Taking steps to boost the Bangladeshi software industry

11 January 2013
ITC News
ITC’s NTFII team hosts debate at Digital World conference in Dhaka.

The International Trade Centre’s (ITC) NTF II Bangladesh team on 7 December (2012) organized an IT industry roundtable discussion at the Digital World conference in Dhaka. During the discussion recommendations from the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development’s (UNCTAD) recently launched Information Economy Report 2012, were presented, which among other things, suggests ways to boost Bangladesh’s software industry.

The report’s findings on global trends and UNCTAD’s innovative National Software System concept were presented at the session, which gathered representatives from industry, the Bangladesh Association of Software & Information Services (BASIS) and academia.

Free and open-source software

 The session was kicked off with a presentation by Mr Martin Labbé, an adviser on digital marketing for small and medium-sized enterprises at ITC, in which he looked at the Information Economy Report 2012. He highlighted the role of government and trade support institutions, and why the latter need to receive sufficient membership fees to deliver results. He also gave examples of how free and open-source software (FOSS) and web-sourcing platforms such as Odesk and Elance can contribute to strengthening the domestic supply side.
Mahfuzul Islam, a Professor of Computer Science & Engineering at Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (BUET), set out the role of policy, legislation, demographic trends and the pressures of the global market in influencing domestic development of the Bangladeshi software industry.

The two presentations were followed by panel discussion that looked at how the Bangladeshi software industry goes from small deals involving two developers to big deals involving hundreds. In addition to Mr Labbé and Mr Islam, the discussion included Mr Mosharef Hossain, Director of BASIS, Mr Imtiaz Ilahi, Managing Director of Graphic People, and Mr Manjur Mahmud, Director and COO of Datasoft Systems Bangladesh.

The panelists looked issues such as investment in Bangladesh, which up to now has been on the hardware and infrastructure side, while investments in software development are quite small in comparison.

There is also the issue of brain-drain, in which well-educated Bangladeshis are being sought out by global organizations seeking to boost their own talent pools. This leads to valuable resources leaving Bangladesh either temporarily or permanently. While this put some constraints on the domestic market, the Bangladeshi diaspora can also bring back valuable skills, experiences and networks.