ICT can drive away graft

Says finance minister at The Daily Star ICT Awards ceremony; five companies, two individuals win the award
From left, Raisul Kabir, CEO of Brain Station 23 Limited; Selim RF Hussain, managing director of Brac Bank; A Towhid, director of IBCS PRIMAX; Shaikh Abdul Wahid, managing director & CEO of LEADS Corporation Ltd; Zia Ashraf, COO of Chaldal.com; State Minister for ICT Zunaid Ahmed Palak; Finance Minister AMA Muhith; Waseem Alim, CEO and founder of Chaldal.com; Mustafa Jabbar, president of BASIS; Hussain M Elius, CEO of Pathao; Constantinos S Gavriel, general manager of Le Méridien Dhaka; M Rezaul Hassan, group CEO of REVE Group; and Adnan Imtiaz Halim, CEO of sheba.xyz, at “The Daily Star ICT Awards” in Le Méridien Dhaka yesterday. Photo: Rashed Shumon

Corruption will be eliminated from the country if the information and communications technology is used properly, Finance Minister AMA Muhith said yesterday.

“The most effective tool to fight corruption will be the ICT,” he said at The Daily Star ICT Awards ceremony in the capital's Le Méridien Hotel yesterday.

Two individuals and five local IT firms were awarded by The Daily Star and Bangladesh Association of Software and Information Services (BASIS) for their outstanding contribution 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, and private commercial lender Brac Bank, with Le Méridien as hospitality partner.

Within five to seven years, the ICT sector would reach such a point where no one would be able to do without it, he said.

“We will do everything riding on the ICT,” said Muhith, who handed over trophies to the winners.

M Rezaul Hassan, group chief executive officer of REVE Systems, an internationally acclaimed Bangladeshi software firm, won the ICT Business Person of the Year award.

A Towhid, a shareholder director of IBCS-PRIMAX Software (Bangladesh) Ltd, bagged the ICT Pioneer of the Year award. The IT firm focuses on onshore and offshore software development and systems integration.

Of the five winning firms, Chaldal Limited, an online shop based in the capital, got the e-Business of the Year award. Brain Station 23 Limited got the ICT Solution Provider of the Year award in the global market focus category.

The ICT Solution Provider of the Year award in the local market focus category went to LEADS Corporation Ltd.

Sheba.xyz Platform Ltd, a start-up company that became the country's largest service marketplace online, won the ICT Start-up of the Year award while Pathao, a leading local ride-hailing service, got the ICT Start-up of the Year award.

Sheikh Abdul Wahid, managing director of LEADS Corporation Ltd; Raisul Kabir, managing director of Brain Station 23 Ltd; Zia Ashraf, CEO of Chaldal.com; Adnan Imtiaz Halim, CEO of Sheba.xyz; Hussain M Elius, CEO of Pathao; M Rezaul Hassan and A Towhid received the awards from the finance minister.

Muhith was flanked by State Minister for ICT Zunaid Ahmed Palak, Brac Bank Managing Director and CEO Selim RF Hussain, and BASIS President Mustafa Jabbar.

Bangladesh has experienced considerable growth in information technology in recent years and 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 propagate the development in the sector and recognise the front-runners who can serve as benchmarks for others.

The awards also aim to recognise the excellent works in the ICT sector, encourage the ICT community to strengthen the ICT ecosystem, create an environment that sustains entrepreneurial spirit, and support the young ICT entrepreneurs to utilise their potentials.

Yesterday's programme began with the rendering of songs of Swadhin Bangla Betar Kendra by five emerging singers, as the ceremony was held in the month of victory.

In his speech, the finance minister thanked The Daily Star and the BASIS for initiating the awards.

He also gave an example of a college in Sylhet which saw its collection of fees and other charges rise more than 10 times to 82 lakh a year because of the use of ICT.

Palak said Bangladesh was no longer a bottomless basket; rather it is a model of development and possibilities.

“Now the youths raise demands for cutting internet costs, making internet available everywhere and setting up digital labs at every schools.”

Thousands of students who graduate every year do not look for jobs. “Rather they want to be entrepreneurs, establish start-up companies and get access to finance,” said the state minister.

At present, 40 percent of the services provided by the government are available online and it will go up to 90 percent by 2021. “The government is doing all this in collaboration with the private sector.”

BASIS President Mustafa Jabbar thanked the present government for meeting all the demands of the ICT sector.

“Bangladesh's ICT sector has advanced so much that now we are exporting products in the area of Internet of Things to Japan whereas we are a country that used to import technology from Japan.”

Bangladeshi firms have gained the capacity to meet the government's demand for IT and IT-enabled services and also raise the exports from the sector to $5 billion by 2021, he said.

Selim RF Hussain said this admirable initiative is aimed at recognising the star performers in the ICT sector who are role models for future entrepreneurs and are helping people understand the importance of this sector.

He pointed out that the growth of smartphone and smart devices has resulted in accelerated internet penetration.

The response from IT-enabled services and software companies is commendable, and the country is starting to see a real surge in e-commerce, he added.

In a video message, Sonia Bashir Kabir, managing director of Microsoft Bangladesh, said technology enables individuals and firms to do more.

“Bangladesh has every opportunity to make it big as all countries start from the same level,” noted Sonia.

Mahfuz Anam, editor and publisher of The Daily Star, said Bangladesh might be lagging behind many countries in many areas. But when it comes to IT, the country has advanced a lot and made extraordinary progress.

Some of the Bangladeshi IT companies are also doing well abroad, he noted.

“This proven success of some of our IT companies abroad shows that our IT has developed to global standards and a lot more can be achieved through collective efforts.”

Constantinos S Gavriel, general manager of Le Méridien Dhaka, said he strongly believes that the winners of the awards would change the country and the economy for the better.

According to the ICT division, Bangladesh's export earning from the ICT sector reached $800 million. It will cross $1 billion landmark soon, riding on 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 with heavyweights like India and the US.

The government's target is to earn $5 billion from exports of IT and IT-enabled services by 2021.


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