Bangladesh is developing in the information and technology sector rapidly. Amazing contribution of several Bangladeshi people is the main reason we can notice the significant development. Inventor of ‘Bijoy Key-board’ the president of Bangladesh Association of Software and Information Services (BASIS) MR. Mustafa Jabbar and the founder and chairman of Bangladesh Computer Samity (BCS) MR. Abdullah H Kafi are one of the several people those who brought a dynamic change with their selfless contributions. The young managing director of summit communication Mr. Arif Al Islam has worked for a long time to make sure the expansion in the information and technology sector of Bangladesh. These well three renowned personalities have talked about the recent development. Reza khan has written the interview
Question: How is the progress going on to achieve the target to export software worth of 5 billion dollars by 2021?
Mustafa Jabbar : Bangladesh Bank has given $145 million worth of software export data and EPP also agrees with this data. Two months ago, when I took over the responsibility of BASIS. We have a compliance form. Our members have to inform us how much is the revenue? How much is the Domestic? How much did we export? I Added up 382 member forms and calculated that these 382 exported $598 million. Our total membership is 1000, so if 382 have exported $598 then how much have 1 thousand exported? The amount crosses over $1 billion. My conservative estimates can say that we crossed the 1 billion mark some time ago and the 5 billion target (stated for 2021) can be achieved by 2020. Our Initial ways have been completed. Cables have been installed, training is going on in full swing and the government’s infrastructure is being installed. Awareness is being created and the youth are highly conscious now from freelance to start-up level. We have come to the point of take off, our runway has been created, our engines have been started, now is the time to take off. Therefore, we are certain that we will meet the export target.
Question- You are the inventor of Bijoy Keyboard. You took initiatives to different programs so that our school going young kids could learn computer literacy through their textbooks. What has been our progress in this so far?
Mustafa Jabbar: On December 12,2008 I first heard the term ‘Digital Bangladesh’ from the Prime Minister. What we intended to do through this digitalization was not clear back then. So, we approached this with a fixed set of goals. What the government meant by this was a system which runs without using paper. We were trying to digitalize a government which was always attached to paper-works. Another massive goal for us was to digitalize the education of this country. The Prime Minister and we had a mutual dream that our children will go to school with laptops instead of textbooks. When I first composed Bengali for computers the challenges were to digitize the traditional publications and offices. I had to work for that. In 1999 I built a school in Gazipur. The primary target of this institution was to teach the usage of computer to students of elementary class. The idea that you are letting a 5-6 years old kid to use a computer was seen as madness and I was demoralized for that. But the result was, they used it brilliantly. Which in some cases adults aren’t capable of. Another thing that I circulated was, I left textbooks and started their education using digital devices. Now in 2016 I can proudly state that there is at least two schools in Bangladesh where the kids learn without using textbooks. One of these two schools is Urban Academy in Purbadhala,Netrokona. The students there have a tab and this is the biggest medium of education for them.
Question: Is he starting his education by the help of this Tablet?
Mustafa Jabbar: Couple of days ago. A system was apprehended by a school in Chittagong for second graders. Let me elaborate this with two examples in an easier way. The tablets were given back in 28th of December, and then I went to ‘Purbadhala School’ after a month later at 4th of February. The students directly told me to ask them any questions from anywhere of the book. It was literally challenging for me to question them in that method. Aside that, they said they finished all my books when I came. What we will learn in the next eleven months? I seized their tablets, deleting ‘Microsoft Office Tools 2010’, and then handed over the tablets back to them with new usernames and passwords set. Before leaving, several people told me that it won’t be wise to do such repugnant stuff. I asked the teacher about the problem after returning. He replied; “The problem is that, I can’t open any of these tablets”. I asked the reason why he couldn’t. He replied; “All of them are protected with passwords. The children changed the passwords”. It’s programmed for this generation. I set the variation to books till grade three. My target is to make a tablet suited for primary level.
Question: Will the languages be on both English and Bengali?
Mustafa Jabbar: For every single purpose. Our vision is to set for school without carrying school bags
Abdullah H Kafi, Founding chairman, Bangladesh Computer Samity, Managing Director -J.A.N Associates
Question: This year 140 million dollar software have been exported through legal channel. Besides the Software freelances and IT freelances we have, this amount will reach up to 400 million dollars, which is about 14.05% growth from last year. We know that this is a good growth. We have a target that in between 2021 we must export an amount of 5 billion dollars. How much we have progressed to achieve
Abdullah H Kafi:
It would have been great if I could be happier than I am now. Bangladesh was not supposed to be in the range of million dollars. The situation we are in, we should reach 5 billion dollars before 2021. A problem that we have is we don’t have the proper data. The reason it is being said is cause of the basis from 150 million. But my guess is the amount is a lot more from this. At this moment if we think about the freelancers, it will be close to a billion dollars in total. But you mentioned proper channel. Maximum freelancers do not bring their money on their own. The money cannot be brought through proper process and this is why no matter how much the government assures, everyone has fear in themselves. Basically when it’s about individuals
Question: Then will we have to re-look the policies and use them?
