means provided that the works keep pace with innovation and development on the IT front the world over. There is no doubt that the companies now investing in factories or plants at the hi-tech park will enjoy tax rebate and many other facilities. After all, here is a mighty effort to pull the country not only out of technological backwardness but also to create its own infrastructure all across the land in order to create facilities for work from even rural areas.

To go by the authority's claim, all the unions in the country will come under the IT connectivity network by the year end. This surely will be no mean achievement, if it is accomplished. The authorities further claim that computer laboratories will be set up in all schools, colleges and universities. There is no doubt about the sincerity of the motive but the problem with such a programme is its dependence on a number of other conditions. When disruption of electricity supply is not uncommon in cities and towns, rural areas cannot rest assured on the utility services for uninterrupted supply of power. Outsourcing thrives on timely delivery of service. If there is frequent or prolonged load-shedding, it is impossible to comply with the delivery schedules.

Next comes techno wizardry. In rural areas, highly trained or skilled computer teachers or technicians are a rarity let alone engineers. The fact that creation of infrastructure is going on now may be endorsed with a grain of salt. News on the fate of computers distributed among schools or laboratories set up in unions is hardly encouraging. With basic constraints remaining unaddressed, their utility has been next to nothing.

Let the universities produce more computer science graduates before assigning them to the job of training up technicians who can take over computer laboratories. In the future computer science engineers will take responsibility of such computer centres and the entire nation will be able to operate many of their daily works in a digital-friendly environment. This will happen not long before but the nation must be prepared from now on. Illiteracy and non-functional education are surely a stumbling block on the way to the digital journey. So, all people must be educated-- at least modestly.



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