What ails the ICT sector?

Dhaka,  Sun,  24 September 2017
Published : 24 Aug 2017, 21:05:43

What ails the ICT sector?

Mass retrenchment of employees in local offices of some reputed international companies in the information and communication technology (ICT) sector is a cause for serious concern. Here is a concern that relates to some basic issues of ICT development in the country. By all accounts, the sector has been hailed as a highly promising one. Business -starting from outsourcing to software development - in the sector was thriving, thanks to the government's various measures in favour of taking it ahead. Then what has happened suddenly that a company felt prompted to terminate all 556 local members of its staff? Another company has also fired 509 such employees since April 19, 2016. As late as August 17, another 60 members of the same company were retrenched.  So far the retrenchment has been effected under the voluntary retirement scheme (VRS). 

One of the companies has explained its stand in a business-like manner. It claims that the measure is part of operational changes. It includes 'headcount reductions, based on business needs' and aimed at increasing efficiency. Private companies are at liberty to sack their employees under certain rules. But when the local employees alone are seen off, it turns out to be a troubling thought. Are they unfit for the job they were hired? Since when have they proved they are unable to take the challenge? Even if a few of them no longer live up to the expectation of the companies, not all of them suddenly turn so. The other possibility is that the companies themselves are becoming less competitive day by day so that they have to limit their business to select areas where they cannot afford a large army of employees. Even if this is true, it does not warrant retrenchment of all the local members of the staff. 

Are the companies going to fold business from Bangladesh then? If it were so, they could have made such an announcement. But there is no such indication. Had ICT business been dull here, such a thing would be the ultimate outcome. But to go by the claim made by the state minister for IT, the local IT industry is growing at a rate of 30 per cent a year. The pace of growth hardly conforms to the move by the international ICT companies doing business here. Large-scale retrenchment by those is likely to have serious repercussion not only on IT practitioners here but also on the country's IT industry. It will definitely send a wrong message to investors -local or foreign - intending to invest in the sector here. 

Most likely ICT practitioners terminated from jobs are young enough to continue their service for a long time. In a country where skilled hands are short in supply, this first generation of technical employees and techno-savvy engineers will feel highly disappointed. That they have served those companies creditably is understandable because of the length of their service there. But if they now discover themselves unwanted, they must know what their faults are. It will act as a bad example. If they are not provided soon, it will be a loss for the country. Let them have placement in the sector where they can put their positive contribution.    
Editor : A.H.M Moazzem Hossain
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