Female workers have long played a central role in the development of Bangladesh’s RMG industry, making us the largest apparel exporter after China today. In this era of the fourth industrial revolution, we need another big push, but the question is - Can women take the lead and prepare us to face the challenges this revolution would bring for us?
Bangladesh entered the digital world a little late compared to India, but made significant improvement in this sector as our current government took some prudent and timely decisions that helped us to minimise the gap and keep us on the right track.One such initiative is the establishment of digital centres through a2i programme, which connect and serve citizens especially those who are under served. From these centres,citizens can get public, private and information services in a more transparent, accountable and efficient manner. Operated by two local entrepreneurs, one male and one female, under a public-private partnership model, these centres charge fees for delivering e-services that enable the entrepreneurs to operate the centre.Although the male entrepreneurs are prominent in most of the centres, some of the female entrepreneurs are surpassing them in various places and occasions.
Digital Centre: Quick Facts- 2018
- 5312 Digital centres
- 10000+ Entrepreneurs
- USD 9 million earned
- 84.5 million Beneficiaries
- 150+ services
It has always been difficult for women to penetrate traditionally male dominated sectors.Being a predominantly Muslim country,it is even more complicated in Bangladesh. Fortunately, our government is patronising women to become entrepreneurs and run businesses through digital centres. Before starting their businesses, government provided women training on computer basics, freelancing, MIS, graphics design and web development. Along with the digital centres, most of these female entrepreneurs also run computer training centres in some of the most remote areas of the country.
It has been observed that more girls/female are coming to these centres for training as parents feel more comfortable sending them to places run by female. And to encourage more girls, some of our female entrepreneurs provide training to them with a discounted rate. One such entrepreneur is Kowcher Akter Tahin, from City Digital Centre, Chattogram who runs several computer training centres. “When I started this business, things were not conducive for me, and this is very true for other women,” she said. “Whenever we want to do something, we have to fight against so many issues that a man might not even come upon. Despite that, hope more girls join this industry and I hope to make it easier for them.” Many women like Tahin who have learned their skills from a2i are determined to serve the nation. There are 5312 digital centres right now, but a2i has a mission to increase it to 15000 by 2021.
Through these digital and computer training centres, female entrepreneurs are reducing the skill-gaps in the IT sector. They are preparing us to face the challenges that automation poses.
These women need both financial and technical support from government, business associations, and donors to propel their business with a vehement speed, chase their dream, contribute to make a better society and lead us in the age of fourth industrial revolution. These women can do it, as did the women during the first industrial revolution century ago in Europe.
The writer is the Digital Centre Management Associate at UNDP.