A clear understanding of automation, the use of modern technologies and presence of skilled human resources are essential to adapting to the fourth industrial revolution (4IR) and making opportunities out of the challenges presented by the prevailing situation, experts said yesterday.
"This is a need to clearly understand the challenges faced by any industry in order to design a solution that will help it become successful in this world dominated by the internet-of-things (IoT), and automation," said Mehdi Anwar, a professor of electrical and computer engineering at the University of Connecticut.
Anwar made the comments while making his keynote presentation at a webinar styled "Challenges & Opportunities for Entrepreneurship and Employment in the context of current status of Skill Development and readiness for Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR)".
The event was jointly organised by the Bangladesh Investment Development Authority (BIDA) and the France Bangladesh Chamber of Commerce and Industry (CCIFB).
Aside from understanding the challenges, there is a need to establish relevant communication-related infrastructures and generate a qualified workforce to reap the full benefit of 4IR, Anwar said.
Planning Minister MA Mannan assured that the government would provide full support for the formulation and implementation of a national strategy to make Bangladesh 4IR-responsive.
He emphasised a collective effort from the academia, industry and the government to use different 4IR tools to address any challenges and harness opportunities to promote innovations, investments and growth in line with the country's sustainable development goals.
CCIFB President Syed Mahmudul Huq said the Covid-19 pandemic has put immense pressure on individuals, enterprises and societies, forcing them to accelerate the use of 4IR tools.
Countries like China, South Korea and Taiwan have successfully managed to mitigate the pandemic's economic fallouts by utilising 4IR tools such as Artificial Intelligence and Big Data.
By deploying the same tools and technologies, local manufacturers could create new products, industries and jobs, Huq added.
Satya Prasad Majumder, vice-chancellor of the Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology, said that planning for the 4IR requires identification of possible challenges posed to local industries, assessment of technology gaps, and a trained workforce.
There is a need to formalise the establishment of a network of universities, both local and international, and industries to promote innovation and address local and global challenge and generate a qualified workforce, he said.
Identifying financial resources while forming a marketing strategy in partnership with local and global partners and participating universities and industries to support the establishment of the network could be another good option, he added.
Riaz Hamidullah, Bangladesh's ambassador to the Kingdom of the Netherlands, emphasised mapping key industries across all manufacturing sectors, such as the agro-processing and service sectors in Bangladesh.
To do so, the authorities could use digital or automated processes and technologies as the country stands to benefit from the optimised use of some key 4IR technological tools, applications and ideas, he said.
Hamidullah went on to say that a few 4IR initiatives should be started in the form of start-ups across e-commerce, e-learning, e-agriculture and smart-grid to demonstrate results and build confidence.
He suggested the Bida conduct assessments on how the 4IR can help augment Bangladesh's competitiveness in business and logistics.
Rashid Hamid, team leader for the UN 4IR Study, discussed the global importance of the 4IR and Bangladesh's state-of-readiness.
He said any success in the 4IR requires a resilient and advanced internet infrastructure, which in turn requires the implementation of appropriate policies, understanding of data transfer and localisation along with reliable power grid connection.
Abul Kasem Khan, chairman of the Business Initiative Leading Development, stressed on the need to engage private sector stakeholders in policy design to improve the country's investment climate.
He also suggested that incentives for the use of modern technologies and innovations should be provided under a comprehensive policy framework.
Md Sirazul Islam, executive chairman of the Bida, said that his organisation is committed to working with the industry, academia and research institutions to face any challenges and harness the opportunities as offered by emerging technologies under the 4IR.
The Bida is working with the private sector to provide training on the different skills required to use 4IR tools and promote innovation and entrepreneurship, he added.
Rubana Huq, president of the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association, said the anticipated transition to automation and cyber-enabled modalities will have a great economic impact.
Aurélien Sostaponti, head of industries and cleantech at the Business France, and AKM Hafizullah Khan, project director of the Entrepreneurship and Skill Development Project at the Bida, also spoke.