'Impressed with the progress Bangladesh has made in ICT development’

James Poisant is the secretary general of World Information Technology and Services Alliance (WITSA). He was connected with the organisation since 1999 and was appointed to the position in 2006. Poisant was the founder of Poisant International LLC, an internationally-recognised events management company. He was involved in the top level management of James Poisant Electronic Data System, Walt Disney and other notable institutions. US-based Poisant has a PhD in public administration. Recently he came to Bangladesh on invitation by Bangladesh Computer Association. Prothom Alo talked to him on Wednesday.

Prothom Alo: Is this your first visit to Bangladesh?
James Poisant: No, it's my second visit. I came a few months ago.
Prothom Alo: How do you find Bangladesh?
James Poisant: We love Bangladesh. I'm most impressed with the progress you made in ICT development, your Vision 2021 to get people connected, to elevate the mid-level. I think it's very ambitious. I think it's doable and I congratulate you. This is a great example of development.

Prothom Alo: You have been to the Digital Device and Innovation Expo. What do you think about the innovation power of the youngsters?
James Poisant: Did you hear my speech to the women's group? You have the knowledge, you have the resource, you have the future--You have all these. The youth. This is your future. These kids are your future.

Prothom Alo: Do you think Bangladesh is on the right track regarding ICT development?
James Poisant: Yes, it is. It's very important in order to develop your talent to provide young people with an ecosystem. Usually the creative person who will invent something doesn't have all the skills they need to fix it. They know the idea, they can create the solution, but they don't know how to sell it. They don't know how to market it. They typically have no experience of how to set up a company. So even if you have an idea you need to surround it with marketing. Money is needed to produce the product and to market the product. So you must surround them with a system that allows them to succeed. There are very few examples in the world where one person has the idea and they are able to do all of it. Hopefully your ‘tech-perts’ are providing the support systems for them.
There's another very important element that Bangladesh needs to recognise. I know failure is a big problem in the Asian culture. If you fail, you're done. The reality is failure is your best teacher. I'm not encouraging people to fail, but if they do fail, remember they'll learn from failure. They'll be stronger from failure.

Prothom Alo: You have been with WITSA for long. You had founded your own company and were involved in big management events of World Cup Football, Olympic tournament and so on. Are you enjoying your role at WITSA?
James Poisant: Yes. The reason I'm enjoying it is because I have an opportunity to meet people like you. They are making a difference.

Prothom Alo: How many years have you been with WITSA?
James Poisant: I've been associated with WITSA since 1996, but I took over as the secretary general in 2006. That's 14 years. My first fulltime job with WITSA was in 1997 as the CEO of the 1998 World Congress. That was in the United States. It was a big event for 2,000 people.

Prothom Alo: What do you enjoy about working with WITSA?
James Poisant: We're making some changes. Think about Armenia (the World Congress on Information Technology 2019 was held there last week). They are growing, but the World Congress caught a lot more attention for them. Now their job is to continue the support.

Prothom Alo: The conference would be held in Bangladesh in 2021. What do you think about it?
James Poisant: It will be a great event. It will be great for Bangladesh.

Prothom Alo: What is the main strength of WITSA?
James Poisant: The network. We're in 83 countries. If you remember WITSA you can go anywhere in the world. And we'll connect you with people.

Prothom Alo: How many organisations from 83 countries are connected with WITSA?
James Poisant: One major organisation from each country. There are 83. For USA, it's Professional Services Council (PSC).

Prothom Alo: How do you help in developing the ICT at countries?
James Poisant: We do two or three things. We provide the network for people to develop relationships in business around the world. Two, we have the World Congress. We help countries one at a time. And three, we do a lot of work with multi-national organisations-the United Nations, the World Economic Forum, the World Bank. Helping them in terms of their planning, working through our WITSA members. We do a lot of work and policy. Where we see a country that has week policies for ICT development we help our members work with those governments to make sure the regulations, support for ICT development, in terms of having an impact.

Prothom Alo: You have been seeing the emergence of ICT for a long. What will be its future in 10 or 20 years?
James Poisant: I don't see any end to the next phase. I see a big role of IOT (Internet of Things), AI (Artificial Intelligence), Big Data. That's going to continue to grow. And that's going to bring transformations in everything. We're going to see another evolution of technology. That’s going to happen. It's happening now. But what I see is local adaption, local growth. I see the farmers, in the medical profession, in the environment, in the people with disabilities. I see technology, ICT growing inward, back to the neighbourhood. You know it's always been out here, the internet. We need to clean up the environment. We need to bring it home. We need to bring government services back to people. We need it to take the technology and benefit of people. Not necessarily the big corporations or big governments or only the developed world, we need to bring it home. This is where your future is going to be with your young entrepreneurs.

Prothom Alo: There are many IT enthusiasts in Bangladesh. Can you advise how to take the proper track for development in this sector?
James Poisant: The main ingredient of success in any country is leadership. And you have that. You have that all way from the prime minister down to ministers. You have the industry. As long as you have support and people who believe in ICT development is the thing, that's the biggest thing--you can do it. You have Vision-2021, you have policy, and you have the industry.

Prothom Alo: Do you want to say anything to the young people?
James Poisant: Life is a journey. You need to take care of your health. You need to take care of your family. Then you take care of your job. In that order. If you don't have good health, what have you got? Nothing. If your family is falling apart, you're not going to be productive. So make sure that these two are taken care of. What happens is most cultures reverse that. They think work is first. You must work hard. And then what happens is the family falls apart and your health is affected. It’s short term, not a long-term strategy. So, it's health, family and work.

Prothom Alo: Thank you very much.
James Poisant: Thank you, too.

*This interview has been transcribed and abridged by Nusrat Nowrin.