Focusing on ICT has been one of the highest priorities of the government of Bangladesh since 1997 when it officially recognised that ICT can make an important development impact by engaging an executive committee to scrutinise scopes and opportunities in software development and export. In 2015 the government enacted a proper guideline for ICT and declared it a thrust sector. It is estimated that within five years ICT sector will contribute 1 per cent to the Bangladesh's total GDP and create employment for 150,000 ICT professionals. A National ICT Task Force, headed by the prime minister, has been formed and a hi-tech park in Gazipur is going to be established to attract foreign direct investment in this sector. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's effort to modernise Bangladesh through e-governance initiative was highly acclaimed by the world community and she was awarded the South-South Award and South-South Cooperation Visionary Award by the UN in recognition of her work. Apart from that, as appreciation of achievement, Bangladesh won the World Summit on Information Society Prize from ITU and Global ICT Excellence Award form World Information Technology and Services Alliance (WITSA).
The government is not only creating conditions for attracting foreign investments and increased number of jobs for IT professionals but also facilitating the growth of ICT in the grass roots level. Projects of Social Development Foundation (SDF) are good examples of the government's endeavour to flourish ICT all over the country. SDF is an autonomous organisation under the ministry of finance and undertakes different types of multifaceted projects for poverty reduction through community driven development. In order to ensure smooth operation of community finance activities, computerisation is considered the most useful means for entering Village Credit Organisations' data and information at village level. To this end, SDF has already initiated piloting computerisation of community finance activities.
SDF has taken initiative to test run a sub-project on ICT to train a small number of community people on using internet to put information to MIS (Management Information System) database for its new project named Natun Jibon Livelihood Improvement Project (NJLIP) which would intervene in around 2500 new villages in 12 districts that fall under the poorest areas of Bangladesh. It is expected that at the end of this project 40 per cent beneficiary households would be able to increase income by at least 30 per cent and 25,000 youths would be employed through project facilitation. Deprived community people of SDF's project regions are able to access the information gateway through the ICT sub-project. In SDF project areas income generating activities for the local youths are very limited due to scarcity of agricultural land and lack of investments by the local small medium entrepreneurs. Outsourcing is quite a lucrative income generating activity for the urban youths and it is time to introduce this to the village level also. Young project beneficiaries of SDF may find income generating opportunities through freelancing and outsourcing once they are fully equipped with proper training.
Youths of the community feel very encouraged to use laptops for data entry as they consider it as a possible opportunity for future employment. Shahinur from Rangpur, a marginalised woman and a project beneficiary of SDF, expressed that the laptops given to the community by SDF are true symbol of women empowerment as people who used to neglect her as a poor woman, now count on her she has been given the responsibility of record keeping with a laptop.
ICT can reduce unemployment to a great extent with a multiplier effect in a country's economy. For instance, Bangladesh's ICT industry has developed over the past decade and generates around $300 million revenue yearly. Bangladesh has an enormous potential in this sector but it is a long way to reap the harvest of global ICT revolution. The need to invest in ICT infrastructure and build up the skilled ICT human resources is therefore crucial.