Digital economy a prerequisite to make Digital Bangladesh

Planning Minister at a BWCCI virtual workshop

Bangladesh Women Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BWCCI) organized the “Kickoff Workshop” on “Promoting Democratic Participation in the Digital Economy (PDPDE) Project virtually today the October 14, 2020. 

The Project is funded by Center for International Private Enterprise (CIPE) and today’s workshop was facilitated by Ms. Selima Ahmad MP- President-BWCCI. Mr. M A Mannan MP, Honorable Minister, Ministry of Planning, Government of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh was the Chief Guest joined over phone from the hospital despite of his physical sickness. Among other distinguished participants, the program was successfully held with the virtual and delightful  presence of Dr. Khandokar Azizul Islam, Additional Secretary, ICT Division, Ministry of Information and Communication Technology, Government of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh, Ms. Lila Rashid, Executive Director, Bangladesh Bank, Mr. Kamal Quadir, CEO, Bkash, Dr. Nazneen Ahmed, Sr. Research Fellow, BIDS, Representatives from Eastern Bank Limited, First Security Islami Bank Limited, Trust Bank Limited, Ms. Ferdousi Sultana Begum, Consultant, PDPDE Project, Board of Directors and members of BWCCI.

Mr. M A Mannan MP- Honorable Planning Minister, in his speech said that the Government of Bangladesh has taken different affirmative actions for the development of women entrepreneurs. He commented that the women entrepreneurs are now involved in diversified businesses with many innovative ideas. Government is taking different new initiatives for creating the digital infrastructure. Women entrepreneurs should avail these opportunities. He stated that in this pandemic situation women entrepreneurs are facing lots of challenges so more allocation in the national budget is needed for the women entrepreneurs. It is the government’s responsibility specially the ICT Ministry to ensure the digital platform and infrastructure for women. He has also endorsed the necessity of  the TAX rebate for the women entrepreneurs. Thanking BWCCI and other business associations to come forward with the different innovative ideas for the development of women he concluded his speech.

Dr. Khandokar Azizul Islam, Additional Secretary, ICT Division in his speech informed that the present government has taken many initiatives like Sheikh Hasina Software Technology Park and Janata Tower Technology Park where women are getting free trainings, spaces and they are involved in outsourcing programs and earning money. So, the ICT Ministry is open for women entrepreneurs for providing ideas, technical support, space and what they need. He also mentioned that e-CAB is drafting a policy for digital business and it will support a lot. He offered that if women entrepreneurs want they can sit together with women entrepreneurs, ICT Division will provide support as per their requirements.

Ms. Lila Rashid, Executive Director, Bangladesh Bank said that Bangladesh Bank has introduced different policies but the implementation of the same is found very less. Most of the Banks do not follow the circulars and policies. For this reason woman entrepreneurs are facing problems in receiving bank loans. Women entrepreneurs should study and follow the Bangladesh Bank circulars carefully and then they should apply for loan. If any bank refuses them then they should ask for a written document mentioning the reason for refusing loan. Bangladesh Bank has hotline center and any woman entrepreneur can complain with documents if they face any problem. BWCCI can report to them also on any discrepancies through proper documentation. Women entrepreneurs should know about all the digital payment system and mobile financing so that they can use the best suitable one for them.

Mr. Kamal Quadir, CEO, Bkash said that online payment system is very easy and it will save time and money. So, everybody who is related to financial transaction should use online payment system. In order to make life easy for the women entrepreneurs and other entrepreneurs’ as well interoperable money transfer system is going to be introduced and functional soon. Bkash and City Bank limited are jointly working for the Bkash clients. They are providing micro credit facility to their clients any time.

Dr. Nazneen Ahmed, Senior Fellow, BIDS said that until the women entrepreneurs feel that online or digital platform is their need, they will not win in any situation. Banks, online payment system and online business should play in one platform. She appreciated BWCCI for undertaking this project on digital economy.

Ms. Selima Ahmad, MP, President-BWCCI summarized the open discussions and all the points of the discussants and recommended to the Government and Bangladesh Bank that in order to promote digital economy for women’s economic empowerment, access to finance for all must be ensured first.

Ensuring effectively dissemination of information i.e. circulars, guidelines, policies etc to all the banks and their branches so that the bankers cannot refuse the applicants. For example stimulus package for Covid-19 must be accessible to all the eligible women entrepreneurs. Monitoring system should also be strengthened at all level.

The documentation process for getting trade license and bank loan should be easy. For ensuring access to finance for all, the existing process and relevant policies of the banks need to be upgraded and friendly to women entrepreneurs.

Govt. should take initiative to build the capacity of women entrepreneurs and the level of awareness focusing digital banking, digital payment method and financial management. Sufficient training and orientation programs are needed to enhance their skills and capacity for their economic empowerment and also for their participation in the digital economy.

To ensure digital economy, cashless payment system must be developed in all commercial transactions. Cyber security, confidentiality and access to fast justice in case of fraudulence must be ensured too.

Necessary policy support compatible and reasonable to women entrepreneurs must be ensured.

Ms. Ridma Khan thanked all guests and participants for joining the program in her closing speech.