A large number of Bangladeshis are now working in the IT field in different companies inUSAand are gradually moving up the organizational hierarchy. The government is trying to get the assistance of these non-resident Bangladeshis (NRBs) in IT development, particularly by giving them incentives to set up software companies inBangladesh.

The lack of any copyright protection for software has been one of the major deterrents in the growth of software industry. A software Copyright Protection Act has already been drafted and is expected to be enacted very soon.

Although the banking sector had been among the pioneers in computerization inBangladesh, the present level of computer usage in banks is very low. The foreign banks operating inBangladeshhave taken a lead in computerizing their front office operations. It is only during the last 4/5 years that some of the Bangladeshi banks have started gradually computerising their front office activities and very soon a network of automatic teller machines (ATMs) using VSATs would be set up by the private banks throughout the major towns.

At present, Internet access is available only in a few Universities. The University Grants Commission is setting up BERNET (Bangladesh Educational and Research Network) establishing linkage among the Universities and providing access to the Internet.

One of the major constraints in the initial stages of computerisation of government offices was the non-availability of Bangla software and Bangla fonts in printers. The breakthrough came when the PCs were introduced in the early eighties and very soon desktop publishing using computers became very popular. Bangla version of many of the commonly used packages like world processing, spreadsheet and database management have been developed.

Almost all the IT related developments which have taken place during the last few years are concentrated in the capital city,Dhaka; in other cities and towns, only a small number of computers are being used, mostly for word processing. (The government funded training institute NTRAMS at Bogra, with a few hundred PCs is a notable exception). The danger of increasing the already existing disparity between urban and rural areas looms large in the horizon. In order to enable rural populace to get the benefits of IT, Grameen Communications is trying to develop a system linking the mobile telephone systems (which are already being used in a large number of villages) with solar-powered computers. This would enable the large number of rural educational institutes, offices and households to get the benefits of e-mail and Internet access. Moreover, some of the data processing services could be rendered by people living in villages, rather than moving into urban areas.

The present government has recognized IT as one of the priority sectors and is providing all support to the private sector to enable them to enter the export market for software and data processing services. Recognizing the bright future of IT, a large number of students, young professionals and businessmen are taking keen interest in acquiring knowledge about computers and its applications. This is reflected in the tremendous enthusiasm generated in the on-going International Computer Show organized by Bangladesh Computer Samity. It is expected that within the next 3 to 4 years, IT applications inBangladeshwould not only spread to various private and public sector offices and industrial units, butBangladeshwould emerge as a regional hub for software development.