Category Archives: Information Technology

Bangladesh exports software to 30 countries: Abul Hossain

http://www1.bssnews.net/newsDetails.php?cat=7&id=255842&date=2012-06-10

Bangladesh exports software to 30 countries: Abul Hossain

SANGSAD BHABAN, June 10 (BSS) – Bangladesh software industry is expected to see a robust growth despite global economic recession.

Replying to a tabled question from treasury bench Bazlul Haque Harun of Jhalakathi-1, Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Minister Syed Abul Hossain said the country has earned US$ 31 million in fiscal 2009-10 and US$ 27 million in fiscal 2010-11 against the export of software in the world market.

At present Bangladesh is exporting software to 30 countries including Europe, America, Canada, Denmark, Japan, Australia and South Asia, he said.

The ICT minister said local IT professionals are producing and developing international standard software under the supervision of Bangladesh Association of Software and Information Services (BASIS) with assistance from the government.

Answering to another tabled question of Benzir Ahmad, MP of Dhaka-20, the ICT minister said the government is implementing a project to set up computer lab with Internet facility in the country’s 3,172 educational institutions aimed at developing IT literate human resource.

Besides, initiative has been taken to formulate necessary policy and guideline for introducing digital signature while office of the Controller of Certifying Authorities (CCA) has been established for issuing electronic signature.

To make the government’s services available for the mass people, the government has installed National Data Centre at Bangladesh Computer Council, he added.

oDesk to help transfer freelancers’ payments

http://www.thedailystar.net/newDesign/news-details.php?nid=235798

oDesk to help transfer freelancers’ payments
Senior official of the US-based company speaks on online payment system

Matt Cooper

Mamun Abdullah

Bangladeshi freelancers will be able to receive payments in their local accounts from their US clients directly through the accounts of oDesk, a global marketplace that helps businesses hire, manage and pay remote freelancers or teams.

oDesk is now working to develop a money transfer system for its Bangladeshi freelancers, said a top official of the company.

As the Bangladeshi freelancers are facing problems in getting payments from their clients in the US, oDesk is introducing the system, said Matt Cooper, vice president of marketplace operation division of the company, in an interview with The Daily Star.

He said, “An efficient payment system is the key to doing online work successfully.”

Cooper came to Dhaka last week to participate in an “appreciation day” for the freelancers of the company in Bangladesh.

oDesk is working on how easily the payment could be reached to the Bangladeshi contractors from their US client institutions, he said.

“No inter-media would be required and the fees are attractive for transferring the payments,” Cooper said, adding that the service will be available soon in Bangladesh.

Cooper earlier came to Dhaka at the end of last year to attend a “digital fair” — e-Asia — and came to know about the payment-related problems of the Bangladeshi freelancers, he said.

Bangladeshi freelancers have already urged the government to take initiative to open Paypal’s operations in the country. Paypal is a global online payment organisation based in the US.

After his first visit to Bangladesh, Cooper also met the chief executive officer of Paypal and requested them to start their operations in Bangladesh.

A group of officials of Paypal would come to Dhaka within this year to look for scope to work here, Cooper said. But before that, oDesk will work to facilitate money transfer from its own bank account, he said

In March, a member of Bangladesh Association of Software and Information Services (BASIS) went to California, the headquarters of Paypal, to request them to start their operations in Bangladesh.

oDesk offers employment opportunities globally and independent freelancer contractors can work with their clients through oDesk all over the world, said Cooper.

Maximum works are technical. About the works he said, 60 percent revenues of oDesk come from software development, while the rest are from search engine optimisation, data entry, market research and translations with a wide range of non-technical jobs.

Cooper said 30 percent of Bangladeshi contractors work for search engine optimisation, while 12 percent for data entry, 8 percent for software development and 6 percent for web research. Beyond that, a large segment of works is non-technical, he said.

“Growth of Bangladesh as a back-office is excellent,” Cooper said.

