Data 2 Policy

is changing the scenario

Enable policy makers to effectively monitor and track development progress at electoral constituencies and at national level made possible by ensuring availability of digitally reusable data, ultimately leading to evidence-based policy formulation.

SDG TRACKER

Enable tracking Bangladesh’s progress towards attainment of SDGs and other national development goals through a web-based information repository.

Bangladesh’s development miracle: From MDGs to SDGs

Bangladesh has been lauded by the United Nations as well as the international development community as the epitome of socio-economic gains attained under the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The country has moved up to lower middle income status but, more importantly, by human development indicators and this achievement came on the back of the country’s stride towards higher per capita income in recent years, riding on stable economic growth. This indicates that Bangladesh is well positioned to emerge as a global thought leader with regard to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

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Significance of tracking SDGs in Bangladesh

Realizing this ambition rests largely on informed decision making and targeted resource allocation. For a Government to plan and monitor the impact of its policies, it must be able to benchmark data and see year on year progress. An effective monitoring tool provides essential support in order to achieve the SDGs. Regular monitoring and evaluation of development interventions facilitate continuous improvement of their designs and thus enhance their potential to make an impact.

Objectives of the SDG Tracker

The Access to Information (a2i) Programme of the Prime Minister’s Office, with technical support from UNDP and USAID–in collaboration with General Economics Division (GED) of Planning Commission, Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics and other government and private stakeholders, designed and developed SDG Tracker to:

  • Create a data repository for monitoring the implementation of the SDGs and other national development goals;
  • Facilitate the tracking of progress against each goal and target;
  • Improve situation analysis and performance monitoring;
  • Enable predictive analysis for achieving the goals within the set time-frame.

Major Components of SDG Tracker

Two major components of SDG Tracker are SDG Portal and Dashboard. SDG Portal enables policy makers, government agencies, private sector, Civil Society Organizations, International organizations, academia, researchers and the citizens to track year on year progress against each target and to create required visualizations. On the other hand, SDG Dashboards facilitate individual Ministries/Divisions and Agencies to consolidate available data for each SDG and compare it visually against performance thresholds. The resulting dashboards highlight areas where a Ministry needs to make the greatest progress towards achieving the Goals by 2030.

Way Forward

Bangladesh’s commendable achievement in implementing MDGs has poised Bangladesh to do better in achieving the SDGs. The government of Bangladesh is committed to sustain the momentum of MDGs and lead by example again in case of SDGs. National plans and actions are also directed towards this commitment. It is highly expected that the SDG Tracker (www.sdg.gov.bd) will support to drive these actions in the right direction.

POLICY REFORM

Ensuring policy formulation is informed by small-scale experiment conducted by field-level civil servants that measurably improve the lives of common citizens.

Action first policy later

Previously an unimaginable motto is now inspiring civil servants in Bangladesh to extract insights from experimentation in service redesign by government officers in the field to ensure that policy instruments are citizen-centric and measurably improve the lives of common people. The two cases that follow illustrate this approach.

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Successful piloting of Nothi makes way for updating Secretariat Instructions, the Bible for Bangladesh Civil Service

Deputy Commissioners’ Offices represent the national government at the district level and offer hundreds of services. But citizens had to travel tens of miles, spending a lot of time, money and enduring considerable hassle, as the offices only recognized applications written on paper. Moreover, once they submitted the service requests or applications, citizens had no idea about progress made in processing them – the system was completely opaque.

a2i thus convinced the DC Offices to pilot “Nothi” – a system that digitized the paper-based application and file processing system and enabled the tracking of file movement within government offices. It allowed citizens to send applications to any government office from their own computers or from the nearest Digital Centre. And since the system’s dashboard enabled Deputy Commissioners to monitor precisely how many service requests were pending, which officers were responsible for processing them and the latest progress status, time to actually deliver the services come down from 5-7 days to only 1-2 days depending on the nature of the case.  While an officer could process only 5-10 files a day under the paper-based filing system, with “Nothi” this number increased to 25 plus.

