The government is going to create a database of second-generation Bangladeshis living in different countries – who are skilled in information technology (IT) – to increase exports of the information and communications technology (ICT) sector and provide more jobs for freelancers.
In addition, ICT desks will be set up in Bangladesh's embassies to provide job opportunities for expatriate information technology professionals, who will link Bangladesh with the ICT companies of those countries.
Through this, initiatives will be taken to increase foreign investment and exports in this sector.
The decisions came at a meeting between the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the ambassadors of Bangladesh to different countries on 28 December. Top officials of the government and non-governmental ICT-related organisations also attended the meeting.
In the meeting, co-chaired by Foreign Secretary Masud Bin Momen and Managing Director of the Bangladesh Hi-Tech Park Authority Hosne Ara Begum, the ambassadors said Bangladesh has huge potential in exporting ICT products and services to different countries.
They emphasised the importance of employing expatriate information technologists, setting up ICT desks in embassies, establishing relationships of Bangladeshi companies with ICT hubs of different countries, and formulating different strategies based on country and region.
Bangladesh set an export target of $5 billion in the ICT sector by 2021. But it is not possible to achieve due to a lack of skilled human resources and market. In the last financial year, the exports of the ICT sector were about $1 billion.
The major buyers of ICT products and services from Bangladesh are the United States (US), the United Kingdom, the European Union, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Malaysia, and Singapore.
The government now wants to increase ICT exports to $5 billion by 2025.
At the meeting, the foreign secretary requested IT and IT-enabled associations share or develop some documents – with features on fintech, Bitcoin, gaming, artificial intelligence (AI), and robotics technologies – that explain who the experts and dominant forces are in those areas when negotiating with other countries.
He also requested that all the Bangladesh missions abroad share tech or business-related proposals with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Ambassadors of Bangladesh to different countries – including the US, Libya, Belgium, the Netherlands, Kuwait, and Bahrain – mentioned that ICT is one of the high potential sectors for Bangladesh. They expressed the importance of developing a network or platform for non-resident Bangladeshis who are really interested in working for Bangladesh.
SK Sekander Ali, ambassador of Bangladesh to Libya, said, "Before the civil war, China and India worked in the ICT sector in Libya but they have left due to this war. Bangladesh has the opportunity and potential to occupy this void."
Ambassadors mentioned that many Bangladeshi expatriates have sufficient skills to work in the top IT sectors in different countries but they are not doing well because of a lack of communication skills.
In this regard, the foreign secretary requested them to explore the possibilities of sending skilled people or students to different countries, including the US.
M Riaz Hamidullah, Bangladesh's ambassador to the Netherlands, stated the western world is now shifting towards data mining, big data manipulation and cryptocurrency, so it is time Bangladesh addresses these developments and plans accordingly to train the country's students and human capital.
"Bangladesh needs to clarify the legal issues, financial features and other ICT-based sensitive issues. IT is very sophisticated knowledge and for this reason, Bangladesh must change its conventional pitching methods used in the manufacturing sector," he added.
Ambassadors from Middle Eastern countries mentioned that there is a great need for technical expertise in the region which Bangladesh can take advantage of.
Major General Md Ashikuzzaman, Bangladesh ambassador to Kuwait, said besides ICT, there are lots of opportunities for: pharmaceuticals, agriculture, ready-made garments, and other sectors. He emphasised the importance of hiring or creating IT based posts in every embassy to work in the IT sector.
Masudur Rahman, the deputy chief of mission to Beijing said, a Chinese company has already completed building a national data centre in Bangabandhu Hi-Tech Park which is the largest in Asia. So, Bangladesh can advertise digitisation, digital government and other digital innovation through the Hi-Tech Park authority.
"China is becoming the global leader in: AI, robotics, building software, etc. Additionally, China is now working on data safety and security which is another potential area for Bangladesh to benefit from. Further, many are now relocating their industries from China to other countries from which Bangladesh can seek opportunities," he added.