Dhaka, 08 February 2020:
Hon’ble State Minister for Information and Communication Technology, Mr. Zunaid Ahmed Palak, MP
Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, young innovators,
I am truly delighted to be with you at the Top Startups Pitch Event in preparation for Startup World Cup 2020. Like the Startup World Cup itself, today’s event also provides an opportunity for top startups, venture capitalists, entrepreneurs and renowned tech personalities and above all the Government of Bangladesh to come together and support the ideas and initiatives of our innovative minds. The humanity is standing at a crossroad as the advancement of technology has completely transformed the way we used to act or think. As a nation, if cannot take this opportunity to change our lives, our future generations will not forgive us. So along with the efforts of the government, these startups will enable us to achieve our dreams and destiny. That’s why I am again feeling fortunate to be here today.
02. We are celebrating ‘MujibBarsha’ and the startups will add to our joy with their innovation and efforts. Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman gave us this Nation. Now Bangabandhu’s capable daughter, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, is leading us to our destiny of a prosperous Bangladesh. To reach our goal, she has set a number of visions like becoming a fully digital developing country by 2021, achieving SDGs by 2030 and a developed country by 2041. A huge amount of money, different types of resources and services would be required to achieve this dream. For example, even for the SDGs, we will need around 67 billion dollars every year in Bangladesh till 2030. Where this huge resource will come from and how do we generate the enormous growth every year? The answer lies in our innovative solutions to the problems of social development and economic growth, building a nation free from the scourges of poverty, hunger, exploitation, and injustice. I am hopeful that the startups placed before us today will help us to realize the ‘Sonar Bangla’ or the ‘Golden Bengal’ as envisaged by Bangabandhu. Already we have started using ‘দূতাবাস’ (Dutabash). It provides 34 different types of services. In this process we have reduced the hassle and reduced the cost of operation. We have quickened the service and we took the service to the door to door of the common people. In Sylhet by using ‘333’ and ‘999’ you can get 52 different types of services.
Ladies and gentlemen,
03. Bangladeshi people are innovative from the time immemorial. Gopal Krishna Gokhale rightly remarked that ‘What Bengal thinks today, India thinks tomorrow’. Once a basket case example and now Bangladesh is considered globally as a development miracle. We will be the 23th largest economy of the world by 2041 according to PricewaterhouseCooopers.For startups to take shape and thrive, there could not have been a better time than the present day Bangladesh. Government has taken all sorts of measures and extended various facilities for young innovators. Bangladesh has now emerged as an economy with huge growth history and future potential. With a GDP growth rate of 8.15%, we are the fastest growing economy in the Asia-Pacific as per ADB. Due to the visionary leadership of the Hon’ble Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, we now see Bangladesh as the perfect platform of innovation to leap into the future prosperity. It was a decade ago when Hon’ble Prime Minister declared her “Digital Bangladesh” plan for the people of Bangladesh with four key priorities.
i) developing human resources ready for the digital age;
ii) connecting citizens in the ways most meaningful to them;
iii) taking services to citizens’ doorsteps; and
iv) making the private sector and market more productive and competitive through the use of digital technology.
04. I am sure that the impressive startups that are being judged and rewarded today, must have been tremendously profited from the benefits of the facilities of this Digital Bangladesh of Sheikh Hasina and in return, they would also help the implementation of the Digital Bangladesh so that all people may get its benefit, making that dream into reality. Here, However, I would like to draw your attention to the fact that most of the startups are based on software operating in digital environment. But, I would also urge our youths and young innovators to venture into social, economic, industrial and educational startups in addition to predominantly software-based ones.
05. The emergence of 4IR technologies is blurring the lines between the physical, digital, and biological spheres. In the same way when it comes to new technology and new networks, there are seemingly unlimited possibilities for increased human connectivity. These possibilities will be increased manifold by emerging technologies like 5G, Artificial Intelligence, robotics, automation, autonomous transportation, 3-D printing even of human organs, biotechnology and development of synthetic organisms and bio-sensors,nanomaterials, cryptocurrency, block chain, quantum computing and above all, the internet of things. We, both public and private sectors, must embrace innovations at their core to survive and thrive in the age of 4IR. Innovations would be the vital ingredient for sustainability of any sector during this fast changing times. For Bangladesh, there is no option but to make right choice and take adequate preparation so that our youths and industries can fully exploit this advantage of technology. The government has stepped forward and we think the private sector will reciprocally move ahead. The startups that we see today are testimony to that engagement of the private sector.
Dear young friends present here,
06. You have come up with impressive startups. Some will get award and some may not get award. But I am confident that all the startups, with award or without, are equally beneficial for us. Absence of any immediate award should not make us despaired to continue with our path of innovation. I would further urge you to come up with startups in the priority areas of Bangladesh like poverty reduction, education, climate change and disaster management, women empowerment, achievement of SDGs, migration and labour, easing trade and commerce. More importantly the subject which is close to my mind is creating a mind-set of respect for others irrespective of religion, color, background or ethnicity and if we can create such mind-set then we can have sustainable peace and stability across nations. Government is ready to provide all assistance to help our young innovators. As we graduate from the LDC status, we will be gradually putting in place the necessary protections for the ‘Intellectual Property’ so that our domestic startups may gain absolute benefit.
07. Under the dynamic leadership of the Hon’ble Prime Minister and innovative supervision of Hon’ble Adviser of ICT Affairs H.E. Mr. SajeebWajed, we are now moving ahead with various plans to achieve the SDGs. Together they had set us a target by 2021 of having 2 million ICT skilled persons, establishment of e-governance and earning a revenue of $5b. To help achieve these targets, the government has declared tax holiday till 2024, only 1% import tax for materials of hardware industry and exceptional cash incentive of 10% for ICT export. I hope that not only the local entrepreneurs, the foreign innovators will also be greatly encouraged to take the rare advantages offered by the government to launch their startupsin Bangladesh.We also look forward to our expatriate Bangladeshis and NRBs to come and have their startups established in Bangladesh taking advantage to this hugely attractive government offers and facilities. Our State Minister for ICT has mentioned the facilities offered by the Government and the impressive results the startups are bringing as a result.
08. At the end, I again thank the organizers not only for organizing this event, but also for encouraging our young innovators by taking them to the Startup World Cup which will bring further success and honour for all of us. I wish all of them a great success in all of their future ventures.
Joy Bangla, Joy Bangabandhu.