No reflection of ICT policy | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, June 10, 2011 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, June 10, 2011

No reflection of ICT policy

The budget proposal for the upcoming fiscal year will not help the country implement its Digital Bangladesh Vision as the government's outlay does not reflect its ICT Policy, said industry insiders.
The government has allocated Tk 510 crore to the ICT ministry, but sector people say there is no clear indication in the budget how the funds will be utilised.
The government's proposal to increase import tax on fibre optic cable to 12 percent from 3 percent now will certainly increase internet service cost, said experts.
“Somehow, we don't see the reflection of the Digital Bangladesh dream in the budget, as the government didn't allocate anything to digitalise its own mechanism,” said Mustofa Zabbar, president of Bangladesh Computer Samity.
Experts said the government wants higher internet penetration in the country, which now stands at a meagre 8 percent. But it did withdraw the existing 15 percent value-added tax on internet usage.
The industry hoped that tax-VAT holiday in case of software would be offered until 2018 as per the ICT policy, but the government has extended the facility only up to 2013, said Mahboob Zaman, president of Bangladesh Association of Software and Information Services (BASIS).
“The budget has also not spelled out when funding for the high-tech park or software park will be available.”
There is no budgetary allocation for public-private partnership initiatives, said an IT businessman. Software and IT-related services are still not included in any category, although the sector's leaders are pressing the government for a long time.
Zaman said the budget should have adopted the ICT policy, saying what the sector needs. The entire budget document is filled up with jargons such as automation, Digital Bangladesh, e-commerce, e-government, he added. “The sector cannot be benefited from these jargons.”
There are 306 projects to be implemented in short-, medium- and long-term, according to the ICT ministry. The BASIS chief said it would have been good for the sector if the government had allocated at least 10 percent of the Tk 700 crore fund it was supposed to utilise under long-term programmes. “But the government did not.”
“The government moves in the budget contradict its vision, and the budget won't help the industry,” Zaman said.
The budget will help import telecom equipment, as it has exempted import duties on such products, said Sumon Ahmed Sabir, vice president of Internet Service Providers' Association of Bangladesh, (ISPAB).
“But it won't be helpful for the industry. ISPAB won't get any benefit from the proposal, as import tax was not withdrawn for fibre optic cable.”
The government has exempted educational institutions of VAT for internet usage, but it will not enhance internet penetration, said Sabir.

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