How do we scale it
Traditionally, knowledge and insights on innovations and information & communication technologies (ICTs) to improve public service delivery tended to flow from countries of the global North to those of the South. In recent times, tides have turned and countries in the global South are finding it very productive to develop collaboration amongst themselves. Indeed, they are well-positioned to understand each other’s development realities, what works and what does not, and more importantly, the whys behind the successes and failures. They also recognize, some for the first time in the countries’ history, the need to experiment on their own turfs and avoid mistakes made by similar countries. The expectation is that countries facing common challenges and seeking to achieve common goals can make faster progress through shared learning and experiences.
Bangladesh currently holds the Presidency of the High-level Committee on South-South Cooperation, the highest body in the United Nations for promotion of South-South Cooperation. Long known as a development laboratory for areas such as microfinance and climate change adaptation, Bangladesh has added public service delivery to its focus areas of innovation supported by a2i from the PMO. The government is going through tremendous changes to respond to rapidly rising expectations of the citizens, accelerating technological transformations and strong competitive pressure from private service providers.
a2i’s user-centric toolkits to facilitate the following:
- ‘Empathy Training’ to thousands of government officers and widespread experimentation in civil service establishing a culture of citizen-centric innovation, breaking silos of operations and helping move towards a whole-of-government planning and execution. Several Innovation Lab+ have been set up to improve service delivery in agriculture, land and judiciary and expand the reaches of financial inclusion.
- Massive and rapid digitization of service delivery across all ministries and agencies through use of Service Process Simplification to reduce citizens’ time, cost and number of visits to government offices
- Public private partnerships at the national level and at the grassroots to decentralize and aggregate scores of public and private services from one-stop Digital Centres serving millions.
- Many of these achievements were recognized through prestigious World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) awards given to Bangladesh in consecutive years of 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017.
a2i shares the insights gained from its work since 2007 within the international community and has formed South-South Cooperation arrangements with several countries. Reputed local and international researchers are publishing impact studies as well as documentation of methodologies of how this government-wide and country-wide transformation is being orchestrated. Sharing events take place in the form of policy dialogues in Bangladesh and other countries, knowledge-sharing expositions and knowledge products in text, infographics and audio-visual format being disseminated through the internet and social media. A High-level side event on ‘South-South and Triangular Cooperation on Scaling Up Innovations in Public Service Delivery’ is chaired by the Hon’ble Prime Minister of Bangladesh alongside the UN General Assembly in September 2016.
A ‘South-South Network on Scaling Up Innovations in Public Service Delivery’ is being considered amongst the relevant countries. The network would undertake the identification of good practices in public service delivery innovations and facilitate sharing of such knowledge with a view to scaling up these innovations in the South. The countries in the North may bring in the wealth of their experiences for knowledge sharing, and may provide support to the network.
Fiji wants to track services provided by the relevant Government stakeholders, and the Ministry of Women, Children and Poverty Alleviation from end-to-end in Fiji during outreach activities undertaken through the REACH Project under the UNDP Pacific Office. Bangladesh would export advisory and IT services to develop such a tracker based on its experience of operating the Digital Centre Management System.
Bhutan was the 2nd SAARC nation to partner with a2i for knowledge exchange on the ingredients of the innovation ecosystem that Bangladesh has already put in place for effective government innovation to prosper. They also wanted to learn more on how Bangladesh is doing e-payments and e-health, and use that knowledge to develop such strategies for Bhutan.
Taking inspiration from Bangladesh, ‘a2i Maldives’ was created in September 2015. Digital Rural Centres are being developed for improved service delivery in the archipelago nation while digital education technology being introduced in the classrooms. Service Process Simplification methodology being customized and innovation teams developed for change management and a culture of innovation for the Civil Service of Maldives.
A project has been commissioned for the Election Commission of Nepal (ECN) by UNDP to implement a comprehensive voter registration system for Democratic Republic of Nepal. This system can retain the records of approximately 11 million voters in Nepal. Now voter registration is done at central, district and ward levels using this system.
