Service Delivery

Mechanisms Transformed

Using ICTs an enabler and empathy as the catalyst, service delivery mechanisms are being innovated making essential public services available to citizens in least time, cost and visits required to access these services.

NATIONAL PORTAL

Create a harmonized system of public websites that reduce the hassle, time and costs incurred by citizens in accessing and availing government information and services.

Stories: National Web Portal Framework

Border Guard of Bangladesh once rescued a mentally imbalanced person from a border area of Satkhira district. The rescued one could only mention names of two places ‘Jessore district’ and ‘Sreedharpur union’. A Digital Center entrepreneur Mr. Raju of Satkhira district looked into the Nation web Portal and found the contact information of a Digital Centre entrepreneur of Sreedharpur union.

11 Million

e-Directory Users/Month

2 Million

e-Service Users/Month

750,000

Officers

1,000+

Innovation Teams

43,000

Govt. offices

2.2 Million+

Contents

90 Million

Hits/Month

72,000+

Officers Trained

Empowering citizens’, particularly the underserved

In the backwaters of the rural areas of Bogra in Bangladesh, young Rahim stood confused between paying a hefty amount to an “immigration broker” for migrating to the dream land of Malaysia, and leaving his hopes for a bright future ahead and joining his poor farmer father in cultivating others’ lands for a living. One day, a big brother from the neighborhood, took him to a nearby UDC and showed him a website. Starting from information about application for migration to Malaysia to applying for government jobs, this portal had all the information he needs! He no longer has to run after dubious brokers for the information and the opportunities he needs. He has finally found his Midas Touch!

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Impact of the National Portal

While a typical villager had to travel to the district government office about 40km away multiple time to get a certified copy of land records, she can now apply for it online and receive doorstep delivery of the document. Thus reducing time from 30 days to 16 days, cost from USD 3.3 to about USD 1 and the number of visits required to the government office from 5 to zero.

In recognition of these remarkable achievements, Bangladesh received the prestigious World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) Award from ITU in 2014 and 2015 for best use of ICT for information and service delivery to the undeserved.

Challenges addressed

In addition to posing various problems in matters related to accessibility, information sharing and integration of data across the websites, the existing websites were not RTI-compliant, resulting in the government’s inability to utilize existing resources to uphold RTI Act for proactive information disclosure.

National web Portal Framework addresses these problems and limitations focusing on the free flow of information from grass-root to ministry level. From its inception till now, the websites of 25000+ government organizations have been threaded in a single platform through this framework to ensure easy accessibility of information for citizens, and uniform online presence of all government organizations on the internet.

More benefits for citizens

From the citizens’ perspective the NPF ensures the utmost user friendliness while browsing information across all levels of government offices, representing one of the biggest information ecosystems in the entire world.

In addition to containing elaborate information of all development activities and projects of the government that are put in here to ensure transparency and accountability, NPF highlights activities that are in compliance with the RTI Act such as- the name and designation of the information officers, their duties, the laws relating to human rights. NPF allows the government to implement proactive information disclosure mandated by the RTI Act.

Way forward

At present, this framework contains about 2.2 million contents that are being continuously checked and updated. In the future, technologies such as Natural Language Processing and Accessibility will be integrated with the platform to ensure accessibility and availability of information to every citizen in Bangladesh.

DIGITAL CENTERS

Deliver hundreds of public services to the underserved more easily, cheaply and reliably through grassroots one-stop centres hosted in government organizations but run by private entrepreneurs.

Stories: Simplifying the Process of Providing Trade License.

Due to the manual process of granting trade licenses from Pourashova Office, applicants were confronting hassles in receiving the license. They needed to come at…

5,200+

Digital Centers

237 Million

Services Provided

10+

Entrepreneurs

USD 28

Million Earning

116+

Public & Private Services

75 Million +

Birth Registered

2.1 Million

Migrant Workers Registered

100,000+

Youth Trained

Decentralizing Public Service Delivery

To eliminate the need for millions of underserved citizens to travel great distances, incur high cost and endure the considerable hassle of accessing government services, a2i in collaboration with the Local Government Division, established 5,000+ one-stop service delivery outlets known as Digital Centres throughout Bangladesh in all:

Union Councils (Union Parishad) – the lowest tier of the Bangladesh government;
Sub-district Councils (Upazila Parishad);
Municipalities (Paurashava); and
City Corporations.

These last mile access points are about 3 km from the average rural citizen’s home, whereas a government sub-district office is typically 20 km and a district office over 35 km.

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A sustainable solution to enhance access for the under served

Like many developing countries, in Bangladesh, government offices at the district and sub-district levels provide a wide range of public services which are labor intensive and time consuming for the service providers and recipients alike. Citizens, a majority of whom reside and work in rural areas, typically have to travel long distances to government offices in urban or semi-urban areas foregoing income and incurring additional costs such as transportation, accommodation and food to access even basic services.

