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Unleashing the potential of Bangladesh’s rural workforce

(Posted Feb. 2024) Technology is often called a “disruptive” force. In many cases however, technology “disrupts” by making it possible to keep things just the way they are. This is what’s happening in rural Bangladesh where residents of rural communities no longer need to relocate to the big city to earn a decent living.  Network coverage lets them work from their ancestral home village, where they fulfill contracts online for customers near and far. 

A few years ago, Trisna Dio, a young woman from a village in Sherpur District, had nearly joined the ranks of Bangladeshi migrant workers who uproot themselves to earn money to send to their loved ones. She had a job in the capital city of Dhaka, 200 kilometers south, where she had moved as a fresh graduate. But she felt the pull of her roots. Hers is a matriarchal community where women are heads of families. So she went back, not quite knowing what she’d do there.

Watch the story of Trisna Dio, who thanks to network coverage, thrived when she returned to her home village

Eventually, she decided to capitalize on her graphic design skills by working for clients remotely. It’s never easy to start a new business, but for her, the challenge was greater because her village did not enjoy reliable network coverage. Her Internet was slow, and that’s if she could get online at all. 

Luckily, things were changing. Since 2017, the government of Bangladesh has been working with the Chinese government to implement the “National ICT Infra-Network for Bangladesh Government Phase-III” (Info-Sarker Phase-3), an ambitious project that notably entails providing high-speed broadband to 2,600 rural communities. The endeavor was completed in late 2022.

Huawei team setting a base station on a rooftop in a rural Bangladesh community

Over 100,000 government agencies, including educational institutions, health complexes, and government offices, at the village level across the country, have been digitally connected under the project, according to government figures. 

Bangladesh expects that network coverage will drive entrepreneurship, employment, and economic growth, and will also enlarge tax revenues. For that purpose, startups and freelance online workers have been provided with 5 Mbps of free bandwidth over the past four years as a down payment on future rural prosperity.

Trisna showing off her online business

Huawei has played a major role in Info-Sarker Phase 3. In particular, the company helped the government to implement new digital services and to deploy technology to improve traffic flows and safety on one of the country’s main highways. Huawei network solutions are used to connect rural communities. 

In 2023, Huawei celebrated its 25th year of doing business in Bangladesh where our technologies have been transformative. Huawei’s participation in Info-Sarker Phase-3 is a natural progression from our early days in the dynamic South Asia nation. Back in the early 2000s, Huawei earned the respect of Bangladesh government by providing coverage to isolated rural communities in a contract that entailed extremely tight delivery dates.

But it’s the outcome on individuals and communities that matter. In Sherpur, Dio’s business has flourished, with a roster of international clients. She has not only become an inspiration to her community, she has also opened a training school where she teaches others how to establish their online businesses.

A community in Sherpur District