In 2009, Bangladeshis freelancers did 2 percent of the total work of oDesk, which now rose to 12 percent, said Cooper.

“It’s tremendous growth. Every year the growth rate almost doubled.”

A lot of young and highly educated Bangladeshi freelancers are working for oDesk.

Describing the success story of a Bangladeshi freelancer, Cooper said an employee of a private company in Bangladesh had been facing hardship in bearing her family expenses. Then she contacted oDesk and is now earning five times higher than she earns from the current job.

There are hundreds of such stories, he said, adding that some of the freelancers in Bangladesh even earn $100 per hour.

“You can earn $10, $15 or $20 an hour through online jobs.”

There are about 50,000 regular freelancers with oDesk, while the number of its registered freelancers is about 1.9 million globally, he said.

There are 150,000 registered contractors from Bangladesh. Among them 8,000 are working actively.

Bangladeshi freelancers earn $15 to $20 per hour on an average for technical works, while $5 to $10 for administrative or non-technical works.

But some of the top freelancers in the US earn even $150 per hour, said Cooper.

Most of the Bangladeshi freelancers’ average age is between 25 and 35 years with university education, and most of them do the work of data entry, while the rest do the technical jobs.

oDesk wants to see more Bangladeshi freelancers in technical works such as software development.

Bangladesh is competing with India, Pakistan and some eastern European countries. “It definitely indicates the higher quality of the Bangladeshi freelancers,” he said.

There are two types of freelancers with oDesk: individuals and small groups. But most of the freelancers working with oDesk are individuals, Cooper said.

According to the website of oDesk, more than 250,000 businesses use oDesk including Wikipedia, Hewlett-Packard, NBC, Travelocity and Aol. It also works with some of the fortune 500 companies.

Low-cost and high-speed internet should be made available across the country to help more people enter online jobs, Cooper said.

He also stressed the need for a friendly regulatory environment for easy transfer of money and low-cost computers so more people are involved in this type of work.

Brac boys take PC games to new height

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Brac boys take PC games to new height

The Trio: Risul Karim demonstrates game controls, from inset left: Kamran Walilullah and Imran Farid.

Imrul Kayes Chowdhury

A team of three students from Brac University has developed a massively multi-player online (MMO) game for PCs that can be played by body movements and voice command. They claim that this is the first ever such MMO PC game in the world.

MMO is an internet multiplayer video game which is capable of supporting hundreds or thousands of players simultaneously.

The members – Risul Karim, Imran Farid and Kamran Walilullah- are all doing their 9th semester in Computer Science and Engineering (CSE) Department.

Although they did not finalise any name for the game, they call it Aerial Multi-Player Dogfight.

In a demonstration Karim showed how a plane in the game can be controlled through hand gesture and voice command using a webcam and microphone. You can see the demo at http://www.pixelizard.com/projectcsr/

The game is built on Java ME 3 engine and they customised the engine to integrate the web cam and microphone.

He also said its voice command input is generic which means it takes command from both male and female.

The team now is working on to make a gaming server. After that they will make the game available for all. Karim hoped they would be able to launch it within two to three months.

Like other online multi-player games, gamers will be able to download them for free, however, for updates of the game there will be small online charges. Different other apps using this scheme will also be available online with small download charges.

“Anyone can play the game with Windows XP or later, a moderate graphics card, 2GB or 4GB RAM and of course web cam and microphone”, said Karim. He prefers a bit high quality web cam for smooth gaming experience.

Their game will also run on any operating systems such as Mac or Linux.

They started to develop the game 5-6 months back as an undergraduate thesis project. Karim said while developing it, they were thinking how to make it different from other MMO games.

“After doing a lot of online research, we found no MMO games that take both voice command and body movement instructions together”, said Karim.

He also said that although there are MMO games for gaming consoles (XBox- Kinect, PS3 MOVE) using body movements, there are no such games for PCs. Moreover, consoles and the games are expensive for lot of gamers, whereas, their game can be played on any PC with moderate configuration.

