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Smart Bangladesh to take the Country to a Next Tech Hub in Asia

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By Zunaid Ahmed Palak

In the last decade, Bangladesh has shown the world how revolutionary progress can be achieved through building a Digital Bangladesh vision as dreamt by our visionary leader Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. It has now embarked on a task to build a Smart Bangladesh to take the country to a next tech hub in Asia.

Just a decade ago, Bangladesh had to import all the smartphones to meet the demands of the country’s growing smartphone users. Now, Samsung, one of the world’s biggest producers of smartphones, manufactures its latest high end devices in Bangladesh.

Since 2021, Samsung started manufacturing its Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G phones in Bangladeshi plants. In the US, this phone costs USD 1199.99 and if imported its cost would be more than BDT 166,000. Thanks to local assembling plants, Bangladeshi customers could purchase this phone at only BDT 119,000.

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Not only Samsung, various companies such as Walton, Vivo, Oppo are also producing high-end smartphones in Bangladesh. In 2022, locally manufactured and assembled phones met more than 52 percent demand of smartphones.

The secret behind such astounding transformation in the last few years is the current governments special focus on expanding ICT and heavy industries. Now the governments priority in this sector has been impeccably explained in its Smart Bangladesh vision.

Smart Bangladesh Vision 2041 as announced by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, Bangladesh is expected to achieve zero percent poverty, 100 percent high speed internet accessibility, 100 percent more than 5G smartphone penetration and 100 percent inclusive, circular and cashless economy and expansion of ICT based green industries by 2041. Besides, all the government services will be delivered electronically, government offices will be completely paperless and citizens will live in an absolutely inclusive, empowered and self-sufficient society.

The Bangladesh started journey towards Digital Bangladesh back in 2009 when the current ruling party Awami League came into power. There was no ICT ecosystem at that time. There were no government services that could be delivered electronically. Only 1 percent of the citizens had internet connection. There were only around 50,000 IT professionals in the entire country. And, export revenue from ICT based industry was only 26 million USD. But the fact of the matter is: under the prudent and dynamic leadership of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, the government has radically transformed the ICT ecosystem and built Digital Bangladesh over the last decade. Government has digitized 2 thousand services to citizens access to it. Out of 170 million people 130 million people have stable internet connection. Bangladesh currently earns over 1.4 billion USD annually by exporting ICT related services.

The Bangladesh government has implemented this massive transformation by establishing a safe and friendly investment ecosystem for the investors and entrepreneurs. The government has been providing attractive incentives for investors to expand the emerging ICT industry of the country. For instance, IT companies can enjoy 10 years of corporate tax exemption and if they invest in one of the Hi-tech parks established by the government, the duration of corporate tax exemption can be 12 years. Expatriate professionals working in Bangladesh’s ICT industry are exempted from income tax. Import duties for the investors or entrepreneurs for importing capital machineries and other assets are exempted.
Besides these, the investors will enjoy exemption from VAT, double taxation, stamp duty, registration fee (if they want to purchase land) and 100 percent profit repatriation facility. If the investors or entrepreneurs invest in Hi-tech parks, they will also enjoy bonded warehouse facilities.

Such lucrative incentives have already created an unprecedented acceleration in Bangladesh’s emerging ICT market. In the last five years, more than 2500 startups have been established in the country and around 200 ICT startups are entering the market every year.
There are currently more than 400 companies in Bangladesh who achieved funding by renowned international investors such as Soft Bank Group, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Adventure Capital and many others.

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Thanks to these investments, more than 2 million jobs have been created in Bangladesh’s ICT industry in the last decade. In fact, Bangladesh has reached a global milestone in expanding its ecommerce and digital financing. At present, Bangladesh boasts of 181 million users of mobile phones making it the 9th largest mobile market of the world.

There are more than 188 million subscribers of mobile financial services (MFS) who are doing 14 million transactions every day. Bangladesh’s MFS such as BKASH and Nagad (state owned) have earned many national and global recognitions for their innovative and committed customer services. Since 2011, MFS are growing in Bangladesh at an astounding 500 percent growth rate.

Like MFS, Bangladesh’s ecommerce market is also a hidden treasure for potential investors. Global players like Alibaba, Daraz and various national level startups have already created a 3 billion USD ecommerce market in the last five years. However, this is only 35 percent of the total market size and within the next two years the market can be expanded to address the demands of 80 percent of its consumers.

Bangladesh has also achieved a major breakthrough in expanding its digital device market. Even in the last decade, Bangladesh had to import almost all of the electronic products. However, nowadays Bangladesh has become an emerging exporter of electronic products manufactured in Bangladesh.

