Tech trailblazers honoured
Bangladeshi entrepreneurs are not behind their global counterparts in leveraging technology for the greater good.
With a view to recognise their endeavours and encourage others, The Daily Star ICT Awards was initiated in 2016. Yesterday, in the fourth edition of the awards, two entrepreneurs and four firms were felicitated in a gala at the Radission Blu Water Garden Hotel.
Genex Infosys was this year’s ICT solution provider in the category focused on the local market, while Kazi IT Centre took home the award in the category focused on the international market.
AjkerDeal.com was awarded the Digital Commerce of the Year and Robi 10-Minute School the ICT Startup of the Year.
Sonia Bashir Kabir, founder and chairman of SBK Tech Ventures and SBK Foundation, was named the ICT Businessperson of the Year, while Habibullah N Karim, founder and chief executive officer of Technohaven, was given the ICT Pioneer of the Year award.
Gowher Rizvi, international affairs adviser to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, handed out the awards to the winners as the chief guest.
Rizvi was joined on stage by Selim RF Hussain, CEO and managing director of Brac Bank; Syed Almas Kabir, president of Bangladesh Association of Software and Information Services (BASIS); Md Sabur Khan, chairman of Daffodil International University and Daffodil Family; Alexander Haeusler, general manager of Radisson Blu Water Garden Hotel; and Mahfuz Anam, editor and publisher of The Daily Star.
“In the last decade, from 2009 onwards, we have seen tremendous enthusiasm and tremendous activities in the ICT industry,” Kabir said.
For instance, in 2008-09 hardly 100,000 people were associated with the industry. But now that number has increased 10 times. The sector’s exports in 2008-09 were hovering around $28-30 million. Now it has reached the $1 billion-mark.
Digital commerce was non-existent before 2010. Now, hundreds of crores of taka are being transacted online, said Kabir.
“So this tremendous change in the ICT industry was possible because of the support of the government and we must thank the prime minister and her ICT adviser for their vision for building a Digital Bangladesh. We are on the right path.”
By 2021, 90 percent of the citizens will receive services online. So the industry will see a flurry of work over the next couple of years.
To make the most of the momentum, he made four recommendations.
Kabir, who is also the CEO of MetroNet Bangladesh, a fibre optic network provider, urged the universities to immediately incorporate real-life, practical skills in their four-year curriculum as well as skills needed to excel during the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) era.
The government must also make a guideline for adapting to new technologies, especially robotics, he said.
Robotics will most likely lead to sudden mass unemployment. There should be a policy to implement the technology in the country.
When 5G will be introduced in 2021, there will be an explosion of internet of things (IoT) devices, so new risks, new crimes, and new security breaches will crop up, he said.
He urged the government to review and update the Digital Security Act to address these forthcoming issues.
Kabir also urged the industry to identify 2-3 areas to build expertise on.
“We do not want to be the jack of all trades; it will get us nowhere.”
It could be animation, it could be mobile programming, it could be blockchain.
“When the outside world would think of those 2-3 areas, they would think of Bangladesh,” he added.
In his speech as the chief guest, Rizvi shared the origin of the catch phrase Digital Bangladesh. When preparing the election manifesto in 2008, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina suggested digitisation as one of the action points.
“We didn’t realise how those two words would catch the imagination of the young people,” he said, adding that even after the election, the Awami League had underestimated the potential of Digital Bangladesh.
“The idea behind Digital Bangladesh was to digitise all government services and take them to the people’s doorsteps, make governance transparent, keep the costs of running the government low and make the government more accountable.
“And along the way we hoped other things will happen. In this case, the unintended consequences were far, far greater than what we could possibly imagine. It has really provided the power behind our economic growth and expansion.”
He went on to state that Bangladesh would be beholden to the ICT industry once it becomes a higher middle-income country by 2030.
“Nothing could have unleashed the imagination and energy of the young people as ICT has done and now they have a battle on their hands to make a developed, prosperous Bangladesh,” he added.
This is an exciting time for Bangladesh’s ICT sector, as many homegrown tech-based products and services have found their way into people’s lives, said Brac Bank CEO Selim RF Hussain.
“Almost every service has arrived at our fingertips, from transferring money from Teknaf to Tetulia via bKash in a second, to commuting on Uber or Pathao, to getting repair services by engaging Sheba.XYZ, to ordering food on Hungrynaki and buying my son a panjabi from Aarong. Smartphones have become part of our DNA.”
He went on to add that Brac Bank would be playing a bigger role in promoting ICT ventures in future.
The Daily Star ICT Awards should be considered as the heart of the country’s ICT sector, said Md Sabur Khan of Daffodil International University.
The Daily Star Editor and Publisher Mahfuz Anam said, “Many of you may think of your involvement with the ICT sector as good business and there is nothing wrong with that. But I think you should change your mindset and start thinking of it as a movement for the future of Bangladesh.”
He urged the ICT entrepreneurs to solve many of the societal ills by way of technology.
The biggest challenge Bangladesh is facing right now is climate change, he said, urging to turn to technology to solve the problems brought about by this impending crisis.
The event was organised in association with Brac Bank, Daffodil University and BASIS. Radisson Blu Dhaka Water Garden was the hospitality partner.
This year more than 100 companies sought the awards in six categories. Some were shortlisted before being evaluated by a jury board comprising eminent members of the industry.
Fahim Mashroor, chief executive officer of AjkerDeal.com; Mike Kazi and Zara Mahbub, chairman and CEO of Kazi IT Centre; Prince Mojumder and Adnan Imam, CEO and MD of Genex Infosys; Ayman Sadiq, founder and CEO of Robi-10 Minute School; Sonia Bashir Kabir, founder and chairman of SBK Tech Ventures; and Habibullah N Karim, founder and CEO of Technohaven, received the awards from Rizvi.
The evening also saw a live performance of a medley of patriotic songs by Sandhi, Sovvota, Shovon and Shayonta.