ICT In Public Services: Delivering More With Less

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Published on June 18, 2014
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As there are 114 million mobile phone users and 33.43 million internet users in Bangladesh, government is utilizing the opportunity to provide public services free from hassles. 

In rural areas of Bangladesh, people used to travel a long way just to pay utility bills or to get an application form. The scenario is now different. After a continuous struggle for five years, Bangladesh Awami League and Access to Information have brought public services like education, health, agriculture and other social services so close to the citizen which was inconceivable few years back.

ICT in Education
The scenario in our education sector is rapidly evolving with the midas touch of internet and communication technologies. To make teaching and learning more enjoyable and participatory, multimedia classrooms are installed in 22,500 secondary schools and 1700 primary schools. A goal has been set to install multimedia classrooms in every schools of the country within 2016.

Not just the students, IT is being used to develop skills of teachers. 1000 teachers have been trained as ‘Master Trainer’ who later trained about 20,000 teachers. A portal (https://www.teachers.gov.bd/) has been launched to assist the teachers where they can find the digital contents for multimedia classrooms. There are 25,754 members and 15,300 contents in the portal.

Government has made the text books available as e-books on internet now. On (http://www.ebook.gov.bd/) there are 300 textbooks and 100 support texts available for download. These e-books are interactive, containing videos, animations and images.

Results of the public exams have been published through mobile operators from 2009. Results of PSC, JSC, SSC, HSC exams are easily accessible by mobile phones. 53 million subscribers have got their results on mobile phones.

Application for admission in public universities, colleges and medical colleges are available in mobile phones. 5 years ago students have to go to the respective universities to collect and submit the application form. Most of them went to agents who charged double. Now, this lengthy process has come down to 3 text messages. About 3 million students have applied for admission in universities till February, 2014.

ICT in Health Services
To manage the treatment gap in the country with a population of 154.7 million, increasing use of mobile phones has provided a solution. Government has initiated Health Care Service Through Mobile Phone which allows citizens to call any public health care centres and they will have instant services by a duty doctor. Now, 482 government hospitals are being provided with a cell phone to run this service.

Telemedicine is the opportunity where a patient doesn’t need to go to a hospital in town or to a specialized doctor. They can have the same service from their UISCs or Community Clinics. People can go there and get the service through Skype. Initially, this service is available at 8 hospitals and 30 UISCs.

ICT in Agriculture
Extension of agriculture and providing correct and necessary information to the farmers are the major keys of agricultural development in Bangladesh. Agricultural Information Through Mobile Phone is playing a huge role in this context. Ministry of agriculture has disseminated 12000 mobile phones to agricultural extension agents. These agents are providing information to the farmers.
Government has launched a website (http://ais.gov.bd/) which will provide all the information required for a farmer.

Online Fertilizer Recommendation, an initiative of Soil development Institute, allows our farmers to use the right fertilizer for the right soil. Wrong manures can hinder the productivity which further affects our total production of crops. From more than 200 UISC, farmers are now having advices to use the right fertilizer which resulting in bumper production of crops in last several years.

In terms of sugar production, timely delivery of sugarcane is the most important part for a farmer. Late delivery results in low price of sugarcane and low quality and production of sugar. In 2010, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina inaugurated the official E-Purjee management which allows the farmers to know the right time to deliver their sugarcanes. This initiative has resulted in 13 percent increase in sugarcane production. This service is available in every sugar mill which benefited more than 200,000 farmers.

Infrastructure for Public Service
To eliminate the hazards of getting a public service, Union Information and Service Centres (UISC) have been established in every Union (lowest tier of local government). In 4547 unions, 3.2 million people are getting services every month. These services include birth registration, online registration for prospective migrant workers, mobile banking services, life insurance and Tele-medicine health service. Training for students, youths, women and young entrepreneurs are available in these centres.

The second phase of UISC is to upgrade it to district level. These centres are District E-Service Centre (DESC). From 2011, DESCs have been established in 64 districts of the country. Over 200 years, District Commissioner (DC) offices have been the hub of government services in urban and rural areas. DC offices usually provide services regarding control and supervision of revenue, maintenance of public order and security, license and certificates, land acquisitions, census, relief and rehabilitation, social welfare, pension matters, education and public examinations, public complaints and enquiries. With the digitalized services, DC offices are now working faster. From 2011, 389,423 land records has been delivered to the citizens against 758,153 applications received which would take 3-4 years more in analog service system. DESCs are providing services within 2-5 days which took 2-3 weeks before 2011.

Information and Utility Services
Paying utility bills was a chaotic task for the citizens, mostly, the city dwellers. They had to stand in the cue for hours to pay electricity, water and gas bills. But now, with the blessings of mobile phone and internet, those days are history. From 2010, people are using their cell phones to pay bills from their home. Till February 2014, .56 million water bills, 1.33 million gas bills and 21.2 million electricity bills are being paid through mobile phone and online services.

Transferring money was hazardous and insecure before government’s initiative of Electronic Money Transfer System (EMTS). Bangladesh Postal Department has initiated the service in 2010 collaborating with A2I. Now consumers can send and receive money within 20 minutes from 2750 post and sub post offices.

In Bangladesh, it was widely believed that getting Police service was full of kettle. But recently Bangladesh Police has initiated online services on trial basis. Primarily people can file general diaries (GD) on non-urgent issues.

Every year a significant number of students and workers are going abroad for better opportunities. But the process of migration was complex and harassment to people was a common experience. But the settings are changing as government has introduced Machine Readable Passport (MRP) and Visas (MRV) services. This initiative has lessened the time, cost rate of fraud dramatically.

Bangladesh, after its birth, experienced all the political and economic peril possible. But in 2009, when Bangladesh Awami League has come up with the idea of “Digital Bangladesh” people saw a new dawn. Successfully completing its tenure, people elected them for the second time consecutively which is our history’s first. The achievements stated above are just glimpses of a revolution. There are still many scopes for work. Every governmental procedure cannot be changed overnight. But, with our belief and hard work, it is a achievable goal to make a “Digital Bangladesh” before 2021.

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In, Services, Public, ICT,