The country has created a 2.4 billion USD market of electronic devices and annual growth of the market is 29.3 percent. Walton, a Bangladeshi brand has been exporting home appliance electronics and heavy machineries for almost a decade. Products of globally renowned brands like Samsung and Sony are now being assembled in Bangladesh.

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In the near future, Bangladesh is going to be a big player in the global semiconductor industry. Bangladeshi researchers in collaboration with their American counterparts have developed semiconductors which have the highest operational temperature of 300 degree celsius, more than double that of conventional semiconductors.

Bangladesh government has allocated 10 million USD to establish Nano Lab to conduct fundamental research on semiconductors in Bangladesh. Besides, four Bangladeshi companies are already producing electronic chips and exporting them to different countries as well. More than 1000 trained Bangladeshi engineers are working in these companies. The government is now giving 10 percent export incentive for electronic chip exporting companies. If the current rate of growth continues, It is expected that Bangladesh will create a 20 billion dollar semiconductor industry by 2041.

Such outstanding progress in the ICT industry has been possible due to Bangladesh governments remarkable attention on creating skilled manpower in the ICT sector.

The ICT division has been providing a wide range of ICT training to millions of youths, particularly women all over the country to become freelancers and skilled IT professionals. Many of these trained youths have later become successful entrepreneurs, freelancers and IT professionals.

Bangladeshi freelancers are earning 400 million USD annually through their skilled and cost-effective services. According to Oxford Internet Institute (OII) and World Bank reports Bangladesh’s position in the online labour forces is second. From 2010-2018, income growth of the IT professionals was around 10 percent, however, from 2019 to till now, the growth rate has increased up to 40 percent.

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Utilization of these ready to deploy resources can only be possible if the government can attract foreign direct investments and young entrepreneurs in the country’s rapidly emerging ICT sector. And, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s government is more than ready for them.
Our next goal is to develop a smart economy within next five years where we shall be able to establish a 100 percent cashless, circular economy. To achieve this goal, we would provide support to develop at least 5 unicorn startup companies (USD 1 billion company each). We have also planned to develop 50 unicorn startup companies by 2041. Our government will do everything possible to attract investors and entrepreneurs to invest in this sector and they will be the key players in realizing our dream of Smart Bangladesh.

Bangladesh has a massive pool of millions of skilled youths, all the necessary infrastructure and extremely conducive environment for young entrepreneurs and large scale investment as well. The initiatives taking by the present Government is the line with the Smart Bangladesh vision there is no doubt that Bangladesh is going to be the next tech hub in Asia and beyond.
The writer is Honble State Minister for ICT Division Zunaid Ahmed Palak. e-mail: me@palak.net.bd

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Banglalink’s Parent Company VEON Achieves ‘AA’ ESG Rating

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VEON, a leading global digital operator, and parent company of Banglalink, has been upgraded to an ‘AA’ Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) rating by Morgan Stanley Capital International (MSCI).

MSCI provides critical decision support tools and services for the global investment community. 

Banglalink, alongside other VEON operators across the world, has positively contributed to the overall rating through its commitment to fostering a sustainable and digitally inclusive future.

In Bangladesh, the commitment to the “4G for all” initiative has been transformative, empowering communities with access to innovative digital services in line with the government’s Smart Bangladesh vision. 

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In alignment with its ESG agenda, Banglalink aims to increase its female customer base by three percent, reaching 29 percent by 2026. This goal was formally announced in collaboration with the GSMA’s Connected Women initiative at the recently concluded Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. 

Additionally, Banglalink will continue to impact millions of lives through its awareness and educational activities via its unique digital platforms, such as the MyBL Super App and Toffee. Currently, the MyBL SuperApp, the country’s first telco super app, has over eight million monthly active users. 

Furthermore, Banglalink has recently upgraded its network with modern and sustainable technologies that not only emit fewer carbon emissions but also align with environmentally friendly practices.

This achievement underscores VEON’s commitment to fostering employee engagement and satisfaction. VEON Group CEO, Kaan Terzioglu, has expressed pride in the company’s employee management, which boasts an above-industry-average score. 

At the heart of VEON’s success across its six markets, serving 160 million customers, is its strategic focus on integrating and implementing practices that generate a positive societal impact, uphold ethical governance standards, and contribute to environmental stewardship.

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Erik Aas, CEO of Banglalink, remarked, Erik Aas, CEO of Banglalink, remarked, “The ‘AA’ rating of VEON has not only underscored Banglalink’s dedication to the ‘4G for all’ initiative but has also been a transformative force in enabling community access to innovative digital services. Our digital operator strategy and ESG agenda have had a positive impact on both social and environmental fronts, with a keen focus on fostering an inclusive workplace, driving initiatives for diversity and inclusion, and championing environmental sustainability.”

