The National Data Centre (NDC) of Bangladesh, the seventh largest in the world, recently received considerable public attention as we came to know that some international organisations have shown their interest in storing data there.
It is therefore pertinent to analyse whether the NDC, the brain of "Digital Bangladesh," really has the potential to be a profitable venture and if it can earn foreign currency.
The Tier-IV NDC, built with Chinese financial and technical assistance, started operations in 2019 on a two-lakh square feet space and is located in the Bangabandhu Hi-Tech City, Kaliakoir, Joydebpur, Gazipur.
Bangladesh Computer Council (BCC), the statutory and autonomous government body that facilitates the use of information technology and the formulation of relevant policy, is responsible for operating and managing the NDC.
Currently, the NDC hosts 55,000 websites, including surokkha.gov.bd i.e. the vaccine registration system, 11 crore National Identity Cards, and e-Nothi of the government etc.
What types of services does the NDC provide?
The NDC has a vision of becoming the leading data centre in Asia. To materialise its vision, it offers a wide range of services.
Its services can be categorised broadly under three major categories: Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS); Platform as a Service (PaaS), and Software as a Service (SaaS).
The NDC is a certified Tier-4 standard data centre in Bangladesh where services are provided 24/7 with downtime at zero level and 99.995% uptime.
If we want to know if the NDC is going to be a profitable venture, we have to analyse it from two dimensions- (i) saving money; (ii) earning foreign currency.
Does it save foreign currency?
The NDC has already started saving foreign currency by minimising dependence on foreign organisations for data storage related facilities. It is currently saving us Tk353 crore yearly as Bangladeshi organisations can store data within the country.
Moreover, when the government or any local organisation stored data in a foreign land, they did not have the same level of confidence about data security, its protection and most importantly control over the data.
That is, not only is the NDC saving us foreign currency, it is also addressing the issues regarding data security and control over the data. This should also be considered while assessing the financial viability of the organisation.
Will it earn foreign currency?
Recently, AKM Latiful Kabir, the secretary of Bangladesh Data Centre Company Ltd (BDCCL), said that many foreign firms have shown interest in storing data at the NDC. Once the BDCCL signs an agreement with these foreign firms, the NDC will then start earning foreign currency.
The government is now planning to launch the G-Cloud of Oracle technology within the next six or 12 months. After that, the NDC will be the largest G-Cloud platform in
Southeast Asia. This will help in branding the NDC to attract more customers from across the globe, especially from South Asia.
Currently, only a few government organisations such as the Election Commission, Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics, A2i, state-owned banks, government's e-filing systems etc. are preserving their data in NDC. The NDC is annually earning Tk3.98 crore and spending Tk1.97 crore. It has already proven itself to be a profitable venture.
Currently, the NDC has to spend $45 million (around Tk387 crore) annually as licensing and renewing fees. Once it switches to the G-Cloud facility, it will minimise the spending and save a huge amount. And the reduction in cost will ultimately contribute to more income.
Undoubtedly, the NDC is one of the praiseworthy initiatives that Bangladesh has undertaken so far in this digital world. But managing a data centre properly is much more challenging than maintaining it.
One of the major challenges that every data centre faces is protecting stored information against emerging threats. Other challenges include monitoring the infrastructure, on-time availability, energy efficiency, cooling capacity etc. which need to be addressed by the concerned authority.
Government should be careful about any sort of corruption and make sure that bureaucratic red-tape does not infect the NDC like many other government organisations.
There are very few profitable government companies in Bangladesh. As the NDC has huge potential to earn foreign currency and become profitable, the government should nurture it, both financially and operationally, to turn it into a cash cow.
Ozair Islam is a freelance writer and columnist. He can be reached at [email protected].
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinions and views of The Business Standard.