Bangladesh, along with many Asian countries, is facing a risk of severe setback from its recent progress and development over the last few decades, given the on-going COVID-19 crisis threatening jobs, livelihoods and productive enterprises. At a time when Bangladesh is poised to reap the benefits of a youth dividend, with more than 20 million Bangladeshis to reach working age in the coming decade, a vulnerable SME sector, the backbone of most economies, stands to limit this potential. On the other hand, the demand for the digital delivery of services—from telemedicine to e-payments—which has been accelerated by the pandemic offer new business opportunities. Economic recovery, post COVID-19 could be boosted by Bangladeshi digital entrepreneurs capitalizing on this increased demand for the digital delivery of services; and the Government of Bangladesh supporting the entrepreneurial ecosystem to do so. The World Bank-implemented Bangladesh PRIDE program sets out to support the Government to do just that. With an emphasis on green competitiveness, jobs and economic transformation as well as capitalizing on the opportunities presented by the COVID-19 pandemic, the project brings the best of innovative MDTF lessons and experience in a comprehensive approach.
Today, nearly 300,000 Bangladeshi professionals code software, design software applications and serve clients at home and abroad through peer-to-peer digital marketplaces compared to less than 10,000, five years ago. But there are few technology companies that have grown large. The sector also has the potential to create a lot of jobs for educated women. There is also an increasing demand for facilities offering connectivity, funding, market access, and physical and virtual workspaces for digital entrepreneurs. Estimates suggest that four out of five technology businesses currently operate from non-commercial or residential locations.
The objective of the PRIDE project is to promote private investment, job creation, and environmental sustainability in participating economic zones and software technology parks in Bangladesh. Project components include: (i) creating an enabling environment for private investment and sustainability; (ii) developing a greener and climate-resilient Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Shilpa Nagar; (iii) creating a dynamic private market for serviced industrial land; and (iv) strengthening the digital entrepreneurship and innovation ecosystem. infoDEV MDTF funds had a catalytic effect on the program. The digital entrepreneurship ecosystem study informed the Ministry of ICT on digital entrepreneurship, led to the initial request for this project, from the Ministry of Finance, and informed the design especially of the US $40 million component 'Strengthening the digital entrepreneurship and innovation ecosystem'.
The $500 million Private Investment and Digital Entrepreneurship (PRIDE) Project will promote and attract about $2 billion direct private investments and strengthen social and environmental standards in selected public and private economic zones and software technology parks. It will also create 150,000 jobs, of which a percentage will be dedicated to women--about 40 percent in software parks and 20 percent in Economic Zones.
It will also develop the Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Shilpa Nagar II in Mirsarai-Feni, including road networks with stormwater drainage, solar-powered streetlights, climate-resilient water, sanitation, and power network. The project will also establish Dhaka’s first digital entrepreneurship hub in the Janata Software Technology Park and turn it into a green building. By attracting domestic and foreign private investment, including in the IT and ITES sectors, the project will help the economy to rebound from the impacts of COVID 19.
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