The Digital Centres ensure that the underserved such as rural women, people with disabilities and the elderly – regardless of their literacy and ICT literacy – can access vital information and services.
These one-stop service centers are essentially micro-enterprises run by ‘citizen entrepreneurs’ – 1 male and 1 female in tandem with elected local government representatives.

They leverage modern technology to provide citizens, both free and fee-based access to public services (land records, birth registration, telemedicine, life insurance, passport and overseas job application as well as application to various other government services) and private services (mobile financial services, insurance, various types of computer and vocational training, etc.). Increasingly, the Digital Centres are catalyzing financial inclusion through agent banking and connecting low-income communities to the wider digital economy through Assisted Rural E-Commerce.

Digital Centre Entrepreneurs: an innovative public-private entrepreneurship model

One of the most innovative aspects of the Digital Centres is their public-private entrepreneurship model. It was designed to bring the mandate and the infrastructure of the public sector together with the entrepreneurial zeal and efficiency of the private sector. The Digital Centres are physically hosted in local government offices and 1% of their annual budget is directed towards these enterprises. Meanwhile everyday expenses – like utility charges, internet bills, computer maintenance costs, etc. – are borne by the entrepreneurs who must generate revenues by providing certain public and private services. In practice, this means that if working women and men can only make time after 5, over the weekend or even on public holidays to come to the centres, the entrepreneurs would still serve them. Given they are not salaried government employees, failing to do so would only harm their business. This has enabled citizens to receive efficient, affordable and reliable access to services at their doorsteps.

DISTRICT e-SERVICE CENTER

Establishing ICT facilitated one-stop service center at every district which provides an efficient electronic version of the century-old manual and heavily bureaucratic service delivery system.

Stories: Simplifying the Process of Receiving Citizenship Certificate

Citizen faced problems in receiving citizenship certificate because of the complexity of the process. On that process at first a citizen needed to…

64 District

e-Service Centers

800,000

Applications Processed

Heart of all government services

Over the past 200 years, District Administration has been the hub for government services for the mass residing in rural and urban areas. A wide range of useful services to citizens are provided from the DC offices 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. By providing these services, the DC office represents the National Government at the district.

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Inefficiencies and challenges of an archaic system

The conventional system of office management and service delivery at the DC offices is paper-based, which is time consuming and labour intensive for both the service provider and receiver. Moreover, as it is inflexible so it causes delay in the service delivery process and is prone to abuse or corruption and can hinder access to the poor, marginalized and vulnerable. Due to shortage of manpower and infrastructure, DC offices are also unable to meet the high demand for services from the growing population. Therefore, it has become imperative to put in place an innovative solution combining back-end automation with efficient services points to improve the quality and speed of services at the DC offices.

Goals for improving accessibility and transparency

Services cannot be truly delivered to citizens’ doorsteps unless they are decentralized. Based on this premise, a2i in partnership with the Cabinet Division piloted the first ever DESC at Jessore DC office. The District e-Service Centre (DESC) is an ICT facilitated one-stop service center which provides an efficient electronic version of the century-old manual and heavily bureaucratic service delivery system at every DC office. It is located in the Deputy Commissioner’s (DC) office. On 14 November, 2011 Shaikh Hasina, the Hon’ble Prime Minister of Bangladesh and Mr. Ban-ki-Moon, Secretary General of the United Nations jointly inaugurated all the 64 DESCs – one each in all 64 districts in Bangladesh. DESC has been designed to improve the accessibility and transparency of public service delivery system at the district level to achieve the following:

-Ensure service delivery at the at the doorsteps of the people at the least possible time’
-Uphold citizens’ Rights to Information through extensive information flow
-Save time and labor in the processing period
-Increase the number of clients served everyday through the use of ICT
-Reduce corruption and increase accountability by ensuring enhanced flow of information and more transparent processes.
-Greater access and efficient processing has reduced barriers of culture, class, gender and distance in the delivery of public services.
-Enhanced tracking systems will ensure more accountability and transparency in public services delivery leading to better governance. Greater transparency will ensure minimal involvement of middlemen and reduce levels of corruption.

Results

Citizens are now able to submit their applications online from service centers located at the DC office. They can even submit applications at the DESC through the District Portal –a web portal containing information and e-services of a district –from Digital Centers located at every Union – the lowest tier of administration – or from their own home without having to travel to the district headquarters. Upon submitting their applications, citizens receive an SMS notification with a receipt number and date of service delivery. They can choose to receive the service in-person from the concerned DC office or by postal mail if the application is regarding request for any documents. During the waiting period, citizens are able to check the status of their lodged applications though SMS or District Portals.

This initiative of a2i is well in line with the SDG goal no.16 that directs countries to build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels.

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