On the verge of a revolution in IT-enabled Services
Bangladesh is ushering in a new era not only in the IT-enabled Services (ITES) but also many others. Nationwide economic growth and social development are progressing at a pace we have never seen before. This rate of growth should continue or even increase because we have a great potential to see a massive workforce joining every year, since we are among the top ten countries in the world in terms of size of the youth population. Although ITES industry is still quite small compared to the mainstream drivers of the country's growth, a fraction of the youth have already shown great prospect and earned global respect in various competitions. Now that we, as a nation, are aiming for a billion dollar ITES market, the key achievers of this big goal are essentially the youth, because they are the potential information workers if we prepare them wisely from now.
Not that we have to blindly borrow everything from the developed countries and I believe we still have many unique ways of our own, but it's worth peeking into how technology brought conveniences and opportunities in their lifestyle and workstyle. Small Office/Home Office (SOHO), Bring Your Own Device (BYOD), Skype and Cloud have really redefined the work pattern in developed countries, which cuts down on upfront IT investment, and brings about a lot of conveniences and opportunities. With the reputation of an attractive country for offshore development, we have got the chance to get ourselves exposed to such practices in a small scale. A massive revolution might strike us once these key influential factors really start to become ubiquitous all over the country and part and parcel of a transformation in how we will conduct business in the future. We can expect to see that such changes may liberate an individual to build her own lean startup, get on-demand training on just about any topic, work anywhere, communicate with the customers seamlessly, consume subscription-based software and services from the cloud, release an app to the Store all by herself, and what not.
Three prominent categories of the workforce in IT, that which I would like to prognosticate, will be key stakeholders of the future success: entrepreneurs, freelancers, and developers. Each community deserves rigorous guidance, first-class examples and an integrated framework which should comprise of non-profit, public and private sector partnerships, not to mention a national plan in place to ensure far better, cost effective and more uninterruptible power supply and internet connection and an easily accessible international payment mechanism. Those who work with such communities must also pitilessly eliminate the possibility of lowering the bar and thus escape from false sense of satisfaction. Self-satisfaction is a showstopper and unfortunately, it's a reality in local technical communities.
The power of Cloud is about to unleash. It's about time the fish market of your neighborhood uploaded their business online, as did your favorite barber shop and preferred laundry service. Both techie and non-techie startups are going to be online/app-based very soon. Ubiquity of mobile devices, increasing popularity of e-commerce & m-commerce and subscription-based business model would have a huge potential for the almost unexploited local market. Developers and Freelancers are really at the core of such endeavors. Future of Bangladesh is cloudy, and we need a pool of Cloud-harvesters such as themselves. On the flip side, it just sounds very nice, but the reality is we must overcome mental barriers, accept the future, and embrace cloud now in order to start capturing more of the offshore development work as well as our imagination of future Bangladesh, although some companies have already started it in their own ways, but we really need to get started on an individual level.
How far are we from a home-grown Bill Gates of our own? The answer is simple: until piracy stops in the local market. Piracy kills a premature entrepreneur in a developer. It's the biggest threat to sustainability of a local software-based endeavor unless it's really focused to a particular domain, such as core banking solution. But, how about Mark Zuckerberg of our own? That's an interesting question, because it could be sooner than we think. Unlike software, Cloud powered apps and services could be offered in a subscription model, which somewhat answers piracy and really helps developers gaining monetary return of their talent and hard work. In addition, mass population of this country could easily make any web-based attempt an overnight success provided that better internet is cheap and ubiquitous.
One of the essential pre-requisites of a community to scale and grow and eventually become a skilled workforce is making it go through carefully crafted programs. Microsoft takes pride in commitment of patronizing a qualified technology workforce in Bangladesh running locally tailored various programs and feed them into the local ITES ecosystem. We run several programs that benefit local technical students, professionals and startups to become what's next. Microsoft provides all greatest and latest software for free to the startups and several thousand technical students of Bangladesh including free Windows 8 and Windows Phone Store accounts to publish their own apps. Trainings and App-a-thons take place on regular basis on their campuses in order to raise their standards. Microsoft is hosting Imagine Cup Bangladesh for the 4th time now, which takes place every year in 190 countries across the globe and world finalists this time will travel to Seattle for the championship. First time we hosted Imagine Cup, our Bangladeshi team secured first place in People's Choice worldwide. This competition gives youth an opportunity to earn recognition and global credentials.
There is a lot of work to do from all parties before our dreams may become a reality. It needs to be a totally orchestrated effort – no single entity can do it all. Every institution needs to contribute to the ecosystem to achieve a glorious goal of exceeding a greater extent of what we have accomplished in ITES industry so far and making the dream of a $1B market a reality.
The writer is Tech. Evangelist, Microsoft Bangladesh.