Poor infrastructure, content dev earning hurt software industry
Shameem Ahsan, president of the Bangladesh Association of Software and Information Services, talks about hindrances to growth of the country’s software industry in an interview with New Age on Saturday. Interviewed by Ahmed Shawki
New Age: What is the present situation of the country’s software industry?
Shameem Ahsan: It is one of the fastest growing industries in the country. The industry made its way to top 10 export earning industries of the country in the last fiscal year by exporting products worth more than $100 million. I believe the industry will earn more than $1 billion in the next five years and will be the largest employment generating sector for the fresh graduates.
But, we have lots of infrastructural problems in the industry which are holding it back.
NA: What are the problems the industry is now facing?
Shameem: The core problem is a lack of infrastructure. We don’t have any technology park in the country. The government took an initiative several years back to build a high-tech park in Kaliakoir, but the tender process is still not completed.
In some cases, we feel the government agencies are not supporting the industry as per their capacity. For example, the Export Promotion Bureau spends a very tiny amount for the software sector, but the industry needs more international focus at this moment. The private initiative can not go beyond a limit without government’s support.
NA: How do you see the prospect of the software industry growth amid the 3G service launch by the country’s private sector mobile phone operators?
Shameem: I don’t think the 3G service will fulfil expectation, if some core issues remain unresolved. The first one will be content development. 3G is an application-based service and it will need lots of contents. But in our country the mobile phone companies take 70 per cent share of the revenue from the content developers. The situation is holding back the industry from further growth. The world practice is completely different as in the developed world content provider gets maximum revenue and network provider gets smaller shares.
Another problem will be the price of 3G internet. The government reduced the bandwidth price from Tk 70,000 to Tk 4,800, but the mobile phone companies did not cut their rate accordingly. If the internet is not cheap, it will not be affordable to many people and the 3G service will not be effective.
NA: What is the plan of BASIS to develop the sector?
Shameem: We have a long-term plan to develop the software industry in a structured manner. In the next five years, we want to see the industry in top 5 export earning industry of the country by taking the total export earning to $1 billion. We want to employ 1.5 million new IT professionals and promote 10,000 entrepreneurs. We want to bring one lakh business entities to the web.
NA: What are the areas you think need better regulatory attention to achieve the goal?
Shameem: New entrepreneurs in the technology industry need capital much at this moment. The Bangladesh Bank provides a huge amount of loan for the IT entrepreneurs who have one-year running business. We want the central bank relax the regulation and allow minimum loan for the fresh entrepreneurs.
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