Helping Bangladesh to move with its digital transformation roadmap | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, January 16, 2017 / LAST MODIFIED: 03:15 AM, January 17, 2017

Helping Bangladesh to move with its digital transformation roadmap

We sat with Rena Chai, Chief Operating Officer, South East Asia New Markets, Microsoft Asia Pacific recently to talk about Microsoft's big plan with Bangladesh. Here's the gist:

Why is Bangladesh an important focus of Microsoft?

Bangladesh is a fast-growing economy, with a steady GDP of 7.1 percent; second highest in terms of growth rate in the world. We care deeply about inspiring and empowering people, creating opportunities that have lasting impact, and removing barriers to adoption so everyone can experience the transformational benefits of the digital economy. We also realise that technology is not a silver bullet; leaders across the public sector must also pair technology-enabled programs and initiatives with policies that benefit and enable all people. And, all of this must be built on a foundation of trust.

What is Microsoft's plan for Bangladesh?

At Microsoft, our mission is to empower every person and every organisation on the planet to achieve more. We see technology as a powerful enabler – an agent of change in solving many of the challenges facing public sector agencies today as they move toward sustainable growth and development models and focus on the future of our planet and its 7.4 billion people. We aspire to be the global leader in driving responsible digital transformation across companies, governments and public institutions to enable measurable societal and economic impact where every person on the planet benefits.

Through our National Empowerment Plan, we seek to outline a cloud-based, digital transformation roadmap for each country, aligned to national priorities and designed to create new business development opportunities for businesses. As Bangladesh is eyeing to grow $5B export by 2021, Microsoft's role is to partner with the government and its various wings to develop an ICT ecosystem that could facilitate the country's progression on its way to achieve the Digital Bangladesh vision. Our plan will bring to life solutions that governments and commercial customers can leverage to have a positive societal impact and provide tools to help governments establish public polices and regulations that will enable use of cloud services across all industries and increase trust in emerging technologies. 

What is the biggest challenge for Microsoft in Bangladesh?

The biggest challenge of Bangladesh is also a huge potential. 30 percent of the 160 million people in Bangladesh are youth. The total workforce of the country is approximately 82 million. As Bangladesh has a shortage of skilled labor force, we believe education and skill development are the most important investment in the future. Every person deserves the skills and opportunities that can unlock their potential. Their futures, and ours, depend on it. Microsoft has a long history of providing government leaders and public sector agencies, schools, educators, students and all job seekers access to the tools, resources, support, and skills needed to educate, prepare, and re-skill existing and future generations for the opportunities ahead. For example, through Microsoft's YouthSpark Initiative, we work to increase access to computer science education and opportunities for youth around the world, including several initiatives focused on encouraging girls and women to explore and pursue careers in STEM. Microsoft YouthSpark has provided 300 million students in more than 100 countries with training to help them develop the computational-thinking and problem-solving skills that are critical to their future.

Regionally, what are the technology trends that you are seeing these days?

We're in the middle of the fourth industrial revolution, as technology is altering our current systems of production, distribution and consumption at an unprecedented pace. Never has there been a time when technology has the potential to impact the world more than today. Artificial intelligence, machine learning, robotics, biotech advances and the cloud are changing our lives and shaping the lives of future generations. With this change come enormous opportunity and the potential to bring benefits to every facet of life. Yet, for a substantial part of the world, the benefits of these advanced technologies are elusive and remain out of reach. While the Internet, mobile devices, and other emerging technologies are spreading rapidly through the developing world, the anticipated digital dividends of higher growth, more jobs, and better public services have fallen short of expectations. Today, 60 percent of the world's citizens remain excluded from the benefits of the digital economy. And there are many areas worldwide where digital transformation has displaced or endangered certain populations. There is an incredible amount of opportunity for all of us to do more.

Can you tell me about the education and women development and also community related plan of Microsoft in Bangladesh?

As digital leaders, it is part of our responsibility and DNA to ensure that everyone can benefit from the digital economy. We must promote digital inclusion in everything we do. We can do this by embracing a new construct, which we call digital diversity. This factors in the need to be aware of the impact that digital transformation has on diversity and is mindful of and purposeful about creating opportunities that are inclusive of women, minorities, and people with disabilities. It also strives to provide access to the skills that will allow women and minorities to land high growth jobs and allow them to prosper in the digital economy – now and over time. Empowering the Surfer girls in Bangladesh, teacher training programme and Windows Women programme for women entrepreneurs are a few to name our commitment.  To make it happen, Microsoft Bangladesh, in partnership with A2I, is providing extensive training on hardware and software technology to 5000 women entrepreneurs who will be prepared to earn money as Service Engineers. We finished providing Digital Literacy and Service Engineering training to the surfer girls in the surf club at Cox's Bazar. We also arranged laptops from Dell to start them off with a donation for a small cyber café in the surf club. They are now offering training to the general public on how to use a computer, create an email account, surf the web and of course create a Facebook account. The surfer girls are earning from this training.

Microsoft has longstanding and growing investments in programmes encouraging girls and women to pursue learning and careers in fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). Globally, half of the youth who benefit from Microsoft-funded STEM education programs are female. We also invest in efforts to promote diversity and inclusion within our own workforce and the broader technology field.

Are there any plans to collaborate with Government to promote digital literacy and connectivity in Bangladesh?

We are committed to helping public sector agencies achieve life-changing digital transformation. As part of this commitment, we work closely with government agencies, organisations, and institutions to help them develop and implement technology-based programmes and solutions so they can enable measurable societal and economic impact where every person on the planet benefits.

Microsoft has already partnered with the government regarding the women's vocational training. Apart from that, as a part of our Citizenship Philanthropy program, we will be providing basic digital literacy for the underserved community.

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