This achievement places VEON in the esteemed ‘Leaders’ category among 131 telecommunication services companies globally, underscoring its unwavering commitment to sustainable and ethical business practices.

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ITU’s AI for Good Global Summit 2024 puts tech to the test for people and planet

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​​​​​​​​Global leaders and innovators in artificial intelligence (AI) will join the humanitarian community at the AI for Good Global Summit 2024 in Geneva, Switzerland on 30-31 May to explore how new technology can drive sustainable development. 

This year’s edition of the AI for Good summit event will showcase innovations in generative AI, robotics,​ and brain-machine interfaces that can accelerate progress in areas such as climate action, accessibility, health, and disaster response. 

Summit speakers, including some of the world’s foremost AI luminaries, will explore the latest breakthroughs in AI and examine actions to ensure that AI works to humanity’s benefit. 

“ITU’s annual AI for Good Global Summit brings together a diverse set of voices to look at the latest AI developments and find ways to ensure this technology remains a force for good, driving inclusive growth and sustainable and equitable progress for all,” said ITU Secretary-General Doreen Bogdan-Martin. “This summit and our year-round AI for Good platform are powerful tools for accelerating progress in our race to achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals by 2030.”

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​On 29 May, discussions dedicated to AI governance will explore the surge in global efforts to craft AI policy, regulation, and governance frameworks. AI Governance Day – bringing together representatives of governments, companies, academia, civil society, and UN agencies – aims to forge pathways to transform dialogue around AI governance into impactful action.

​The UN platform for AI powered by ITU

AI for Good identifies practical applications of AI to accelerate progress toward the UN Sustainable Development Goals and connects AI innovators with public and private-sector decision-makers to help scale up AI solutions globally.

ITU, the UN specialized agency for information and communication technologies, organizes the yearly AI for Good Global Summit together with 40 partner UN agencies. The event is co-convened by the Government of Switzerland.  

AI for Good discussions foster international cooperation and innovation to create equitable access to new technologies. The discussions support ITU in spurring timely policy exchanges, developing best practices and technical standards, and catalysing partnerships for AI solutions to contribute to sustainable development. 

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Thought leaders and thought-controlled machines 

In addition to talks by AI thought leaders, this year’s summit will host machine learning masterclasses, curated by experts for experts, covering topics from deepfakes and climate change to brain-machine interfaces, AI for public services, explainable AI, and machine learning in communication networks.

Start-ups, young people and creatives will demonstrate their ideas at the AI for Good Innovation Factory Grand FinaleRobotics for Good Youth Challenge, and Canvas of the Future art contest

The summit’s exhibition space will feature an array of cutting-edge demos, including AI for accessibility, collective drone swarms, bio-inspired rescue robots, a RoboCup robot football tournament, performance-boosting exoskeletons, and AI-inspired art.

Exhibition highlights will include demos of brain-machine interfaces – an AI advancement that promises to open new frontiers for neurotechnology. A press conference on brain-machine interfaces will highlight new technologies enabling mind-controlled movement and communication for persons with disabilities, offering insights on how progress in the field could impact the future of human performance, mental health, and wellbeing. 

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The 2024 edition of the summit comes in conjunction with the WSIS+20 Forum High-Level Event. The World Summit on Information Society event brings together the world’s digital development community to discuss concrete actions to advance sustainable development. 

The AI for Good Global Summit will take place at the International Conference Centre Geneva (CICG)

Registration for media accreditation for reporters wishing to cover the AI for Good Global Summit is open. Registration for the public​ is also open and is free of charge. Registrants can attend either in person or online to connect with an expected 2,500 participants in Geneva and over 25,000 professionals worldwide who are part of the AI for Good Neural Network. Capacity is limited and early registration is encouraged.  Confirmed speakers include:   ​

  • Doreen Bogdan-Martin – ITU Secretary-General
  • Geoffrey Hinton – Advisor for the Learning in Machines & Brains, Canadian Institute for Advanced Research (presenting remotely)
  • Sam Altman – CEO, OpenAI (presenting remotely)
  • HRH Princess Beatrice – United Kingdom
  • Abeba Birhane – Senior Fellow in Trustworthy AI, Mozilla Foundation, Time 100 AI 
  • Stuart Russell – Professor of Computer Science at University of California, Berkeley, and author of “Human Compatible: Artificial Intelligence and the Problem of Control”
  • Daron Acemoglu – Institute Professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and New York Times bestselling author of “Why Nations Fail: Power, Prosperity, and Poverty”
  • Gary Marcus – Scientist, best-selling author, and serial entrepreneur, New York University
  • Nicholas Thompson – CEO, The Atlantic
  • Fatmah Baothman – CEO, Alothaim Investment AI and R&D Company
  • Vincent Vanhoucke – Senior Director of Robotics, Google DeepMind 
  • Mo Gawdat – Former Chief Business Officer at Google X, and best-selling author of “Scary Smart” and “Solve for Happy”

See all of the AI for Good Global Summit 2024 speakers here.  ​Demos of robots, drones, and brain-machine interfaces include: 

The AI for Good Global Summit 2024 is supported by Immersion4 (Diamond sponsor), DLA Piper (Diamond sponsor), AWS (Gold sponsor), Alibaba DAMO Academy (Gold sponsor), ZTE (Gold sponsor), and KUKA (Networking sponsor). 