Abdullah H Kafi:
Then can the people who are doing this work be encouraged more if they are given certificates and if nobody disturbs them for five years? Since, data can be hidden easily in knowledgeable industries. I think we should keep these in mind.
Question: Accounted for the information from Bangladesh bank, the growth is 14%. To achieve 5 billion the growth has to rise to 50%. Then again you are saying we have already crossed billion dollars. Then how will we take all these in account?
Abdullah H Kafi:
Actually I have seen as a Chairman of the association from outside that everyone in this industry has some problems. Whether it is the establish setup or the personal setup or both. They are scared. They have to be free from their fears. You are talking about 50%. The time when our computers were being made zero duty, if this was not done 15 years ago then our country wouldn’t have been able to reach this state of computers. I will thank the prime minister for she has helped us a lot, she removed that fear from us. We will reach 5 billion before 2021. I salute the young generation that they have chosen the Information technology for their own needs. Nobody wants to do a job anymore. Everyone wants to be an entrepreneur. In this country maybe 20 thousand people’s offices won’t be that much, but 5-10 people’s office will be hundreds . When Mustafa Jabbar was working with Bengali, he was trying to bring studies from text books to computers. I feel like we are going back to the old days. I am becoming nostalgic. A lot of people are giving us obstacles and to be very honest we had to make trouble as well. Jabbar had to do these work and I had to see them as well. There are problems here as well, everyone loses their mind when someone brings change. As an example I can mention our neighboring country Singapore. From 1980-1982 the country gave training, and today the country is a developed country. However, behind this development the investment on those little children was most important. We have to understand that people at our age cannot develop even if given facilities. That’s why those children have to be invested on. Whether its on Information technology or on other fields. Those children can tamper with things that you and I cannot do. Before, we had this tradition in our society that the kids would hide if they saw adults. Now the adults hide from the kids. In a household, the more the kids can use the gadgets, the better they can work.
Arif Al Islam, Managing Director, Summit Communication limited
Question: Everyone wants to be an entrepreneur. Everyone wants to come to ICT software development. For that internet speed, Bandwidth costing that plays a big role. You people are the infrastructure provider. You are two people here who have achieved license from national telecommunication and transmission network. This license has achieved fiber at home and summit communication. How did u carry out this dream of yours from 2011?
Arif Al Islam:
Challenging question is about lowering the price. As we do business, the price is very important to us and that how to balance the demand and supply. I will answer this later. But first let me tell u the background. Why do we need the infrastructure? Where are we at the infrastructure? If we see the globally developed countries, the wireless penetrations are coming very close to the broadband penetrations. The developing is slowly progressing that way. Our wireless penetration has gone over 80. But fixed power plant penetration is still stuck in 1%. Fixed broadband needs to go till least 10-20%. Nevaling countries have progressed to that trend. We also have to move that way. What will happen by going to fixed broadband? The freelancers, software companies, call centers will get a very sim-less connectivity and that by sitting in any place, whether it’s in Dhaka or rural areas. If people go to visit rural areas they should be allowed to get broadband facilities. We are lagging behind in this sector. This is why infrastructure is important. Fiber optic cables are needed in the country, before it was copper. 5 to 7 years ago before the NTTN came here the License was nationwide telecommunication transmission network which is called NTGN. Before that license telecom operator PCGB Bangladesh Railway everything combined was roughly about 10 kilometer network. With this network you can connect main division and a portion of districts. You will never be able to cover 100% let alone the rural Upzillas or that level. After all this time we have done 30 kilometers among which 22 kilometers are ours and the rest is being leased by us.
Question: From who?
Arif Al Islam:
We need to reach the common place near Grameen-phone, PCGB and others in PGC . We have competitors in fiber too who are almost 20 thousand in number. If we sum up to every source it will be close to 50 thousand. Before it was 10 thousand now it is 50 thousand. This has been a good system. In these 5-7 years the question of new business was in our sustain ability. This is why actual layer didn’t get to reach till rural areas. In this 50 thousand kilometers it has been spread throughout the major Zilla and Upzillas.
Question: What about the info project of the government?
Arif Al Islam:
The government’s info project has helped us a lot. It is a very high ambition project. The government has planned to carry out this project even throughout the unions. Already this project has reached the Upzillas, now it will reach the unions. We are working under it for the connectivity in the unions. This infrastructure problem will be gone if the connectivity in union level is successful and if we can take the fibers to the corner in every lane and alley in the cities. And then comes the prize difficult question. The price depends on our sustainability. When we started 7 years ago typically from Dhaka to Chittagong e-one, that time e-one was more popular than mbps. E-one is a unit, which s two mbps. Two mbps priced 25-30 thousand tk. Which is now down to 2500-3000 tk. And if it’s heavy bandwidth, then the price is even lower.
Question: Is this price even more than nearing country?
Arif Al Islam:
Of course, it is related with growth. The more the scale is rising the more the price is lowering. Such as, from the same internet we used 30 gigabyte 6-7 years ago. Now they added 200 more and made it to 250. That time internet price was 7-8 thousand tk per mbps and now 400-500tk per mbps. So it is rising up and down with the volume. Hopefully all the works the software association computer is doing are facilitation work. ICT market is developing.