Can digital inclusion help Bangladesh face COVID-19 challenges?

Can digital inclusion help Bangladesh face COVID-19 challenges?

There is likely to be a demand uncertainty due to coronavirus outbreak but digital progress could help nation face challenges: Salman F Rahman

The novel Coronavirus outbreak has brought a dramatic economic slowdown as it has forced the countries around the world to adopt measures such as lockdowns, social distancing, among others to ensure the safety of its citizens. The economic impact of pandemic virus has proved to be costlier than expected and even giant economies like the US, China, Japan, Germany have fallen under its purview.

With the global economy connected through cross-border flows of goods, services, people and international banking, countries like Bangladesh, Vietnam would also experience slow growth in their economy as the countries like the USA, the UK are the main importers of products especially Readymade Garments and leather products and China is the main investor.

Though Bangladesh is likely to face economic slowdown due to declining export and tourism revenue, with direct impact on production, supply chain and market disruption; it could be well contained with strategic measures.

For instance, the recent shift in the mode of transactions towards digital banking and biometrics and growth of digital outsourcing has transformed the way businesses operate in the South Asian nation— fueling domestic job opportunities and enabling faster economic growth. 

Many large corporations in developed nations like the US, UK and Australia turn to IT outsourcing, which has led to the recent boom in freelancing, and is ably supported by the government of Bangladesh, efforts for which are led by Salman F Rahman, Private Industry and Investment Adviser to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.

Government initiatives to develop the ICT service sector, such as creating a high-tech park in every district, encouragement to the growth of the investment-friendly startup ecosystem with incentivization are some of the efforts towards digitization.

At a recent panel discussion on “Startup Investment Landscape: South Asia and Southeast Asia” held at a hotel in Dhaka, Salman F Rahman said that the digital progress will help the nation face challenges. He said that the government has already done several things such as digital transformation, expanding the capital market, easing the functioning of the central banks to assist the business investment. He said that our economy is doing well but there is likely to be a demand uncertainty due to coronavirus outbreak in Europe and North America, the major markets for Bangladesh.

Rahman said, “Our Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina concentrated on three facts to change the economy of our country— Energy, Agriculture and Digital Bangladesh.” Besides this, the promotion of an open, interoperable and inclusive payment ecosystem has propelled people to choose a digital payment system, which is a safer option amidst the COVID-19 outbreak.

Though Bangladesh will face tangible economic shock due to restricted export policies and travel bans, the message of cohesion, accountability in form of flexible policies and easing banking regulations could minimize the impact in the long run.