Local software solutions on a roll

http://www.thedailystar.net/newDesign/news-details.php?nid=173004

Local software solutions on a roll

Visitors gather on the final day of the five-day software fair, BASIS SoftExpo, organised by Bangladesh Association of Software and Information Services at Bangabandhu International Conference Centre in Dhaka yesterday. Photo: Amran Hossain

Md Fazlur Rahman

Locally developed software solutions attracted huge attention from local, national and multinational clients at the BASIS SoftExpo 2011, as demand for homegrown products continues to grow.

Only a couple of years ago, words such as computer, hardware, software and internet were in use among a minor section of the urban elite, but the five-day event that ended yesterday at Bangabandhu International Conference Centre demonstrated that it successfully showcased something for everyone.

This year, Bangladesh Association of Software and Information Services (BASIS) organised its annual expo in association with the science and technology ministry and Access to Information programme of the Prime Minister’s Office.

About 110 local companies and 10 firms from Denmark and the Netherlands took part in the ninth edition of the country’s largest exposition for software and ICT-enabled services, which also featured over 20 seminars on IT and a job fair for IT professionals.

Exhibitors put products on display, took orders and sold solutions for industrial and manufacturing units, offices, banks and financial institutions, educational institutions and hospitals, most of them produced by local programmers.

BRAC Bank, one of the sponsors of the event, displayed online payment solutions, which are becoming popular amid a growing middle-class clientele.

Advanced Software Development introduced eMediaDesk, which compiles all news and articles published in the newspapers for clients.

Solutions of the GPIT, a recently launched subsidiary of Grameenphone, aimed at sparking an IT revolution in the country, included mobile, enterprise, and communication and network packets. “Our target was to popularise the initiative that aims to help local IT industry flourish,” said Syeda Yasmin Rahman, director of GPIT.

Local programmers claim they are now capable to cater to the needs of any organisation or individual, which will save a lot of foreign exchange spent on importing solutions from overseas. Local software makers also jumped to cater to students, helping them shine in the academic arena further.

Champs21.com, an intelligent web-based assessment service for the students from classes 3 to 10, was such an initiative. Students took chapter-based and term-based tests in maths and science-related subjects following school curriculum.

The application scalability aims at drilling down conceptual comprehension as well as functional and relative clarity among students, which is expected to help students to be ahead of their classes.

Individual efforts have also been demonstrated at the exposition.

Kazi Bazlur Rahman, with a master’s in psychology from the University of Rajshahi, displayed a super vehicle security system at the event. His invention should alert car owners against possible thefts.

“If anyone attempts to steal an unattended car, the device will alert the owner. By calling back to the system, the owner will be able to render the car immobilised. The thieves will not be able to drive or drag it away, as it will be mechanically off,” said Rahman.

“I will have to make the system error-free before going for commercial production, as I have so far relied on very low-cost materials,” the 31-year-old said. The system costs about Tk 20,000.

Ahmad Imtiaz Khan, who graduated from the Military Institute of Science and Technology in Dhaka, developed software which will contribute to spreading education among the visually impaired people. To date, textbooks for them have to be translated into Braille language, but Khan said it would be possible to translate any document for them. On Friday, the organisers awarded the innovation at a ceremony, which also honoured freelancers.

Industry people said the sector has grown tremendously to keep pace with the rise of demand.

“Now local people want to get major solutions from local service providers,” said BASIS President Mahboob Zaman. He said local software makers, however, have to win the trust of the users.

Zaman said Gartner’s assessment, on December 20 last year, has given the much-needed confidence to the growing industry. “It has shown us where we do stand today.”

Bangladesh is facing problems in finding quality IT trainers to teach students. Many professionals do not want to go to villages, acknowledges a top bureaucrat.

Zaman said Bangladesh has to immediately prepare an action plan after Gartner put the country on the list of the top 30 outsourcing countries.

“They conduct assessment every year, and many countries are dropped from the list due to bad performance,” he said.

Bangladesh exported computer products and services worth $33 million in the last fiscal year of 2009-10, which according to experts does not at all reflect the country’s capacity.

“In the past, we only focused on providing allied services, while core services came from global IT behemoths. But our capacity is growing and the clients are responding positively,” said the BASIS chief, who is also the managing director of DataSoft, a local software maker.

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