Bangladesh’s IT Sector Poised for Major Growth with ‘Made in Bangladesh’ Roadmap

DALA vibrant, futuristic landscape featuring a high-tech manufacturing facility in Bangladesh. The background showcases the country's iconic skyline with

The Bangladeshi government believes that digital devices and IT products, such as mobile phones, computers, and laptops, will be pivotal in capturing a potential $10 billion market in the information technology sector, both domestically and internationally, within the next four years.

The Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Division has initiated a ‘Made in Bangladesh’ roadmap to expand digital device manufacturing industries and promote local products in international markets. Successful implementation of this roadmap is expected to create employment for at least 100,000 people in the IT device manufacturing industry. Laptops and mobile phones will be exported to meet the domestic demand of approximately $200 million.

The ICT Division envisions that the ‘Made in Bangladesh’ action plan will position Bangladesh as a hub for ICT and IoT product manufacturing, supporting the government’s Digital Access for All agenda. The country is projected to earn $5 billion in export income from the IT sector by 2025, with the domestic market for ICT products and IT-enabled services expected to reach $5 billion.

The growing demand for digital devices among Bangladesh’s emerging middle and affluent classes creates a conducive environment for the country to enter the international hi-tech industry. The roadmap prioritizes using locally produced ICT products in government procurement and aims to set up export hubs in strategic locations like Singapore, Dubai, and England.

The new roadmap emphasizes creating skilled manpower, improving product quality, ensuring quality assurance, assessing global demand, enhancing the image of Bangladeshi products, protecting intellectual property, and increasing research efforts. Collaboration among various government ministries, agencies, and non-governmental organizations is crucial for the roadmap’s success.

According to the International Data Cooperation (IDC), Bangladesh imported 3.4 million mobile phones worth $1.18 billion in 2017, and the laptop market was estimated at $300 million in 2018. The Bangladesh Hi-Tech Park Authority (BHTPA) offers a range of incentives, including income tax concessions and duty exemptions, to foster the domestic IT device manufacturing industry.

The roadmap aims to overcome obstacles such as high capital expenditure, lack of skills, weak industry support ecosystems, quality assurance issues, and lack of valuable regulations to prioritize local products. Strategic themes include capacity-building, awareness creation, research and development, and policy support, with action plans for the short, medium, and long term.

The roadmap’s success will depend on job creation, value addition, and investment coordination. Bangladesh’s export sector, traditionally reliant on ready-made garments, must diversify into other promising sectors like leather, textiles, pharmaceuticals, ICT, and light engineering.

Efforts should also focus on facilitating exports to Latin America, Africa, Asia, the Middle East, the EU, and the US. Free trade agreements and preferential trade agreements can further enhance export opportunities. The jute sector, in particular, has significant potential to grow from $5 billion to $10 billion, given its importance as a sustainable natural fiber.

The local ICT sector, which earns about $1 billion annually, needs better financial infrastructure, such as a digital wallet or payment system like PayPal. Additionally, a low-cost fund should be created to ensure access to finance for the sector’s development. Strengthening the Bangladesh Standards and Testing Institute (BSTI) and enhancing the country’s legal capacity are also essential.

Bangladesh’s policymakers have long discussed export diversification, and the recently concluded ‘Bangladesh Trade and Investment Summit’ emphasized the need for policy and legal reforms to unlock untapped business potential. While the concept of special economic zones is attractive, the necessary facilities and environment must be provided to attract investment effectively.

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