A conference on “Future of the Telecom Sector in Bangladesh and its contribution to the realization of vision 2021”

Date: 12 February 2013

A conference on “Future of the Telecom Sector in Bangladesh and its contribution to the realization of vision 2021” was organized by the Bangladesh Enterprise Institute (BEI) on Tuesday, 12th February 2013, at Ruposhi Bangla Hotel (former Sheraton Hotel), Dhaka, from 10.00am to 2.00 pm, followed by lunch.

The objective of this event was to highlight the importance of the telecom sector in contributing to the economic growth and development of Bangladesh. 3G connections and more efficient data connectivity through mobile phones is an important tool for making Digital Bangladesh a reality. Leading telecom experts stressed the need for a liberal and flexible taxation system for the telecom sector to attract foreign investment. It was mentioned that excessive taxation and strict regulatory framework would harm the growth of the sector. Posts and telecommunications Minister Advocate Sahara Khatun, Chief Guest of the event, pointed out that the government has been working relentlessly to fulfill its election pledge to implement its goals for a ‘Digital Bangladesh’, the targets are supposed to be achieved much before 2021, the stipulated timeframe.

Advocate Shahara Khatun, Hon’ble Minister, Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications, Government of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh was present at the conference as chief guest. Mr. Hasanul Haq Inu, Hon’ble Minister, Ministry of Information, Government of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh, Mr. Mostafa Faruque Mohammed, Hon’ble Minister, Ministry of Information & Communication Technology, Government of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh and Dr. S. A. Samad, Executive Chairman, Board of Investment were present in the conference as guests of honour. Mr. Sunil Kanti Bose, Chairman, Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC), Barrister Jahangir Hossain, Member, National Board of Revenue (NBR) and Md. Nazrul Islam Khan, Secretary, Ministry of Information & Communication Technology, Government of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh were present as special guests. Mr. Farooq Sobhan, President, Bangladesh Enterprise Institute (BEI) moderated the program. Mr. Rohan Samarajiva, Founding Chair, LIRNEasia presented the keynote paper on ‘A policy & regulatory regime that will contribute to Digital Bangladesh’.

During the meeting, policy makers have stressed on the issue of partenership between the government and the telecom operators in fullfilling the vision 2021. It has also been stated that government is firmly committed to do all the necessities to facilitate the growth of the telecommunication sector as this sector is a major partner in materializing the vision of Digital Bangladesh.  The disccusants further mentioned, that to help the telecommunication sector to stay at par with the global advancement in the telecommunication sector, and to connect the mass population of Bangladesh with the internet, it is important to encourage the service providers to invest more in technologies such as 3G and LTE. Also, the current tax on mobile phone services is too high, fifteen per cent tax on Internet usage. It was discussed in the conference that that mobile phone operators can go to court to oppose this issue. The telecom sector’s contribution in bringing in revenue is significant after the garments industry and expatriate earnings, as such, to promote this sector several consultations and debates are to be held with stakeholders.

It is important to ensure a sound legal and policy framework. The speakers at the conference further focused on what would be the best policy, regulatory, and legal framework for Bangladesh so that it can both attract greater investment in the telecommunication and ICT sectors and thus ensure the realization of the vision of 2021. The participants stressed that, successful implementation of  a fair, market friendly and accountable 3G policy are likely to not only play a key role in laying the foundation for 8% growth in the economy, but also offer a number of potential revenue enhancing opportunities to the telecommunication sector.

The conference brought together policy makers, senior officials of the government, CEOs of telecom and ICT companies, development partners, NGOs, heads of various chambers, editors and experts. The following dignitories were present in the conference: Mr. Mahfuz Anam, Editor, The Daily Star;  Mr. Syed Ershad Ahmed, President, FICCI;Mr. Aftab-ul-Islam, President, Amcham; Mr.Fazlul Karim, Joint Secretary, DCCI; Ms. MunMun Rahman,Senior Vice President, BWCCI; Mr. Vivek Sood, CEO, Grameen Phone, Mr.Michael Kuehner, CEO, ROBI and President, AMTOB,  TIM Nurul Kabir, Secretary General, AMTOB, H. E. Ms. Ragne Birte Lund, Ambassador, Royal Norwegian Embassy, H. E. Ms. Norlin Othman, High Commissioner, High Commission of Malaysia, Mr. Mahmudur Rahman, EVP, CRL, Robi Axiata Ltd., Mr. Ifty Islam, MD, Asian Tiger Capital Partners,Mr. Saeed Khan, Partner, AT Capital Partners, Mr. Reyad Hosnain, Nokia Siemens Network,Mr. ABM Ahsan, Advocate, Supreme Court of Bangladesh, Mr. Abu Saeed Khan, Senior Policy Fellow, LIRNEasia, Prof. M.A.Hye, Prefessor, East west University,Mr. Mizanur Rahman Khan Choudhury, Head of Enterprise, Huawei, Mr. Shahid Uddin Akbar, CEO, BIID, and many ICT experts, eminent economists, policy makers, media personalities, corporate executives, and representatives of donors, NGOs & civil society had attended this special event to discuss on this issue.