The Digital Bangladesh initiative initiated in 2009 rapidly increased internet access and paved the way for multifaceted economic development, he said. “In short order, Digital Bangladesh replaced slow, paper-based government services with easy-to-use internet and Smartphone-based programmes,” he added.

“The plan worked. The government created a network of more than 8,500 Digital Canters that provided online services from cradle to grave. In 2008, those services were all but inaccessible; only 800,000 people in Bangladesh had access to the internet. Now, Bangladesh boasts more than 120,000,000 internet users. The internet covers 98 percent of the country,” he wrote.

In addition, Joy said, Bangladesh equipped millions with the tools necessary to succeed in the digital world. For example, the government built 86,000 “digital classrooms” and trained 1.5 million students in ICT, he said, adding that as a result, information technology exports have soared from about $25 million in 2008 to $2.0 billion in 2021.

He said Digital Bangladesh provided answers to many of the labour and economic questions posed by the pandemic. When many around the world asked, “How do I earn a living when workplace has been closed to in-person gatherings?” Bangladeshies were able to go to their home computers and take advantage of remote work and freelance opportunities, he added.

“Indeed, freelancing is booming in Bangladesh. The country is the world’s second-largest supplier of online freelancers,” said the ICT adviser.

Citing a survey conducted by the Centre for Policy Dialogue, he said 50,000 Facebook -based entrepreneurs live in Bangladesh. With about 43 million Facebook accounts in Bangladesh, the platform provides business opportunities on a broad scale, he said, adding it also proved to be a resilient employment model during the pandemic as work shifted away from an in-person office environment.

Freelance jobs include computer programming, web design, tax preparation, search engine optimization, and marketing. Asia has become the number-one region for providing outsourcing services to the rest of the world, he said.

Joy said the business processing outsourcing (BPO) sector in Bangladesh has flourished since Digital Bangladesh was unveiled. The BPO sector is growing at roughly 24 percent a year, he said, adding that in 2008, the sector recorded roughly $4 million in revenue.

“Today, the sector rakes in $68 million a year. Better still, it employs more than 45,000 individuals,” he added.

Joy said the Bangladesh government is working hard to craft policies that support the information technology industry. It recently started issuing freelancer identification cards to approximately 650,000 self-employed professionals in Bangladesh, he said, adding that the IDs permit freelancers to enjoy benefits previously known only to those who held salaried jobs.

“As a result, freelancers can get credit cards and bank loans to advance their entrepreneurial efforts. Other alluring incentives, especially a significant tax exemption, sweeten the pot,” he said.

He said Bangladesh’s first geostationary communication satellite, Bangabandhu-1, has accelerated digital work. The satellite, which was launched in 2018, extends Bangladesh’s internet coverage to its remotest regions, allowing even rural Bangladeshis to receive telemedicine support, e-learning, and e-banking, he added.

“Bangladesh’s youthful population (nearly 65% are under the age of 25) is well-positioned to take advantage of Digital Bangladesh and the new types of employment it affords. Bangladesh retooled its educational system and now graduates 500,000 digital workers annually,” Joy said.