Export earnings from software and IT-related services of the last 12 months touched the $700 million mark, which is much higher than the official number.
“The overall growth of the industry is huge. We hope to reach our target of earning $1 billion from exports by 2018,” said Zunaid Ahmed Palak, state minister for ICT.
Palak spoke at a press meet at his office in the capital yesterday on the occasion of the current government's three years in power. The government also targets the export earnings from the sector to reach $5 billion by 2021, he said.
Data from the Export Promotion Bureau shows earnings from the sector stand close to $250 million, which is a misleading figure and needs to be corrected, he said.
“We have earned over $100 million from freelancing and another $100 million from outsourcing.”
A portion of the earnings of the industry comes from the informal channel, he said.
ICT exports can hit the $1 billion mark as Bangladesh has no other single product to match it, Palak said. “ICT exports will cross $5 billion by 2021 if the present trend of export of software and IT products by the IT companies together with freelance software developers and call centres continue.”
The sector earned only $26 million in January 2009 from exports when the government led by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina came to power.
Imran Ahmad, chairman of the parliamentary standing committee on the ICT ministry, and Shyam Sunder Sikder, ICT secretary, also spoke at the programme, which was attended by the industry leaders.
Palak said the government has taken massive ICT infrastructure development programmes across the country and arranged training programmes to boost the sector.
Some projects are already complete and the government will soon start getting benefit of those, he said. The 12 hi-tech parks, including Bangabandhu Hi-Tech Park at Kaliakoir on 332 acres and Sheikh Hasina Software Technology Park in Jessore, are now under construction and will be ready within a short time, Palak said.
Once implemented, the Bangabandhu Hi-tech Park alone will create jobs for around 100,000 people, he said.
“Our target is to increase the number of IT professionals up to 2 million by 2021 and we are working on that.”
About the future plan, he said they will build internet literacy centres across the country to increase internet penetration, which is 40 percent now. However, the International Telecommunication Union said in its latest report that internet penetration in Bangladesh is only 14 percent and the country ranks 144th in its ICT Development Index.
That actually happened because of the poor reporting process in the country, which is also hampering the brand value of Bangladesh in the international arena, he said. “We need to establish research teams to present real statistics.”
The government's main target is to offer better ICT services to the citizen and help them give a facelift to their daily life, the state minister said.
The ICT Division has already established tens of thousands kilometers of optical fibre cables and growth centres in the country to connect upazilas, he said. It is time to announce access to the internet as a fundamental right, Imran Ahmad said.
He also emphasised establishing better coordination between the ICT Division and the Telecom Division and giving autonomy to Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission.