Without making a proper plan, Bangladesh's target to earn $5 billion from the information technology sector in 2021 will be difficult to reach, said tech entrepreneurs at a conference in Dhaka on Saturday.
Bangladeshi IT firms have earned around $1 billion in the fiscal year 2018-19. The country needs to earn $4 billion more per year to reach the target which is very challenging, said the speakers at a seminar titled "Road to 5 billion dollars" at the International Convention Centre Bashundhara in Dhaka.
Bangladesh Association of Software and Information Services (BASIS) organised the seminar as a part of the BASIS SoftExpo 2020.
Farhad Zahid Shaikh, managing director of Graphic People, presented the keynote paper at the seminar.
He said, "In FY2018-19, Bangladesh has exported services worth $6.33 billion, of which $919 million was exported from the information technology sector."
Earlier, IT firms exported products and services worth $800 million in FY2017-18, and $750 million in FY2016-17.
Farhad said the government has taken initiatives, like setting up hi-tech parks, to enable IT firms to reach the export target of $5 billion. To realise the goals, the government must launch these parks as soon as possible and promote Bangladeshi IT firms in foreign countries.
MD Rashed, managing director of Dream 71, said our country does not have the infrastructure and expertise required to increase exports by $4 billion from the ICT sector in two years.
"Compared to India and China, it is a huge challenge for us."
Manjur Mahmud, chief operating officer of DataSoft Systems Bangladesh, said the government has to provide the entrepreneurs with loans under easier conditions to enable the ICT sector to reach the target.
Many tech entrepreneurs alleged that although the government exempted the ICT sector from income tax, it takes a long time to obtain the certificate for that exemption. On the other hand, the government officials often assess a higher value added tax (VAT) on their products.
Minister of Science and Technology Yeafesh Osman said, "ICT products and services are exported to 67 countries. We are earning $1 billion per year from this sector, but we want to increase this amount to $5 billion by 2021."
The government is trying to launch 28 hi-tech parks in the shortest possible time, he added.
He also assured businessmen about stopping the harassment over tax assessment.
Bangladeshi software developers mainly provide services like website development and design, mobile apps, games, application platform, VOIP application, data entry, graphic design, pre-press, digital design, support services and maintenance.
Bangladesh exported software worth $2.8 million in 1999-2000, according to BASIS.
According to the Export Promotion Bureau (EPB), Bangladesh exported software worth $7.2 million in FY2003-04, $12.6 million in FY2004-05, $27 million in FY2005-06, $26 million in FY2006-07, $24.8 million in FY2007-08, $32.9 million in FY2008-09, $35.3 million in FY2009-10, $40 million in FY2010-11.
The country's software export crossed $100 million dollar in FY2012-13, and it reached $101.63 million.
This amount further increased in the following years when Bangladeshi software developers exported products worth $124.7 million in FY2013-14, and $130 million in FY2014-15. In FY2015-16, Bangladesh earned $700 million by exporting software.