A Framework to Assess Digital Transformation in a Technologically Less-Developed Country: Challenges and Opportunities in Bangladesh
Sajjad Zohir |
The journey towards a ‘digital world’, is often perceived in terms of three sequentially linked ‘phases’, digitization, digitalization and digital transformation. This paper considers digitalization as the process that transforms an analog world into a digital world. Subsequently, attempt is made to understand it’s dynamics in a technologically less developed country (TLDC). Two important departures from the dominant stands in the literature were made in this paper. First, business models for digitalization, that aim at delivering services by using digital devices, was distinguished from the engineering perspective that emphasizes on innovations in digital devices and their uses. A second departure from the mainstream ideas was made by introducing the choice between procurement (buy/rent) and build (create), and how the two options have different implications for skill development in a TLDC.
Nurturing creativity for an idea economy as well as skill developments in STEM areas are associated with building or creating by the self. In contrast, the business models for digitalization go hand–in–hand with the procurements made by governments in TLDCs. The paper proposes a framework to think through when projects are designed and approved. While a TLDC such as Bangladesh is a major consumer of digital devices, absence of ‘build and create’ environment runs contrary to developing an idea economy and preparing the country’s workforce for the ensuing 4IR. It is argued that a feasible entry point for changing the status quo imposed under external loan agreements, is to redefine those contracts. It is argued that program designs be developed by identifying digital devices that go into various phases of an economic activity, including that of delivering government services, and ensure public commitment to build/create some such devices. For Bangladesh, software development is one such option where local IT firms may be closely linked to service delivery as well as in production of goods.
The author is the Executive Director of Economic Research Group. He may be reached at email@example.com