“Dhaka is dirty and dangerous, don’t go there, there’s nothing to see.”
That’s what some people told me when they heard about my plan to spend a couple of days there. Yet look what I found: a wonderful friend and host (ZillurRahman) a vibrating and charming city, a country full of energy and entrepreneurship.
Bangladesh is like a reverse mirror of Italy. Its people are young, thirsty of knowledge, ready to jump at business opportunities, building resources and skills as they go. “We’ll figure it out”, millions of smiles and swinging heads seem to suggest, as you cross their bright eyes riding a rickshaw, sipping a tea or charging a smartphone in a bar.
Europe’s policymakers and the Flow Generation have a thing or two to learn from a nation with 600,000 IT freelancers, expectations of 8% yearly GDP growth rate and 100 special economic zones with one-stop services. Strong faith and support towards the private sector have helped overcoming severe energy crises and achieving the cheapest mobile data services in the world are paving the way for widespread digital (financial) inclusion and a shift to a knowledge-based economy.
Of course, challenges, risks and memories of humanitarian and environmental crisis are still there, but courage and hope not only can create opportunities, but also help to seize them.
This is what Flow Generation is about...opportunities. Our book is about believing in opportunity, rather than getting swept away by this-is-all-terrible-I-hate-change fears. Developing countries can be big winners in the global gig and digital economy.
This is what we heard in digital nomad hostels in Indonesia, for example. It's about being able to compete on an eye level with Westerners. And contributing with your individual skills. It's about understanding that humans will still be needed. Sure, there is a lot of bad stuff happening, exploitation etc., but technology can just as well enable and empower people and communities. It can help accumulating skills and knowledge through online courses on your mobile while you’re commuting, if you have no time to go to university; it can help you save money with nudging apps even if the State does not provide formal welfare programs; it can help find projects from the other side of the world through online freelance platforms.
We believe, regardless of the status quo, that humanity will find a way to create better living conditions for many and that the future holds just as much opportunity as it holds challenge. It's a matter of looking at the right side of the coin. The future can be bright for Bangladesh Flow Generation, and for anyone else willing to learn how to swim and surf in the waves of tech disruptions, instead of being paralysed by Fear.
Nicolo' Andreula, Economist, Strategist and Public Speaker.
Views in this article are author’s own and do not necessarily reflect CGS policy.