The construction of key facilities at Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Hi-Tech Park in the northern education city of Rajshahi is set to finish by next year.
The Tk 2.88-billion hi-tech park (HTP) will create prospects for ICT-based entrepreneurship in the region.
The park, being developed by the Bangladesh Hi-tech Park Authority (BHTPA), is expected to create employment for more than 14,000 people, an official told the FE.
The project on 31 acres of land in a beautiful location near the Padma under Rajshahi City Corporation (RCC) aims to generate knowledge-based employments and draw foreign and local investment.
Work on a 10-storey main building named ‘Joy Silicon Tower’ is at the final stage. Another five-storey building for IT incubation is already in operation.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina inaugurated the incubation centre known as Sheikh Kamal IT Incubation and Training Centre in February this year, said BHTPA spokesperson Kalyan Kumar Sarkar.
“Currently, 10 IT companies are operating here, while a move is underway to allocate spaces for new IT entrepreneurs to incubate them.”
A good number of IT firms have shown interest to invest in the HTP that has been modelled on the Silicon Valley of the United States, he said.
“We are getting overwhelming response from the investors than we expected,” said Mr Sarkar who is the personal secretary to the BHTPA managing director.
The BHTPA has installed some laboratories focusing on components of fourth industrial revolution (4IR) like internet of things, artificial intelligence and virtual reality at tertiary educational institutions like Rajshahi University of Engineering University (RUET), Rajshahi University and Barendra University.
Investors will get seven plots in addition to having space in Joy Silicon Tower.
A good number of people were found working in the Incubation Centre which is home to 10 start-ups like MD Infotech, Tech Rajshahi, Ulkasemi and Fleet Bangladesh.
Fleet Bangladesh chief executive officer Md Khairul Alam said Rajshahi should be a hub for ICT-based activities since a good number of graduates in the region look for jobs.
Once a freelancer, Mr Alam said his team comprises more than 500 employees providing IT support to global corporates like some US-based financial institutions.
Talking to the media, RCC mayor AHM Khairuzzaman (Liton) hoped that the HTP will create employment opportunities for graduates from Rajshahi, which is drastically devoid of industrialisation.
Highlighting the suitable location, he said a move is underway to convert the Rajshahi domestic airport into an international one as there is already good road and railway connectivity.
“We’re upgrading road network connected to the park into four lanes,” said Mr Liton, adding that they got three acres for a five-star hotel and other facilities inside the park.
He further said that the surrounding area could become an excellent tourist destination as it is located near the ‘I’-shaped embankment on the Padma.
Rajshahi University computer science and engineering professor Khademul Islam Molla said Bangladesh cannot but focus on information technology as this is the future of global development.
“Rajshahi is known as a city of education, but we cannot utilise graduates locally mainly for unavailability of industries,” he said, adding that the HTP can partially address this crisis.
Mr Molla also laid emphasis on availability of accommodation, healthcare service and supershop inside the park to attract foreign investors.
Citing Rajshahi University and RUET among other educational institutions, he said the HTP could help bridge the gap between industry and academia.
Echoing his view on the same, RUET electrical and computer engineering department assistant professor Tasnim Binte Shawkat said countrywide hi-tech parks could help reduce brain drain from Bangladesh.
She recognised the need for developing skills in new technological spheres like internet of things and cyber security.
The government is establishing 39 hi-tech parks across the country with an eye to creating high-value jobs and give an impetus to the national economy.