Microfin360, a Micro-Finance Management Software, has been exported by a local leading software product and services company to Kenya, Cambodia, Uganda and Indonesia that can help the Microfinance Institutes, NGO’s and Cooperative Societies in those countries to automate their work-flow.
Events and Publication
United Nations General Assembly (UNGA)
In the 72nd regular session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) at UN Headquarters in New York, a remarkable side event was hosted by the Permanent Mission of Bangladesh in partnership with the UN Development Programme (UNDP) and the UN Office on South-South Cooperation (UN-OSSC) titled “SDG Implementation, Financing and Monitoring: Sharing Innovations through South-South and Triangular Cooperation” designed to make progress towards actualizing the proposed South-South Network for Public Service Innovations. Here, the Bangladesh HPM Sheikh Hasina has launched “SDG Tracker” and a publication titled “South-South Cooperation in Action”.
a2i, with important wings of the Bangladesh government, has developed “SDG Tracker” as a measurement and analytics platform to have a comprehensive SDG monitoring framework that can facilitate the regular monitoring and evaluation of development interventions and feed inputs for further fine-tuning.
South South in Action
“South-South in Action: Citizen-Friendly Public Service Innovation in Bangladesh” is an exemplary publication that captures many case studies of South-South Cooperation in Bangladesh and is specifically targeted toward Southern countries who may benefit from these experiences. It also features a framework for South-South Cooperation that has wider implications for Southern partners.
UN Social Impact Fund
The UN Social Impact Fund (UNSIF) is a growth capital platform where innovators, entrepreneurs and blended financing combine to create economic, environmental and social dividends. The UNSIF finds merit in innovation models in Bangladesh to consider financing for achieving SDGs agenda.
a2i blog page hosts international blog posts published in networks like the Wall Street Journal, the International Policy Digest, the GovInsider, the World Bank Blog, the Huffington Post, the APNIC Blog and the LSE Blog. The issues for such posts include a2i’s various initiatives that can help achieve the Digital Bangladesh vision of the government and the Agenda2030.
In the 71st regular session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) at UN Headquarters in New York, the Bangladeshi HPM Sheikh Hasina proposed for a collaborative south-south and triangular cooperation network of public organizations focused on empowering southern countries to identify vital innovations and scale novel solutions to public service challenges.
Global South-South Development Expo (GSSD Expo)
GSSD Expo, the only Expo offered by the United Nations system solely for the Global South, was held in 2016 at Dubai, UAE. In a side-event on South-South and Triangular Cooperation for Scaling Up Innovation in Public Service Delivery, a2i shared the Bangladesh experience in digitization of service delivery, user-centric methodologies, and experimentation in civil service.
A workshop titled “Fast-tracking Poverty Eradication and SDGs through the Data Revolution” was held in New York, USA on 10-19 July 2017, on the sideline of the High-Level Political Forum 2017. Here, Bangladesh’s experience with Open Government Data and a constituency-based development monitoring system came up. Bangladesh hosted another side event titled “Reaching the SDGs by means of the Private Sector: How governments can foster private sector contributions to the 2030 Agenda”.
A Technical Workshop on South-South and Triangular Cooperation for Sustainable Development was held in Maputo, Republic of Mozambique, on 26 and 27 August 2017, on the sidelines of the TICAD Ministerial Meeting. a2i got to share its lessons and best practices in innovation in service delivery and South-South Cooperation.
The first in the series of capacity building workshops conducted by the UNOSSC was conducted in Cotonou, Republic of Benin from 21-23 February 2017. Purpose was to share institutionalization and practices in South-South Cooperation. Here, a2i again got to present its experience of catalyzing innovation in service delivery in a whole-of-society approach and emphasized the pre-/co-requisites toward a demand-driven SSTC framework.
a2i organizes policy dialogues on ‘South-South and Triangular Cooperation for Public Service Innovation’ targeting the Ambassadors, Deputy Ambassadors and Honorary Consuls of different countries. The objective is to share with them the achievements of Digital Bangladesh vision and lessons learned while doing so. This helps explore bilateral and multilateral collaboration opportunities, both public-public and public-private.