Following this successful pilot, a scale up plan of covering 19,000 more government offices was soon drafted. But questions arose as to its practicality without any supporting policy, especially since government officers were accustomed to the traditional, paper-based system. At that point, a2i began to work with the Ministry of Public Administration and assisted in updating the Secretariat Instruction – considered the ‘Bible’ for the Bangladesh Civil Service – that added new instructions for implementing electronic means in the service delivery process.

Demonstration of the power of uniting government offices online leads to Proactive Information Disclosure Guidelines

Similarly in 2010, when a2i started developing the award winning National Portal which unites over 43,000+ government offices, at first, each of the 64 district headquarters led by the DCs participated in developing their own portals. A lot of experimentation took place as a part of that. It also created both the technology foundation for up-scaling and an appetite for larger adoption.

Then, in 2013 the Cabinet Division issued a circular on the development, expansion and maintenance of the National Portal and the Information Commission issued ‘Proactive Information Disclosure Guidelines, 2014’ – where in clear instructions were provided regarding the kinds of information one should provide in government websites.

Benefits of ‘Action First, Policy Later’ strategy

  • Service providers are now delivering services with more confidence and expertise
  • Service recipients now receive better services more conveniently
  • New policies are more citizen-centric and pragmatic
  • Procrastination in policy formulation is going down

Other notable policies that a2i contributed to in collaboration with relevant ministries and agencies

  • ICT Act, 2006

  • ICT Policy, 2009

  • Right to Information Act, 2009

  • Right to Information Act, 2009

  • Right to Information Rules, 2009

  • Right to Information Rules, 2009

  • Value Added Services Licensing Guideline, 2012

  • Gazette notification on the Citizens Core Data Structure, 2012

  • Gazette notification on the Citizens Core Data Structure, 2012

  • Gazette notification on Innovation, 2013

  • Cyber Security Strategy, 2014

  • Information Security Policy Guidelines, 2014

  • ICT Policy, 2015

  • Grievance Redress System Guidelines, 2015

DEVELOPMENT MONITORING

Enable effective monitoring by top policy makers of the development progress of Bangladesh’s 300 electoral constituencies through a system that enables field level government officers to provide accurate and timely data

Challenges of paper-based reporting systems

The citizens of Bangladesh can ill afford the lack of transparency and accountability in how local development projects of all 300 electoral constituencies of the country are managed. Implementing agencies of all ministries rely on archaic, paper-based systems for collecting and reporting data. Not only does this cause delays and hamper effective monitoring, the information available is aggregated meaning it is not possible to assess the development status of individual constituencies.

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Empowering field offices through a new management system supported by an online platform

Improving local development and service delivery requires informed decision making and resource allocation by policy makers. It is also vital to introduce systems that enable government officers at the field level to collect and report relevant information accurately, efficiently and timely.

a2i introduced Bangladesh’s first ever online ‘Constituency Based Development Monitoring System’ to track and manage the ongoing development activities under every constituency involving public representatives along with the local and central administration.

Figure: Constituency based development monitoring system workflow

Data on development activities are entered into the system directly through field level government agency offices in each constituency under the supervision of the Deputy Commissioner’s Office. This ensures timeliness of the data. Moreover, comparative analysis and triangulation with data collected through the traditional channels of the directorates across constituencies are also possible.

Empowering policy makers to ensure better development outcomes

The Prime Minister’s Office, Cabinet Division, Ministry of Planning and other ministries as well as members of Parliament can monitor the development activities of constituencies quite easily through a dashboard. Thus, the system facilitates effective management and plays an important role in the formulation of policy decisions to ensure uniform development throughout the country. This initiative is directly aligned with goals 10, 16 and 17 of the SDGs and has a strong linkage with the ‘Development Results Framework’ of Bangladesh’s 7th Five Year Plan.

OPEN DATA

Ensuring availability of digitally reusable data on the web to enable better public service delivery, research, new job opportunities, investment and transparency and accountability in the government.

How is Open Data useful?