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Future of COMPUTING is Coming – At CES 2024, GIGABYTE to Present Key Innovations and Accelerate AI-empowered and Sustainable Breakthroughs

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Taipei, December 13th, 2023 – GIGABYTE Technology, an IT pioneer whose focus is to advance global industries through cloud and AI computing systems, and elevate user experiences with hardware innovation, is coming to CES with the “Future of COMPUTING” theme which aims to highlight the product performance that enables successes in an AI-empowered and green-conscious era.

GIGABYTE will make its presence with product lineups that fast-track the transformation of the tech landscape. By delivering massive computing resources from the cloud and data centers to the edge and end users, GIGABYTE’s innovative products drive agile operations and faster time-to-insight for businesses and experts in diverse markets, also providing an enjoyable and immersive experience for consumers.

GIGABYTE showcases its all-around expertise with the most powerful AI/HPC servers, advanced cooling solutions, industrial PCs, autonomous vehicle technologies, gaming and creator products. The spectacular exhibits will be held from January 9th to 12th, at Booth #9637, North Hall, Las Vegas Convention Center.

Unlock Endless Possibilities in AI with GIGABYTE’s AI/HPC Servers 

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At CES 2024, GIGABYTE and its subsidiary, Giga Computing, will present the latest AI/HPC server lineup. Incorporating top-notch GPU and accelerators, GIGABYTE offers versatile solutions turbocharging the most demanding AI workloads, such as generative AI, large-scale language model training, metaverse, digital twins, rendering and 3D graphics, showcasing the essential data center solutions for tomorrow’s AI.

GIGABYTE’s server products address diverse IT deployment scenarios. GIGABYTE will exhibit a storage server tailored for large language models, an Arm server for cloud-native deployments, and an edge server optimized for 5G applications. These diverse servers will empower various industries to embrace future opportunities with flexible and pain-free IT upgrades.

The Advanced Cooling Solutions, AIoT, and Automotive Technology Exemplify GIGABYTE’s Well-rounded Expertise

As a leading expert and integrator for advanced cooling solutions, GIGABYTE will exhibit its portfolio of single-phase immersion cooling and direct liquid cooling systems at CES. These solutions exemplify GIGABYTE’s commitment to providing sustainable, energy-efficient data center solutions. GIGABYTE’s solutions are widely trusted by the world’s leading enterprises and institutes including global semiconductor giants, telecom companies, and research centers.

GIGABYTE’s advanced cooling solutions support the latest CPU/GPU technologies from AMD, Intel, and NVIDIA, providing a diverse range of server options suitable for various IT deployment strategies and unlocking the maximum potential of CPUs/GPUs. The optimized server performance is accompanied by reduced energy consumption, providing exceptional sustainability benefits and a favorable total cost of ownership. 

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GIGABYTE’s comprehensive technologies extend the reach of computing power from data centers to connected applications close to end users. Industrial PCs facilitate process automation in manufacturing plants and outdoor signages, delivering top-tier performance under harsh environments. Advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) and vehicle telematics facilitate a highly intelligent autonomous driving experience. These hardware innovations demonstrate GIGABYTE’s role in facilitating AI-driven digital transformation.

The Gaming and Creator Lineups Push the Frontier of Performance and AestheticsIn addition to enterprise products and solutions, GIGABYTE will showcase an exciting array of computer product lineups, encompassing AORUS, AERO, and GIGABYTE laptops, motherboards, graphics cards, and OLED gaming monitors. Notably, the new flagship AORUS gaming laptops will feature a sleek, revamped design, coupled with powerful performance, a captivating edge-to-edge display, and seamless integration of next-gen AI applications, promising an unparalleled gaming experience. Creators will find delight in the AERO 14 OLED laptop’s professional 2.8K OLED HDR display, featuring world-class color calibration and exclusive AI eyecare technology. Console players will be amazed by the world’s first 48-inch 4K/120Hz OLED monitor and how it delivers a lifelike audio-visual delight. For DIY computer enthusiasts, the motherboards and graphics cards will win their hearts with user-friendly designs and robust performance for resource-intensive features.

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