Then they came up with the idea of making a PC game that will take command from voice and body movements.

Waliullah did image processing, games and network coding and graphics, Farid did sound, graphics and game coding, and voice processing, graphics and game coding were done by Karim.

Supervised by Dr Mumit Khan, chairperson, CSE department, Brac University, the project won them 1st prize of National Innovative Project Competition (NIPC 2012), which was held at Independent University of Bangladesh (IUB) on March 15.

Karim said their concept can be applied to many other areas. He said they have plans to develop ‘Battle Simulator’ for defence and therapy for autistic children with this module.

They are applying this gaming module to make a robot. Karim said the robot will be able to take command from voice and body gesture to execute the tasks given to him. They are already halfway through with the project.

Online stores get more hits

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Online stores get more hits
Sohel Parvez

Online shopping is becoming popular in Bangladesh, encouraging new entrants to open e-portals for consumer goods and household essentials.

In the past one year, nearly a dozen online shopping portals or e-trading platforms launched operations, offering products and services from vegetables, clothes, computer accessories to books and travel tickets, said IT sector insiders.

The trend started after Bangladesh Bank cleared ways for payment by debit and credit card in the local currency.

“The extent of visits and deals made through these online portals is rising,” said AKM Fahim Mashroor, chief executive of bdjobs.com, a leading online job portal.

Bdjobs.com opened an online trading platform, ajkerdeal.com, six months ago to promote client merchants’ products and services to consumers at discounted prices.

Of the portals that came into operation last year, at least 10 received good responses. Some 5,000-10,000 visitors visit these online platforms on a regular basis, said Mashroor, also the senior vice present of Bangladesh Association of Software and Information Services (BASIS).

Thanks to growing internet penetration, shopping portals have received impetus, widening scope for a buyer to purchase goods sitting at home.

An increased use of internet-enabled mobile phones also added vigour to online shopping. Some online stores have already kept provisions to place orders by mobile phone.

Now 50 lakh people use the internet daily and 25 lakh people have a Facebook account in Bangladesh, he said.

Bangladesh’s headway in online retailing coincides at a time when online portals account for a major share of daily retail trade in the developed world.

In China and India, these sites are becoming popular because of the convenience, according to IT sector insiders.

It gives customers scope to buy products at prices lower than the rates quoted in showrooms, Mashroor said. An entrepreneur can offer products at low prices because online platforms save on operational costs like showroom rent.

“So, it is a good platform for small and medium enterprises to market their products,” said Mashroor.

“Our aim is to build a platform to reduce the number of hands in the supply chain by selling producers’ goods directly to consumers,” said Ataur Rahman, director of Future Solution Business (FSB).

The company launched an online portal — amardesheshop.com — to sell vegetables, fish and handicrafts to people in urban areas earlier this year. Amardesheshop.com is a component of the Amar Desh Amar Gram e-commerce initiative of FSB, which took the step to establish an ICT based network to connect rural producers with consumers in the city and vice versa.

“The prices of vegetables and other products that we offer usually are lower than market prices,” said Rahman, adding that the firm receives orders online and over the phone and they deliver goods home on a weekly basis.

“When we started, we had 20 clients. Now we supply to 50 families in Dhaka,” he said. “Many producers are linked with us through our IT centres at production areas.”

Shameem Ahsan, chief executive of another e-commerce firm akhoni.com, said the company is registering fast growth due to rising demand.

“We offer products that are highly discounted,” he said, adding that already 10,000 people have bought products through akhoni.com since its launch in June last year.

Ahsan said the portal has the option to pay online by card or in cash for home delivery. It also provides discount coupons if clients visit the stores physically.

Some 150 merchants are linked with akhoni.com that promotes clothes, electronic gadgets, mobile phones, travel packages and restaurants.

“We receive many orders from different parts of the country,” he said.

However, some bottlenecks hinder the fast growth of e-commerce. Many banks, fearing fraud, still keep debit and credit cards inactive for online transactions for security reasons.

