THE founder chairman of the global operating software giant, Microsoft Corporation, Bill Gates paid a 12-hour visit to Bangladesh on Monday. Apart from his mind-boggling business success that has made him the richest man in the world, Bill Gates is also a great pioneer who popularised the computer. It is the user-friendly operating system of the computer that has been instrumental in bringing this wonderful typewriter-shaped intelligent machine to many homes at every corner of the globe. Though Bill Gates is not the inventor of the personal computer, yet it is he who has brought down this once awe-inspiring technological miracle from its ivory tower down to the plebeian level by making it accessible to the common people. This, in itself, is an outstanding achievement in his life even if one keeps his other achievements out of consideration.
It is heartening to note that this modern-day icon of the era of digital technology has shown keen interest in Bangladesh, especially in its nascent Information and Communication Technology (ICT) industry during his maiden visit to this country. As a philanthropist he also evinced his interest in the achievement of Bangladesh in education -- especially women's education -- and health sectors. But what is more important than his philanthropic commitments in various areas of health and education sectors in Bangladesh is his interest in the ICT sector and his commitment towards it. Mention must be made here of the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) that his company has signed with the education ministry of Bangladesh under its Partners-In-Learning (PL) programme. It is aimed at training over 10,000 teachers and 200,000 students to increase their access to, and build capacity for using, ICT. Bangladesh will be the 101st country in the world to be covered by this global programme run by Microsoft Corporation. It all depends on the government, particularly its relevant ministry, as to how it would translate this document of understanding into one of real cooperation with the global giant in the ICT sector. The government and the private sector of the country should, therefore, lose no opportunity to make the most out of the outcome of the first-ever visit of Bill Gates to Bangladesh.
Bill Gate's visit is important as well as a good omen for the country for another reason. Under the normal circumstances, it would not be very surprising had such a high profile foreign dignitary of Bill Gates' stature rethought the schedule of his journey in this part of the world as a consequence of the wide coverage in the international media on the recent wave of terrorism in Bangladesh. But the unchanged itinerary of his tour in the subcontinent is not only a mark of the courage characterising any great entrepreneur of foresight, it is also a telltale sign of the importance that the owner of the world's largest software company attaches to the potential of Bangladesh as a prospective, though budding, growth spot on the global ICT landscape. And it was certainly not purely pleasantries he was exchanging during his meeting with the prime minister when he expressed his organisation's intention to expand its investment areas in Bangladesh taking advantage of what he said 'the prevailing investment environment' in the country.
It would not also be beside the point here to refer to the recent remark of the Dutch entrepreneurs about Bangladesh's huge potential as a future hub of ICT-related business and entrepreneurship in this region.
A note of warning here. Have the leaders, whether in the government or in the business, considered in retrospect how often they missed the boat in the past under similar circumstances? The nation, therefore, should be prepared to grab hold of this yet another opportunity, as it cannot afford to miss any more chance in the future.