The fourth industrial revolution (4IR) is evolving fast and reshaping the global industrial, trade and economic landscape, creating chances to leapfrog development hurdles with the support of technology.
So, long-term policy, modernisation of education and curriculum system, infrastructure development, industry-academia collaboration; skilling, re-skilling and up-skilling should be priorities now.
Speakers at the Dhaka Chamber of Commerce and Industry (DCCI) organised webinar "4th Industrial Revolution in the Wake of Covid-19" said this on Thursday.
The telecommunication sector is the ocean for the 4IR, Posts, Telecommunications and Information Technology Minister Mustafa Jabbar said at the programme.
The share of Bangladesh's under-35 population is 65% which is an added advantage for the country, the minister said.
Technology adoption should be inclusive for the people of Bangladesh and policy will have formulated keeping the need of the country in mind, Jabbar said.
"We should not fear the 4IR as our" adaptability level is too high, he remarked.
In 2008, there were 8 lakh internet users who used only 8 Gbps bandwidth. "Now we are using about 2,100 Gbps bandwidth," Jabbar pointed out.
He also informed 5G will mainly be available in all the major cities of the country by 2023 while maintaining that the education system and curriculum will have to be adjusted to keep up with the pace of the 4IR.
The small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) of Bangladesh are using technology now and they are producing diversified products, but 4IR will open up new avenues, namely, in the recycling industries, Additional Secretary of Ministry of Industries Begum Parag said at the event.
New technology and automation will create new job opportunities and skill development. "Considering every aspect, the ministry is drafting the National Industrial Policy," Parag said.
"Covid-19 taught us how to be digitalised. We have no options but to adopt the 4IR or we may lose competitiveness in the international market."
DCCI President Shams Mahmud said at the programme, Bangladesh still lagged in adopting 4IR technologies in the industrial ecosystem and this adoption would be needed immediately to speed up the country's growth momentum.
Despite the challenges of low-skilled job loss, in the short-term, launching 4IR technologies will unlock a new era of growth and employment across all sectors of Bangladesh, the DCCI President continued.
To seize the opportunities of the 4IR, the government may form a high-level national committee to engage relevant agencies and experts from public and private sectors, he suggested.
Shams also recommended considering a 4IR perspective in the upcoming National Industrial Policy.
"A robust national 4IR technology policy needs to be framed to support the application of big data, blockchain, artificial intelligence, robotics and internet of things (IoT) for adding value to our industrial and economic competitiveness and connecting digitally-enabled global value chain."
Calling for sector-wise re-skilling, up-skilling and development of human resources in line with the 4IR demand, Shams said creating enabling regulatory ecosystem including enforcement of intellectual property rights will facilitate the pathway of 4IR.
He also suggested initiating 5G technology to underpin low-cost big data and diverse (IoT) services.
Pathao Limited President and CFO Fahim Ahmed said over 6 million people in Bangladesh are using the internet to take the services of Pathao. In the last five years over $250 million was invested in the country's technology sector.
Access to connectivity and technology is more important. "We must build soft skills and innovation. Resilience and preparedness are very important to adopt the challenges of the 4IR," Fahim said.