Bangladesh should be branded as an emerging ICT destination as opposed to being marketed as a place with the cheapest labour, speakers said at the third The Daily Star ICT Awards ceremony yesterday.
The changes in technology have paved the way for production to quadruple in just a couple of years and people, especially the younger generation, have adopted ICT very fast, said Finance Minister AMA Muhith, speaking as the chief guest at the programme.
This is why the government chose information and communication technology for spearheading the country's development, he told the event at the Le Méridien Dhaka hotel in the capital.
He also thanked The Daily Star for organising the ceremony, where one individual and four local IT firms were awarded for their outstanding contributions to the country's fast-growing ICT industry.
The event was organised in association with Microsoft Bangladesh Ltd, the country office of the world's leading technology company, Brac Bank and Bangladesh Association of Software and Information Services (BASIS), an ICT-related trade body. Le Méridien was the hospitality partner.
Md Sabur Khan, an iconic ICT entrepreneur of the country who founded the Daffodil Family and has also garnered international acclaim, won the ICT Business Person of the Year award.
Of the winning firms, bagdoom.com, a leading online shop that took digital commerce to every corner of the country, received the Digital Commerce of the Year award.
Graphic People Limited got the ICT Solution Provider of the Year (International Market Focus) award.
The ICT Solution Provider of the Year (Local Market Focus) award went to Synesis IT Limited.
Shohoz.com, one of the fastest growing tech companies in the country, won the ICT Start-up of the Year award.
Syeda Kamrun Ahmed, co-founder of bagdoom.com; Geeteara Safiya Choudhury, chairperson of Graphic People Limited; Shohorab Ahmed Chowdhury, managing director of Synesis IT Limited; Maliha M Quadir, founder and managing director of Shohoz.com, and Md Sabur Khan, chairman of Daffodil International University (DIU) and Daffodil Family, received the awards from the finance minister.
International Affairs Adviser to the Prime Minister Gowher Rizvi, Managing Director of Microsoft Bangladesh, Myanmar, Nepal, Bhutan and Laos Sonia Bashir Kabir, Brac Bank Managing Director and CEO Selim RF Hussain and BASIS President Syed Almas Kabir also distributed the awards with Muhith.
The awards come at a time when Bangladesh saw considerable growth in information technology. The ICT landscape now includes numerous firms -- both old and new -- working tirelessly to deliver services to their customers.
The Daily Star introduced the awards in 2016 to promote the sector's development and highlight the frontrunners who can serve as a benchmark for others.
The awards are also aimed at recognising the excellent works in the ICT sector, encouraging the ICT community and digital companies to strengthen the ICT ecosystem, creating an environment that sustains entrepreneurial spirit, and supporting the young ICT entrepreneurs to utilise their potentials.
This year, 152 companies applied in five categories, of whom some were shortlisted before being evaluated by a jury board comprising eminent members of the industry.
Yesterday's programme began with a video presentation highlighting Bangladesh's progress in the ICT sector.
In his address, Gowher Rizvi said that nowadays ICT was paving the way for transparency, such as bringing government procurement processes online.
Syed Almas Kabir, the BASIS president, announced that digital governance and e-governance platforms would be ready within the next three years, taking government services to the people's doorsteps to create a “true Digital Bangladesh”.
During his speech earlier, the finance minister said that Bangladesh was lagging behind in the use of technology and the Hasina government had decided help flourish the ICT sector at the end of the last century.
He also credited the younger generation for playing a part in the growth of the sector.
“Bangladesh has two resources -- fertile land and people with intelligence and devotion. In the ICT sector, their intelligence and devotion also help to flourish the industry.”
The private sector and the government were working in unison to reach this target, he said, terming the awards a great platform for companies and entrepreneurs to showcase and brand Bangladesh.
Selim Hussain said life today was all about speed, convenience and choice and in tune with it almost every service was at our fingertips.
He termed the awards a great recognition platform for the ICT entrepreneurs and hoped that the winners would be emboldened to break newer grounds.
Sonia Bashir Kabir highlighted how technology today has crossed the chasms and displaced the age old notion that “government and innovation” are oxymorons.
Kabir urged the private sector to take heart to the words of the former US President John F Kennedy: “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.”
Mahfuz Anam, editor and publisher of The Daily Star, urged the government to set up training, educational and management institutes focusing on meeting the skilled manpower requirements of the growing sector.
Otherwise, he said, it might face the same dearth of mid- and top-level management workforce which had plagued the RMG sector for the past 35 years.
Constantinos S Gavriel, general manager of Le Méridien Dhaka, said he strongly believed that the winners of the awards would change the country and the economy for the better.
On receiving the ICT Business Person award, Md Sabur Khan thanked The Daily Star and its partners for organising the event which honoured the icons of the digital sector.
Afterwards, Maliha M Quadir, founder and managing director of Shohoz, said use of technology in the service sector had just started in Bangladesh and The Daily Star was doing an excellent work in recognising the initiatives which stood out and empowered the market and the digital ecosystem.
“Once these success stories flourish beyond the boundaries of this newspaper's readership, it will be really helpful and empowering for the entrepreneurs.”
Syeda Kamrun Ahmed, co-founder of bagdoom.com, said this recognition from The Daily Star would definitely boost their enthusiasm and give them courage in undertaking future endeavours.
“We are on a mission to brand Bangladesh through empowering our small and medium entrepreneurs and aim to promote the small and medium entrepreneurs by providing them with a platform to showcase their products. This award will help us to go miles,” said Ahmed.
According to the ICT division, Bangladesh's export earnings from the ICT sector reached about $1 billion, riding on the growth of more than 1,500 firms and 40 offshore development centres.
The sector got a huge boost in 2008 when Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina laid out the vision of building a Digital Bangladesh by 2021.
Since then, the industry has gone on to become a huge hub for freelance work via online marketplaces such as Upwork, punching its way through heavyweights such as India and the US.
The government's target is to earn $5 billion from exports of IT and IT-enabled services by 2021.