The World Bank has initially agreed to provide $300 million as a loan for a new ICT project
Bangladesh's annual revenue from information technology and IT Enabled Services (ITES) increased by $280 million in the last seven years following the implementation of Leveraging ICT for Growth, Employment and Governance (LICT) project with $110 million.
The project aims to improve Bangladesh's position in E-Government Development Index, published every two years by the UN Department of Economic and Social Affair, by five notches from 150 in 2012 to 145 in 2019.
But, Bangladesh secured 115th position in 2018 – much before the targeted time.
The LICT, with a $102.52 million support from the World Bank, concluded in June 2019 ensuring 47,000 employments in IT and ITES sectors, which was only 12,000 in 2013.
The project arranged training for 33,564 people – 10,450 of them women – in different marketable IT skills. It also supported 66 percent of government ministries and divisions to introduce and maintain at least two or more e-government services.
While monitoring the project activities, high-level delegates of the World Bank expressed satisfaction over achievement in the IT sector but showed concerns over the sustainability of the project results.
The Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Division is initiating the second phase of the LICT project, to be implemented by the Bangladesh Computer Council with an estimated $305 million.
Responding to the request of the Economic Relations Division, the World Bank gave preliminary consent to provide $300 million as loan for the project and prepared a concept paper.
Md Rezaul Karim, joint secretary and former director of the just-completed project, told The Business Standard that the Computer Council played a significant role in providing training, creating employment, increasing income from IT and ITES in the last seven years.
The LICT project also helped the government deliver digital services – better than expected. This is the reason the World Bank extended the project timeline and provided an extra $39 million as loan.
Rezaul said to sustain the achievement of the project and provide more IT and ITES support to the people and businesses, the ICT Division is planning to implement a new project with the support of the World Bank.
The World Bank said in the concept paper of the new LICT project that the government of Bangladesh set out an ambitious "Digital Bangladesh" agenda for the country which remains core to the overall strategy of leveraging ICT for development.
"The government intends to take a more strategic, holistic, and integrated whole-of-government (WOG) approach to improve governance and increase digital services to citizens and businesses," reads the paper.
The WOG approach for digital governance has been a long-term strategy of many governments around the world in the past 10 years and countries such as Australia, Korea, Singapore, and the UK have successfully implemented it, an official at the Computer Council said.
Setting up a common infrastructure, development platform, and service for all government agencies, the approach may help cut spending in ICT resources, operational and overhead ICT cost, cyber vulnerability, said officials at the Dhaka office of the World Bank.
The "build once, reuse everywhere" digital platform will consist of common digital government infrastructure, cloud platform, and software services which will help the government to avoid fragmentation, duplication, and increase the effectiveness of its ICT investments across all sectors and agencies, a source at the Computer Council said.
The upcoming project will also offer citizens and businesses at least 30 new digital services by government agencies to benefit from access to more value-added online services.
To decentralise service delivery, a component would be included in the project for sensitising and engaging 50 lakh citizens and 50,000 businesses outside Dhaka.
The Bangladesh Computer Council plans to provide digital services developed by the project to 50 lakh people, half of whom will be women.
The project will spend $70 million to implement "Enabling Environment for Digital Government Integration" to strengthen the national data centre and build infrastructure for cloud computing.
The largest portion of the project, $123 million, will be allocated for "Supply-Side Digital Government Platform".
Referring to recent cybersecurity challenges experienced by the Bangladesh Bank, the World Bank said the WOG approach will also help Bangladesh government improve the security of its digital governance system to protect the public administration from cyber threats.