Golam Mostafa Jibon: Although, Bangladesh Hi-Tech Park Authority is lagging behind the implementation of target, the authorities concerned are more interested in new projects one after another creating wonder to the elites.
Experts said, from Google, Facebook, Apple, Intel, Asus to famous companies in the information technology sector, Silicon Valley is the center of the United States. However, many are leaving the largest technology-based trade hub due to high tariffs and the exorbitant cost of housing and office buildings. Some of them have started shifting their production centers to different South Asian countries, especially India. In addition, China-based global technology companies are also relocating factories to countries where operations can be conducted at low cost. And various initiatives are being taken for these investments to come to Bangladesh. Even the government wants to provide a world-class environment in this country to attract Silicon Valley entrepreneurs to invest. Bangladesh Hi-Tech Park Authority (BHTPA) has been established for that purpose. Some 92 parks are being constructed in the park. Out of these, nine have started business operations. However, the initiative that was taken to spread the light of hope has become somewhat cloudy with the passage of time. All the work is going on slowly. However, the organization does not stop at adopting new plans. Although, lagging behind the target, the authorities are more interested in new projects one after another.
It is known that business activities have started in two Hi-Tech Park, three software technology parks and four IT training and incubation centers under the jurisdiction of Hi-Tech Park authorities. Besides, a total of 48 IT Parks including a Hi-Tech Park, Sheikh Kamal IT Training and Incubation Center and Software Technology Park are under construction. The project of 35 more parks has been approved but the work has not started. Meanwhile, BHTPA is planning to build 87 more new parks.
Those concerned said that, this initiative is keeping in mind the target of building a smart Bangladesh by 2041. The country’s first and largest Hi-Tech Park Bangabandhu Hi-Tech City in Kaliakair has been built on 355 acres of land in Kaliakair upazila of Gazipur district. A total of 80 investors
have been allocated space and land in the park. Among them, three companies are making IoT (Internet of Things) devices, two companies are making optical fibers and two companies are making mobiles. China-based biotech company Oryx Biotech Limited has been allotted 25 acres of land with 165,000 square feet of ready space after expressing interest in investing $300 million. But so far this foreign organization has not started any visible work. Not only Oryx Biotech, a large number of companies allotted space in Bangabandhu Hi-Tech City have not started their business operations. As a result, the target of employment in the park is not being realized.
According to BHTPA data, Bangabandhu Hi-Tech City had a target of employment for 41,269 people. However, employment opportunities for more than 5,000 people have been created so far.
In this context, the focal point officer of the park, Mahfuzul Kabir said, “More or less, a large part of the companies to which we gave space are conducting their activities. And those who are not starting work as per the agreement, notice is being given to them. We are also canceling some companies. Contracts are being canceled with companies that have not made any progress at any stage. However, this is an ongoing process.”
Regarding Oryx Biotech, the official said, according to the master plan, the infrastructure to be built by Oryx needs to be approved by the DC Committee (Committee headed by the District Administrator). They (Oryx) submitted the plan to the DC committee. Only after it is approved the company can start its operations.
Jessore’s Sheikh Hasina Software Technology Park started its journey with the objective of developing ICT industry and creating entrepreneurship in the southwestern region. Around this, the job seekers had a dream that the curse of unemployment would be lifted, if domestic and foreign established companies came. However, employment opportunities are not being created in this park as per the target. In other words, only 1,600 people have been employed so far instead of 5,000. Also, the workers in the institutions do not get quality salaries. The management of the Hi-Tech Park for 15 years has been given to an organization named ‘Techcity Bangladesh’.
Shahriar Biswas, AGM of Techcity Jessore said that, the Jessore Sheikh Hasina Software Park is now very active. About 50 institutes have allocated space here. Of these, there are 32 in operation, eight to 10 companies are exporting the produced software abroad.
Assistant Engineer (Civil) Firoz Ahmed, focal point officer of Jessore’s Sheikh Hasina Software Technology Park said, more than 1,600 people are directly employed in the park. But indirectly the number is higher than the target. Because of the institutions that we have operating here have a huge workforce outside the park.
Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Hi-Tech Park in Sylhet has been established on an area of 162.83 acres in Companyganj of Sylhet. That too has yet to start its operations. A large part of the companies that have allocated space and land there have not given their hands to the construction of infrastructure. A few companies withdrew before the restart. As a result, the intended implementation is not reflected.
Focal Point Officer SM Al Mamun said that, several companies have already started building their infrastructure. But none have started business operations yet. Employment opportunities will be created only when business activities start.
Sheikh Kamal IT Training and Incubation Center has been established at Khulna University of Engineering and Technology (CUET) and Chittagong University of Engineering and Technology (CUET) with the aim of building innovation ecosystem. Five companies are currently running their business activities in full swing in the Kuwait-based company.