In 2016, flood situation in Jamalpur district in Bangladesh got worsened as the nearby Jamuna River swelled and flowed 121 centimeters above its danger-level. The water-level crossed its previous record of 112cm above the danger-level that happened in 1988. Many schools, colleges gradually got submerged as the water rose. The authorities could not foresee when which establishment would go down to the flood as they lacked all important digitally analyzable data to make such prediction. They used guesswork that often resulted in the suffering of the people and damage or loss of valuable properties. If relevant ministry and departments like Ministry of Disaster Management and Relief, Flood Forecasting and Warning Centre, Bangladesh Bureau of Educational Information & Statistics, Water Development Board etc. had opened on the web in digitally analyzable form their data on water flow, GIS of schools, colleges, and rivers then the authorities could use it for such forecasting. Likewise, it will immensely benefit the citizens if public and private organizations share on web such serviceable data on various issues like health MIS, transport, hospital, stock exchange etc.

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a2i has been the leader in Open Data initiative in Bangladesh

With a view that it is a governance issue that reinforces right to information and has massive potential to empower all classes of people. In the context of Bangladesh, open data is critical to ensure effective public services.

The objectives of open data

Initiative are:

  • to encourage the development of innovative solutions for better public service delivery,
  • to enhance the scope of research,
  • to create new job opportunities and investment, and
  • to make government more transparent and accountable.

a2i’s goals

  • To embed open data practice in the government,
  • To engage with the open data community, and
  • To increase the generation of demand-driven open data.

Present scenario

a2i along with the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA) and Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics have been implementing Open Government Data (OGD) in Bangladesh to achieve some of the goals of SDG. An OGD Working Group to act as a central point of reference for people and an Executive committee as a controlling authority for the strategic aspects have been formed as part of OGD Management System in Bangladesh. National capacity development workshops and programs are going on for sensitizing national stakeholders, integrating information on the initial gap assessment, identifying demands for data sets and carrying out strategic planning. Development of a portal (data.gov.bd) to provide an easy way to find, access and reuse data is at the final stage of its development. To achieve the “Data for All” objective a strategy paper to guide the stakeholders has received necessary approval.

Position in e-indices

Ensuring availability of digitally reusable data on the web to enable better public service delivery, research, new job opportunities, investment and transparency and accountability in the government.

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Empowering citizens’, particularly the underserved

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How is Open Data useful?

In 2016, the flood situation in Jamalpur district in Bangladesh got worsened as the nearby Jamuna River swelled and flowed 121 centimeters above its danger-level. The water-level crossed its previous record of 112cm above the danger-level that happened in 1988. Many schools, colleges gradually got submerged as the water rose. The authorities could not foresee when which establishment would go down to the flood as they lacked all important digitally analyzable data to make such prediction. They used guesswork that often resulted in the suffering of the people and damage or loss of valuable properties. If relevant ministry and departments like Ministry of Disaster Management and Relief, Flood Forecasting and Warning Centre, Bangladesh Bureau of Educational Information & Statistics, Water Development Board etc. had opened on the web in digitally analyzable form their data on water flow, GIS of schools, colleges, and rivers then the authorities could use it for such forecasting. Likewise, it will immensely benefit the citizens if public and private organizations share on the web such serviceable data on various issues like health MIS, transport, hospital, stock exchange etc.

a2i has been the leader in Open Data initiative in Bangladesh

With a view that it is a governance issue that reinforces right to information and has massive potential to empower all classes of people. In the context of Bangladesh, open data is critical to ensure effective public services.

The objectives of open data

Initiatives are:

  • to encourage the development of innovative solutions for better public service delivery,
  • to enhance the scope of research,
  • to create new job opportunities and investment, and
  • to make government more transparent and accountable.

a2i’s goals

  • To embed open data practice in the government,
  • To engage with the open data community, and
  • To increase the generation of demand-driven open data.

Present scenario

a2i along with the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA) and Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics have been implementing Open Government Data (OGD) in Bangladesh to achieve some of the goals of SDG. An OGD Working Group to act as a central point of reference for people and an Executive committee as a controlling authority for the strategic aspects have been formed as part of OGD Management System in Bangladesh. National capacity development workshops and programs are going on for sensitizing national stakeholders, integrating information on the initial gap assessment, identifying demands for data sets and carrying out strategic planning. Development of a portal (data.gov.bd) to provide an easy way to find, access and reuse data is at the final stage of its development. To achieve the “Data for All” objective a strategy paper to guide the stakeholders has received necessary approval.

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