It will not be an exaggeration to say that 2011 will be the year of cloud computing at least in USA. Giant technology companies like Google, Microsoft, Amazon, HP and IBM are investing a lot for this technology and they all want a piece of the cloud. However, when it comes to Bangladesh, it is still a very new concept. There is no awareness about it in the country. Cloud computing has started to gain some momentum in neighboring India and it is expected that by 2015, the market size of cloud computing in India will pass $1 billion. So, it is time that Bangladesh takes this matter seriously both in the public and private levels. This article is an attempt to focus on the various aspects about cloud computing in Bangladesh and a model has been proposed in this regard.
Before discussing about cloud computing in Bangladesh, it is important to provide a general description of Information Technology Sector of Bangladesh as well as about the Business Sector. It is true that Bangladesh is one of the poorest and least developed countries in the world. However, the capital Dhaka city has around 10 million people and hundreds of small and medium sized companies. Dhaka has more than around 50 universities (most of them are private), numerous colleges and schools, dozens of clinics and diagnostic centers, advertising and design firms, several hundred branches of different banks etc. All these organizations can become the target clients of any cloud computing venture.
One of the advantages of cloud computing is that a company can outsource a large part of its IT infrastructure (data server, software, web applications etc) to the cloud. The companies will need to have fewer workers to look after the IT operations as well will face fewer problems. As a result, it will save money for the companies.
As for the IT sector of Bangladesh, still, there is no large company where thousands of workers are working. In fact, the largest IT companies are mainly hardware importers who import and sell computer devices in the local market. There is still no big success story in the software industry like neighboring India or even Pakistan. Internet bandwidth is still a bit expensive for the consumers and high speed Internet is out of the reach of the most people.
The first obstacle to implement this model or any model of cloud computing in Bangladesh is that here, still hardly anyone is aware or conscious about the importance of this new technology. Hopefully, the media will come forward and create awareness among the decision makers, business owners and common mass about cloud computing in the next few months.
Rampant piracy is another big obstacle. As long as people can buy a CD of any software under $1, consumers will not realize the matter that cloud computing can decrease the expense for software significantly.
Internet bandwidth is still high and ordinary users cannot imagine of getting Internet connections with speed of 5-10 mbps.
It is time that the decision makers, academicians, IT industry leaders and business leaders start to think about cloud computing in Bangladesh. This technology is going to carry out radical change in the world in the next 5-10 years. Bangladesh cannot afford to stay behind as cloud computing is not just about Information Technology or Computer but it is related to the overall business and economy.
Potential of Cloud Computing for SMEs in Bangladesh and Identify the Sectors that can get most benefited:
Bangladesh is a least developed country and there are not many big industries in the country and the existing industries are not in sound condition. Though the Small and Medium Enterprise sector are not very rich in Bangladesh, it has huge potential and the existing SMEs make a significant contribution in the country’s GDP and create many jobs.
In 2007, SNV Netherlands Development Organization published a report titled, “Promoting Small and Medium Enterprises for Sustainable Development .“ In the report it said that in Bangladesh, 90 percent of all firms outside the agricultural sector are SMEs, microenterprises contribute a significant portion of GDP. In Bangladesh, enterprises of less than 100 employees account for 99 percent of firms and 58 percent of employment.
There are many reasons why SME did not thrive in Bangladesh. Some of the major reasons are lack of good governance, corruption, difficulty in getting loans and other financial assistance and so on. Now a days, many SMEs use computers and it has become an extra expense for them. According to Internet Service Providers’ Association of Bangladesh (ISPAB):
ICT has stamped its authority in the 21st century, making it one of the most essential components for any organization to succeed. It is very much essential that these organizations are equipped with the latest hardware and software. However, there are two huge cost hurdles that an SME faces when wanting to acquire computer resources for minimum office automation. One is the PC hardware which may cost anywhere from Tk20,000 to Tk.50,000 per workstation, and the other is PC Software which again may cost anywhere from from Tk.50,000 to Tk 100,000 per workstation.
However the necessity for acquiring licensed copies of popular software has kept the cost of the PC unreachable to the SME. Using pirated software is not the solution, especially since the Copyright Act of Bangladesh will become law very soon. It is currently on the Parliament floor awaiting legislation. The Copyright Act contains very serious penalties (up to 2 year jail terms and fines) for any one copying or distributing pirated software.
SMEs like computer software and information technology, electronics, tourism, retail industry, hotel industry, diagnostic center and clinics, advertising and design firms and NGOs use computers. Cloud Computing would not only help to reduce IT expenses of these companies but would also reduce the use of pirated software.
A model to spread Cloud Computing in Bangladesh:
To spread Cloud Computing in Bangladesh a collaborative effort is necessary where different companies would come together to create cheaper cloud computing based products for the people of Bangladesh. Three types of companies would play crucial role in this effort- a cloud service provider, a computer maker and an ISP. Let’s assume that the cloud service provider is x, the computer maker is y and the Internet service provider is z.
Y would make a certain product which could be a laptop, desktop, netbook or notebook that would come with pre-installed programs provided by cloud service provider X. Internet service provider Z would sell these products through its outlets in the country. Buyers, upon buying the product would sign a two-year contract and within this period they would only subscribe to the ISP that provided them the product.
This subsidy model is widely used by network providers in the U.S., Europe and many other countries. For example, we can talk about smartphones. Smartphones are expensive and it is not possible for everyone to buy smartphone but network carriers like AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, sell smartphones at a lower price using the subsidy model. Apple iPhone is currently the most popular smartphone in the U.S. and its original price is $600 which is very high for many people. AT&T, the official carrier of iPhone, sales it for only $200 with a two-year contract during which, the buyer would only use AT&T’s service.
In the end, we would like to say that, IT is very dynamic and it is changing very quickly. Moving towards cloud is the next rational thing for Bangladesh, not a luxury. The rest of the world is moving towards cloud technology. If we cannot adopt this technology, our country would only suffer. We already suffered a lot as we adopted Internet very late when our neighboring countries already got connected to the Information Super Highway and it should not be repeated for cloud computing.