Mashroor said the central bank should prepare guidelines for banks and other service providers to prevent fraud in online transactions. For companies, there should be scope for insurance against frauds, he said.

At the same, the number of debit or credit card users is also lower than the current internet users, said Mashroor.

sohel@thedailystar.net

Alertpay plans big for Bangladesh

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Alertpay plans big for Bangladesh
Company’s local agent speaks to The Daily Star

Jamal Shah, COO, Casada Technology

Imrul Kayes Chowdhury

Since its inception in Bangladesh, Alertpay is becoming popular among the freelancers and IT exporters.

Within a week of its launch, Alertpay got 21,000 new members and growing rapidly, said Jamal Shah, COO of Casada Technology, the sole agent of Alertpay in Bangladesh, in an interview with The Daily Star.

Alertpay is a Canada-based online payment gateway service provider which operates in 190 countries in 23 different currencies across the globe.

It came to Bangladesh in the last week of February.

In the interview Shah said the signup process is a bit time consuming in Bangladesh at present due to its verification process. If someone wants to sign up, he or she needs to go through verification process after providing all the necessary information such as proof of address, national ID, bank account and all he said.

Although it should take two to three days for Alertpay to complete the process, it is taking time for them to verify as their operation is new here and our national IDs and other information are mostly in Bangla, Shah said.

Casada as sole agent here has proposed Alertpay to authorise it to verify the information so that the signup process can be fast.

When asked about its operation, Shah said transaction has been made through Alertpay and its operation is going good and it will continue to do so. Because, Shah said, the vehicles IT freelancers use to receive payments here are either expensive or lengthy unlike Alertpay.

Alertpay offers two things that no one has offered before in Bangladesh- online transaction and cost effectiveness.

As per Bangladesh Bank’s FE Circular No. 15, IT freelancers can receive up to $ 500 per transaction. Alertpay charges only 2.50 cents (about Tk 240) for this $500. However, Shah said, governor of Bangladesh Bank said that this 500 dollar window will expand which means more money can come with fewer fees.

“Alertpay has come to Bangladesh since there was no such service for our IT freelancers. They are not here for business only, they want to help people”, said Shah.

It took Alertpay almost one and half years to come. There were some roadblocks but with the help of Bank Asia, Alertpay overcame those.

“It is not an easy thing to adopt all the requirements of Bangladesh Bank and other local banks’ policies and come here”, said Shah.

He said Bank Asia understood the importance of it and assured all our support.

Bank Asia is the local partner of Alertpay and it has no plan to partner with any other banks now. Freelancers can get their money to any branch of any bank across the country.

For example, if someone has an HSBC account, he will get his money to that account via Bank Asia. And it will happen within that Tk 240 charge.

On the fact that one cannot send money from Bangladesh through Alertpay, Shah said it is a regulation by Bangladesh Bank. Alertpay received approval to operate here based on this rule. It does not affect Alertpay’s business though it’s a roadblock, Shah said.

He hoped that situation will change and people will be able to send money too through Alertpay.

When asked how Alertpay profits from this, Shah said they profit by taking a very minimum conversion fee when dollar is converted to taka.

Alertpay takes full responsibility for secured transaction. “They have monitoring teams who work 24×7 to provide secured transaction”, he said.

Shah said ogranisations like oDesk, ifreelance.com and others should also join hands with Alertpay to make it simple for our people to get their hard-earned money.

“Majority of our IT freelancers work through such sites and to receive their income they use money brokers or other means that are costly, whereas Alertpay is cheap”, he said.

He also said Alertpay has plans to expand its services in every possible e-commerece field in Bangladesh gradually. They are already working on it.

Alertpay will also bring its debit card to Bangladesh. Bank Asia as a local partner is already working on it. This debit card can be used across the globe.

Shah said Alertpay is open for competition because only competition can help maintain a good service otherwise it is bound to go down.

