A $830 million (50 billion Bangladeshi taka) project to create a computerised national database, identity cards, voter lists and machine-readable passports (MRP) is expected to be tendered by the Bangladesh government in coming years, and Gulf-based IT vendors can take part by forming joint ventures with Bangladeshi companies, said the country's top IT official.

The World Bank-funded project is expected to be implemented by 2006.

A number of foreign aid-funded government IT projects awaiting the government's nod are expected to reduce government bureaucracy, red tape, simplify government services and processes and weed out corruption, said M. Sabur Khan, chairman of the Daffodil Group of companies, head of the country's first IT-focused private university, Daffodil International University, and president of Bangladesh Computer Samity (BCS), the country's IT association.

"However, we need foreign collaboration and expertise to participate in these projects," he said.

"We are currently executing a number of the government's IT projects with our own resources. One of them is a six-year project to implement a computerised ticketing system for Bangladesh Railway, valued at 180 million taka," he said.

"We have recently won a government tender to implement a project to computerise traffic, road systems, driving licences and other processes, defeating strong bids by international bidders including Tata Consultancy Services.

"This is a 120 million taka project and we are offering total system implementation including developing software solutions, along with a joint venture partner.

"There is huge potential for forging joint collaborations or forming joint ventures by international IT vendors with local companies in Bangladesh to bid for these projects," the official added.

"A large number of projects are in the pipeline, to be tendered in the next few years, that will require foreign expertise. So, for GCC-based companies who want to expand their markets in South Asia, this is the right time."

Companies which have already implemented government projects in the Middle East will do very well in Bangladesh, as the country is looking for similar solutions to simplify utility bill processing, police and municipality services, as well as those of immigration and other authorities, Khan added.

The Daffodil Group, which has a diversified IT portfolio including the manufacture of hardware, developing software, IT education and training, is at Gitex 2004, marking the first-time participation of a Bangladeshi IT company.