Posted by. Disrupt Tech. August 9, 2021
“Asian Tigers” – a title that marks the high growth economies of Asia. Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, and Hong Kong are the four Asian Tigers who have come to be known as the Asian Tigers due to their incredible high growth rates between the early 1960s and 1990s.
The 4 countries managed to maintain an exceptionally steady GDP growth rate of over 7% or more during their rise. Now, you may ask – where does Bangladesh come in here?
In the last five years, Bangladesh has been able to maintain a GDP growth rate of over 7%, reaching an all-time high of 8.2% in 2019. Obviously, Bangladesh took a hit in its growth rate in 2020 due to the pandemic. But according to ADB (Asian Development Bank), Bangladesh is projected to have a quick recovery in 2021 reaching 6.8% and eventually going over 7% again in 2022. Its growth rate is also expected to stay steady at over 7% from there.
Looking at what has made Bangladesh’s rise possible, we could easily see the contribution of the $30 billion garment industry. However, Bangladesh is already working on various diversification to solidify its journey towards becoming the next Asian Tiger.
With ICT exports already hitting the $1 billion mark, Bangladesh is planning to increase ICT exports to $5 billion by 2025.
Let’s take a bird’s eye view of Bangladesh’s technology landscape —
Coursera, one of the most leading online learning platforms, took the initiative to understand the skills proficiency of people.
They analyzed performance data across 65 million learners on their platform for 12 months. Their report benchmarked skills proficiency for 60 countries. The analysis went across 10 industries and 11 fields of study in business, technology, and science in their Global Skills Index.
Among the four categories – Cutting-Edge (rank 1-15), Competitive (rank 16-30), Emerging (rank 31-45), and Lagging (rank 46-60) – Bangladesh came at 57 for both tech skills and Data Science skills. Whereas Bangladesh’s neighbor, India, came in the Emerging category for tech skills. However, India came at 51 for Data Science.
According to Harvard Business Review – “Although Coursera learners are surely not a perfectly representative sample, they are a particularly important group for analysis: those most motivated and able to improve their skill set.”
One thing is for sure is that a skilled workforce is a fundamental necessity for the rapid technological growth of a country. Despite the government’s sincerity to build a “Digital Bangladesh”, it is important to acknowledge the challenge of skill deficiencies.
Bangladesh needs to put more organized efforts to develop capable individuals with practical skills instead of bookish knowledge.
Bangladesh has made tremendous strides when it comes to internet penetration. Riding from 2G to 4G, it has achieved 60% penetration in the last 12 years from a mere 0.4%.
What about the cost? – you may ask. Internet cost has come down to 1% of what it used to be a decade ago. It’s 1% – not a typo!
Bangladesh is working to bring down the cost even lower. It has joined the Alliance for Affordable Internet (A4AI), the largest global coalition that works to reduce internet costs. The government is also working on sound policies and regulations. But, when it comes to internet speed, Bangladesh stands at 98th position among 175 countries for broadband speed.
However, such expansion in internet accessibility has facilitated Bangladesh to become the 2nd most favorite country for freelancing according to the Oxford Internet Institute.
According to a 2017 report from the ICT Division of Bangladesh, $100 million is generated annually from 500,000 active freelancers working in various fields such as –
Software development and technology
Creative and multimedia
Sales and marketing support
Writing and translation
Clerical and data entry
When it comes to the technology overview of a country or concepts like Digital Bangladesh, it is not only about implementing state-of-the-art technologies like AI, Big Data, IoT (Internet of Things), VR (Virtual Reality), and so on. It is also about mitigating the socio-economic divide due to the availability of technology and digital services.
It is important to understand that the majority of Bangladesh does not belong to the tech-savvy generation living in the cities.
To give it a context, think about an average reader of an online blog. He/she is not among the average Bangladeshi. The average Bangladeshi, in the villages, isn’t thinking about AI, 5G internet, or Digital Transformation.
Frankly speaking, they are not even ready for those things! It could be due to cost, accessibility, or skill.
Those Bangladeshis simply care about making their lives a bit better. And if possible, they dream to get a bit closer to the “digital” lives their richer, more educated, urban counterparts are living.
This is where Bangladesh is doing a stellar job. One-stop Digital Centre is one of the large-scale innovations of the Access to Information Project (a2i). There are 5000 one-stop Digital Centres located within 4km from a village throughout the country.
These centres ensure access to vital information and services to rural people. They help to save money, time, and effort for them regardless of their literacy and computer skills. The Digital Centres have made it possible to make the following services available to the rural population with ease –
Overseas job applications
Mobile financial services,
Online training and so on.
These centres have become a great blessing for women, people with disabilities, and the elderly across the country.
Bangladesh is becoming an emerging force in terms of electronics manufacturing. Especially for smartphones, home appliances, and motorbikes. Besides local pioneers like Walton, Bangladesh is also home to big names like Samsung, LG, Oppo, Vivo, Realme, and so on.
On the other hand, the country has been seeing rapid growth in online services. Especially during the pandemic, the growth has been exponential. According to the e-Commerce Association of Bangladesh (e-CAB), the current market size of E-commerce in Bangladesh is around $1 billion.
To make things even more interesting, Bangladesh has been booming with unique startups that are working with technology-based solutions in various industries including –
Travel & Logistics
Entertainment & Lifestyle
Foodtech and Agritech
With the support of government funding, local and international Venture Capital firms, and other investors and incubators – you shouldn’t be surprised if Bangladesh becomes the center of attraction for technology-driven businesses in Asia by the next decade.
However, according to the World Bank (WB) Ease of Doing Business 2020 index, Bangladesh ranked 168 out of 190 countries. Although the position went up by 8 steps from 2019, it is an indication that Bangladesh has still a long way to go to facilitate its technology ventures.
It is safe to say, Bangladesh’s technology landscape is filled with scopes of both despair and incredible possibilities. Keeping Bangladesh’s track record of steady growth in the last decade, it is only right to hope that this tiny country from South Asia, may surprise the world in terms of technology-driven success despite all odds.