Digital Bangadesh: Progress and Plans

The focus of our plans has been to use ICT for improving delivery of services to citizensBy Anir Chowdhury,
Policy Advisor, A2I Programme, Prime Minister’s Office, BangladeshThe current Bangladesh government took office in early 2009 but in late 2008 they published a “Charter for Change” that talked about poverty, human resource dev, employment, health and power and energy as the four key areas. Underlying all this is IT-facilitated socio-economic development which we call Digital Bangladesh.Digital Bangladesh Charter for Change

Focus 1: Change of Mindset

Unless the bureaucracy and politicians do not change the way they see service  delivery – not as patronage but as an obligation to people, improvements  would be difficult. We are seeing a change in mindsets and hence a decrease in harassment and reduction in costs and time of services. The driving slogan here  is “Citizens will not go to services, services will come to citizens”

Focus 2:  Demonstration and Upscaling

We are seeing some encouraging signs under various initiatives. For example, the e?Purjee system generates SMS?based  purchase orders for sugarcane farmers. From 2 mills in 2009, it now covers 15  mills. This has empowered farmers, increased transparency and improved efficiency of mills.

This experience has given confidence to policy makers that  ICT can actually improve service delivery. In the last few years, we have moved from a process of automation to one of improving services. The citizens have  also seen how ICT can help them in many different ways. The eTathya  Kosh is an encyclopedia where about 200 partner organisations are working to aggregate livelihood information in multimedia format.

We are also planning to develop a National Population Register which is going to be a ground-breaking effort as far as  interoperability is concerned. An interoperability framework has already been  published and the NPR will make it happen.

Focus 3: ICT Infrastructure Development

Development and optimal utilisation of ICT infrastructure is a key focus area.  About 15 years ago Bangladesh Railway lent its fibre to Grameenphone which is  owned mostly by Telenor and that caused a cell phone revoulution in the  country. The Power Grid Company of Banglasdesh hasrecently given its fibre to  he private sector so that  a broadband revolution can happen. We have identified about 156000 institutions around the country for this revolution.

Focus 4: Leadership Development

Technology only contributes a small part to the egovernance revolution.  Business Process Reengineeringand change management form the bulk of the  ask of improving service delivery. Elected representatives, officials at different levels, media personnel, private sector and citizens are being targeted for  eveloping a leadership for the entire effort.

Focus 5: Execution through Partnership

Through a partnership of the public sector, the private sector and people,  backed by technical assistance from development partners, we are working  towards converting the vision of Digital Bangladesh vision into reality.

Focus 6:  Planning and Coordination

‘Strategic Priorities for Digital Bangladesh’ aims at  identifying the role of technology in socio?economic transformation by 2021.  his  as now been mainstreamed into National Planning in the 6th Five Year Plan.

We have developed egovernance focus points in every ministry and the  entire effort is coordinated from the PMO. The ICT priorities are becoming  sectoral priorities in health, education agriculture etc.