Although, initially the number of startup companies in the organization was 39, it has reduced to 5-6.
Kuwait Sheikh Kamal IT Training and Incubation Center Focal Point Officer said. Farooq Hossain said, we currently have five institutions operating in full swing. But there were 39 startups here. Due to slow progress we are canceling some. Also the process of adding new startups is going on.
Even though, it has been inaugurated, the activities of Sheikh Kamal IT Training and Incubation Center of CHUET have not started in full swing. The companies, which got allocation of spaces, have not started their business activities.
The institution’s focal point officer Professor Dr. Mohammad Moshiul Haque said that, so far six companies got allocation of space here. Those are conducting infrastructure development work. Hopefully, they will start operations within the next month. Besides, space has been allotted to five startup companies. Meanwhile, three have started functioning since last month. Meanwhile, Bangladesh Association of Software and Information Services (BASIS) President Russell T Ahmed believes that the software industry cannot be transferred to parks outside Dhaka due to the shortage of skilled workers.
He said, the facilities of Hi-Tech Park are commendable, its initiative is definitely good. But we have to remember that the main thing in the software industry like ours is skilled workers. And that is why, our companies are Dhaka-centric. Because of we get enough people here. The challenge of skilled workers outside Dhaka has to be faced. So initiatives will be better, if concerted efforts are taken.
He said, there are not many pure software developers outside Dhaka. There are call centers, there are hardware developers, that is, resources that are readily available. But a programmer, developer or software engineer-it’s very difficult to find them there. So if skilled workers are not available, it becomes challenging to go to high-tech parks outside Dhaka.
The government’s Information and Communication Technology (ICT) department has taken new initiatives to achieve the target of building a smart Bangladesh by 2041. A six-day workshop was recently organized at Srimangal to explore the feasibility and formulate an integrated roadmap. Some 73 employees of nine departments and organizations participated in it. Each office and department under the ICT department presents a different roadmap with the goal of building Smart Bangladesh. There are a total of 97 new initiatives. BHTPA’s initiatives included setting up five new Hi-Tech Parks, 15 software technology parks and 67 Sheikh Kamal IT Training and Incubation Centers in different parts of the country.
When asked whether there will be any negative impact on the old ones due to taking new initiatives, Bikarna Kumar Ghosh, Managing Director of BHTPA said that, our initiatives are being implemented before the deadline. As a result, there is no chance of any impact on the previous ones due to new initiatives.
He said, we want the information technology sector of the country to advance, the economy of the country to advance. For that purpose, we want to use the potential of the youth of the country to increase employment. We are working towards that goal. I believe the technology sector will generate good employment, the economy will grow and a large portion of the GDP will come.
In this context, Information and Communication Technology Department Senior Secretary NM Ziaul Alam (PAA) said that, the initiatives taken by Hi-Tech Park are not done in a day. Activities are being conducted from time to time. And where necessary, we will do it gradually. So the previous initiative will not have any effect for the new plan.
Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Minister of State Junaid Ahmed did not respond when this correspondent tried to contact several times.
Mohammad Hatem, executive president of BKMEA, Bangladesh’s knitwear sector association, said “The number of orders is decreasing due to the global recession. Goods ordered six months ago are ready but buyers are not taking shipment. Orders which were scheduled for export in the future have also been postponed. About 30 percent of orders in knits and ovens have been suspended. The production of big factories has also come down to 50 to 60 percent.”
He said that the price of electricity increased in March last year. Later the price of fuel increased. Then gas prices have increased. Then fuel prices rose again, due to which the cost of production in the garment industry increased, while production decreased.
According to the Export Promotion Bureau (EPB) data, the total apparel exports grew by 26.10 percent during July-August of the current (2022-23) financial year. As a result, the export of clothing in the first two months of this year stood at 7.12 billion dollars. Out of this, the export of the oven sector was 3.19 billion dollars, while the export of the knitwear sector was 3.91 billion dollars.
In this context, Shahidullah Azim, the vice president of BGMEA, an organization of entrepreneurs of the ready-made clothing sector, said that the export situation of ready-made clothes has actually deteriorated. In July and August of the last financial year, the export volume was quite low. Export growth as a percentage in the last two months may seem high due to this weak base. However, if you look a little deeper, it can be seen that the amount of garment exports last June was more than 4 billion dollars. In July, it fell to 337 million dollars. Export income in August was 3.74 billion dollars. This means, exports have declined in the next two months compared to June.
Shahidullah Azim said, in terms of export orders, there is usually a cycle of every six months. What is being exported now, the export orders were a few months ago. Few new export orders are now in hand. Many buyers have postponed export orders. After various processes, the inspection of the manufactured goods has also been completed, now it is just waiting for shipping – buyers are reluctant to buy such products. Due to these reasons, some factories may be closed. Some factories are trying to survive by producing at half capacity.
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