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Bangladesh Quietly Builds Up Foundation to Fuel E-commerce Growth

While Bangladesh struggled with factory safety and compliance in recent years, the country was building a strong digital foundation and is striving to prepare its citizens for the digital future, a new assessment from the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD).

The country’s readiness to engage in e-commerce is built on the substantial growth of its information and communications technology (ICT) sector and its young, dynamic and technologically savvy population, the UCCTAD report indicates.

Bangladesh is fertile ground for e-commerce to take root and benefit companies and consumers alike,” UNCTAD’s director of technology and logistics, Shamika N. Sirimanne, said.

The report is expected to boost the Bangladesh government’s ongoing efforts to realize a robust, safe and business-friendly e-commerce ecosystem.

Minister of Commerce Tipu Munshi said, “The report provides useful insights that will guide us as we address remaining challenges and tap the unprecedented opportunities provided by e-commerce.”

Bangladesh’s ICT sector is crucial in achieving the country’s development goal to create jobs for the 110 million citizens under the age of 35, in a country of 160 million. The ICT sector in Bangladesh has grown 40 percent annually since 2010, thanks to public and private sector initiatives, the report notes.

The government’s “Digital Bangladesh” initiative recognizes ICT as an engine of growth and seeks to foster sustainable development through effective use of modern technology. However, the report identifies challenges that need to be addressed to ensure a better digital future, especially for people in rural areas, where connectivity and lack of skills hinder inclusive digital development.

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An estimated 65 percent of the country’s population resides in rural areas, while two-thirds live in areas that still lack internet connectivity and less than 4 percent of the people use 4G-capable devices.

In addition, last-mile delivery challenges and security concerns make operations difficult in the remotest areas, pointing to the need for improvements in trade logistics. Efforts to tackle these and other barriers to e-commerce development should be scaled up, the report recommends.

It calls for continued concerted action between public and private sectors, increased cooperation between development partners, effective monitoring and evaluation mechanisms and a resource mobilization strategy.

“We look forward to working closely with UNCTAD to implement the actions suggested in the report,” state minister of ICT, Zunaid Ahmed Palak, said.

Mostafizur Rahaman Sohel, convener of BASIS E-Commerce Alliance Bangladesh, an association of e-traders, said, “This report is just a beginning of many collaborations that lie ahead us. We want to create examples by converting suggestions into actions.”

UNCTAD began the eTrade Readiness Assessments program in 2017 to identify the challenges and opportunities associated with e-commerce and help countries put in place the right strategies and interventions. Over the past three years, 18 assessment reports of least development countries have been completed and another seven are ongoing.