In a whirlwind visit to Dhaka last Monday Microsoft chief Bill Gates showed interest to expand investment in Bangladesh, provide cheap software to stop piracy and help in developing human resources in the IT sector.
The first ever visit to one of the poorest countries, the richest man in the world met with Prime Minister Khaleda Zia, talked to a number of ministers and addressed the business leaders.
With assurance of providing US$ 15 millions for a female university and assisting train up teachers and students in the field of IT, the great
philanthropist also spent a major time in Dhaka to visit projects of ICDDR,B and BRAC.
The chairman and chief software architect of Microsoft having 75 percent of world's software market arrived Dhaka in the morning and left for India in the evening. He was accompanied by his wife Melinda Gates.
Science and ICT Minister Dr Abdul Mayeen Khan received him at the airport on his arrival by a private jet. Tight security was maintained by local law enforcing agencies and US embassy security personnel during his 12-hour stay in Bangladesh capital.
The major announcement made by him was an assurance of providing cheap software to stop using its pirated copies in Bangladesh. Responding to IT industry leaders, he made the assurance while making a presentation.
Concerned ministers, selected group of academics, top IT industry and
business community leaders and senior government officials were present at the presentation on "Innovation and Partnership". Bill Gates entertained a few questions.
The Microsoft boss also assured for launching the Bangla Unicode operating system for many local users who are not habituated with the English and that it doesn't contradicts with Bangla version in India.
He said Bangladesh has huge potentials in the IT sector if its manpower can be IT educated and referred to the MOU signed with Education Ministry under which the Microsoft will train up 10,000 teachers and 200,000 students.
In a meeting with Prime Minister Khaleda Zia, he showed keen interest in expanding investment in Bangladesh. He told the PM that he was impressed with the congenial business atmosphere in the country, particularly in the IT sector.
The Microsoft Corporation chairman also placed his plan for expanding investment in the country's nascent knowledge economy based on information technology, officials concerned said.
He appreciated Khaleda's personal commitment and initiative to set up Asian Women University in Chittagong. He informed that Gates Foundation will provide US$ 15 million for the female university and help other universities.
Science and ICT Minister Dr Abdul Mayeen Khan was present in the meeting. Also, BNP senior joint secretary general Tarique Rahman, who on April 20 this year visited Seattle in America at the invitation of Bill Gates Foundation, was present.
Ministers M Saifur Rahman, Altaf Hossain Chowdhury, Osman Farruk, Mayeen Khan and BOI executive chairman Mahmudur Rahman met with him and discussed about Microsoft's prospective investment in Bangladesh.
The Microsoft has already opened an office in Dhaka and business leaders said his visit will send a positive message abroad about Bangladesh as a destination for foreign direct investment.
The richest man of the world visited different projects of International
Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research, Bangladesh (ICDDR,B), popularly known as Cholera Hospital, including a field site at Kamlapur.
Shortly after his arrival in Dhaka, Bill Gates along with his wife Melinda went to the ICDDR,B's pneumonia surveillance network at Kamalapur. The couple went round the field site and observed its programmes for primary prevention of pneumonia.
Bill Gates was impressed to know the function of ICDDR,B: Centre for Health and Population Research in Bangladesh in collaboration with partners from academic and research institutions throughout the world.
The ICDDR.B was awarded the first ever 'Gates Award for Global Health' in May 2001 in recognition of its accomplishments over the years, including the discovery of Oral Rehydration Therapy (ORT) which now saves over three million lives annually.
Bill Gates also went round a Lab of the hospital at Mohakhali that conducts laboratory-based research to adopt and develop the best scientific technology to address infectious diseases and related health problems.
The Gates couple also visited a BRAC village organisation site in Sabujbagh, talked to micro finance group members and highly appreciated the BRAC activities. BRAC chairman FH Abed accompanied him.