Internet facility in 2,000 community clinics soon

http://www1.bssnews.net/newsDetails.php?cat=0&id=218367&date=2012-01-03

Internet facility in 2,000 community clinics soon

DHAKA, Jan 3 (BSS) – Health and Family Welfare Minister Professor Dr AFM Ruhal Haque today said internet facilities would be provided to 2,000 community clinics soon in order to ensure rural people’s better access to primary healthcare.

“Community clinics would be the base for ensuring access to and improving healthcare at local levels. The service provision of the clinics would also go digital gradually,” he said as the chief guest at a view-exchange meeting with journalists on community clinics at Jatiya Press Club here.

Prime Minister’s Health Advisor Professor Dr Syed Modasser Ali, State Minister for Health and Family Welfare Dr Mujibur Rahman Fakir, Health Secretary Mohammad Humayun Kabir, Director General of Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS) Professor Dr Mohammad Shefayet Ullah and project director of community clinics revitalization programme Dr Makhduma Nargis also spoke on the occasion.

Despite ups and downs, Ruhal Haque said, the concept of community clinic has generated a sense of relief for primary healthcare in rural areas, while huge enthusiasm among governments of many developing countries. The government, he said, would revitalize the community clinics at any cost to reach healthcare at the doorsteps of rural people.

The concept of community clinics was introduced during the last tenure of the Awami League government in order to ensure basic healthcare to every 6,000 rural people from each clinic. The government took the initiative to set up 13,500 such clinics across the country in late nineties, but the process was stalled between 2001 and 2008.

The present government, however, took a fresh initiative to revitalize the health programme with a target to build a total of 18,000 community clinics and bring the rural people under the coverage of primary healthcare.

Ruhal Haque said the community clinics should be the focal point for rendering healthcare to the majority of population, who in general live in rural areas with little or no healthcare access. He said more than 60 million people have so far taken services from the community clinics since its inception in last decade.

Suggestions from journalists also came up in the meeting to revitalize the rural health clinics through proper monitoring and planned assistance from the ministry.

A number of journalists suggested providing a strict guideline to health workers not to prescribe any drug at will or based on their experience as media reports show some health workers are trying to make extra income through private practices.

e-banking rides high on IT

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e-banking rides high on IT
Sajjadur Rahman

The financial sector made remarkable progress in adopting electronic forms of payments instead of traditional paper-based ones in the just concluded year.

The use of debit card, credit card, automated teller machine (ATM), internet banking, mobile banking, automated cheque processing and credit information system increased significantly in 2011.

Banks were in the forefront of harnessing technology to improve their products, services and efficiency to rope in customers.

According to Bangladesh Bank (BB) data, out of 47 scheduled banks 43 are now engaged more or less in electronic operations.

The four banks that are yet to adopt electronic banking are: Bangladesh Krishi Bank, Bangladesh Development Bank, Rajshahi Krishi Unnayan Bank and Rupali Bank. All these are state-owned.

BB data shows 38 banks were providing online banking facilities and 18 banks internet banking. On the other hand, nearly 40 banks have now ATM or debit card services and 26 banks offer credit card facilities.

Transactions through ATMs increased by more than 50 percent to around Tk 35,000 crore in 2011. Credit card transactions also rose more than 50 percent to nearly Tk 5,000 crore.

The central bank also took steps to make automated cheque processing system and mobile banking more effective. The BB issued guidelines for mobile-based banking services in the same year in a bid to ensure financial inclusion of the non-banked population.

“It (2011) was a great year for the financial sector in terms of IT adoption,” said Tapan Kanti Sarker, head of IT of NCC Bank.

Cheque processing, credit information and fund transfer all have been automated in the just concluded year, he added.

Syed Masodul Bari, head of IT of Al-Arafah Bank, said banking has become much easier due to the use of IT in 2011. He cited an example of remittance transfer, which has now become a matter of a few minutes instead of weeks needed earlier.

He said mobile banking would rise with a huge potential in 2012.

“Banks’ activities have become more transparent due to the use of IT,” said Bari.

sajjad@thedailystar.net