Anda di halaman 1dari 25

eGOVERNANCE FOR DEVELOPMENT:

BANGLADESH PERSPECTIVES
Iqbal MAHMOOD
*
- Ashfaqul I. BABOOL
*

Abstract
Globally, Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) have emerged as a
way to address some of the issues of non-transparency in administration,
inefficiency in service delivery and absence of wider public participation in policy
making. Indeed, eGovernance through ICTs such as mobile phones, TV and radio
which are already in the hands of millions, and computers and internet, the spread of
which is increasing rapidly, are ensuring citizens right to information, and bringing
unprecedented efficiency, transparency and accountability to the government
administration in developing countries including Bangladesh.
The Government of Bangladesh has found ICTs as a cost effective way to bring
changes to administrative automation and public service delivery. In this country,
mobile based utility bill payment system, phone and web assisted communication to
ascertain market prices, computer assisted primary teacher recruitment, emergence
of telemedicine, TV and radio call-in policy debates are but a few demonstrations in
Bangladesh of the ways that ICTs have started to change how service delivery
happens in the country, how the government machinery makes decisions and how
citizens participate in policy making functions. The government offices are also
increasingly using computers, emails, audio and video conferencing to increase their
administrative efficiency and reduce associated costs. ICTs are thus being positioned
as a non-threatening way to provoke reform in the government and many service
delivery sectors.
As the financial barrier to ICTs is much lower than many other modern
technologies, and as the future of human society is inextricably linked with ICTs, the
Government of Bangladesh along with its private partners, NGOs as well as
development agencies is coming to realize that Bangladesh as a country must
embrace ICTs as a matter of policy and set an aggressive strategy to make up for the
current lag and leapfrog into the ranks of top ICT-ready countries. There is also an
obvious and visible shift in the countrys development strategies as a whole.
Keywords: eGoverence, ICT, Bangladesh.








































*
Ministry of Establishment, Government of Peoples Republic of Bangladesh
Dhaka/Bangladesh; Iqbalm404@hotmail.com; b_ashfaque@hotmail.com
384 eGOVsharE 2009
1. INTRODUCTION
In Bangladesh, eGovernance is vital not only for establishing a democratic and
transparent government but also for fighting against poverty and acting as a cross-
cutting enabler for interventions geared towards attainment of all of the millennium
goals. It is also necessary for ensuring government accountability, decentralization
and providing effective and efficient service delivery to citizens. If bidirectional
information flow between citizens and government is effectively established,
eGovernance provides the power of consensus building within a society, thus
providing a voice for the poor and disadvantaged groups to contribute to policy
building and implementation.
Globally, information and communication technologies (ICTs) have emerged as
a way to address some of the issues of non-transparency in administration,
inefficiency in service delivery and absence of wider public participation in policy
making. Indeed, ICTs such as mobile phones, TV and radio which are already in
the hands of millions, and computers and internet, the spread of which is
increasing rapidly, are ensuring citizens right to information, and bringing
unprecedented efficiency, transparency and accountability to the government
administration in all developing countries, Bangladesh being no exception.
The Government of Bangladesh has found ICTs as a cost-effective way to
bring changes to administrative automation and public service delivery. In this
country, mobile based utility bill payment system, phone and web-assisted
communication to ascertain market prices, computer-assisted primary teacher
recruitment, emergence of telemedicine, TV and radio call-in policy debates are but
a few demonstrations in Bangladesh of the ways that ICTs have started to change
how service delivery happens in the country, how the government machinery
makes decisions and how citizens participate in policy making. The government
offices are also increasingly using computers, e-mails, audio and video conferencing
to increase their administrative efficiency and reduce associated costs. ICTs are
thus being positioned as a non-threatening way to provoke reform in the
government and many service delivery sectors.
2. CURRENT SCENARIO: SERVICE DELIVERY
Government exists to execute authority and function to make and the power to
enforce laws, regulations, or rules with the ultimate objective is to serve the citizen.
The key objective of eGovernance/Services is to leverage technology to ensure
delivery of such services to those who are the least served.
Unlike most developed countries, government is the key provider of citizen
services and public information in Bangladesh. It is therefore the governments
prime responsibility to ensure delivery of these services effectively and efficiently.
Leverage of ICT enables government to do just that. Following are a few of the
recent examples of public services which are being delivered using ICTs.
eGovernance for Development: Bangladesh Perspectives 385
2.1. Secretaries' eGovernance Quick Wins
Towards the middle of 2008, through joint coordination of the Prime Minister
Office (then Chief Advisers Office and the office of the head of government),
Cabinet Division (the centre of bureaucracy) and the Ministry of Establishment
(the ministry that is responsible for human resource management of the
administrative cadre of the government), each of the 53 Secretaries of the
Government of Bangladesh identified one service to be delivered electronically.
These initiatives, collectively called the eGovernanceQuick Wins', were meant to
quickly showcase the impact of the newly engineered service delivery mechanism to
the citizens, receive their feedback and allow government the necessary preparation
time for nationwide implementation. 17 of these quick wins have already been
launched while the rest are in progress. Below are a few examples of those Quick-
Wins.
A. Union Information and Service Centres
Union Parishads are the lowest unit of Local Government. The offices of
Union Parishad are where rural citizens go for any kind of information and advice.
In order to provide livelihood information at the community level, the UISCs were
set up at the offices of Union Parishad. Following the successful model of a UNDP
funded pilot Community Electronic Centre (CeC) project, these UISCs are built
using a PPPP (Public, Private, People Partnership) model.
B. SMS-Based Utility Bill Payment
This has already enabled citizens to pay gas, electricity and land phone bills
through mobile phones. Customers can go to thousands of private sector outlets or
bill-pay centres to pay their utility bills and receive SMS acknowledgement instantly.
This reduces the cost, time and hassle for citizens and increases revenue for the
public sector by ensuring timely bill payment.
C. Dhaka City Corporation Call Centre
The DCC Call Centre is not only able to answer citizens critical questions but
also take down their complaints. The call centre can be accessed by citizens
through mobile phones, SMS, email and web sites.
The benefits for such a call centre for citizens will be:
a. more responsive, hassle-free information delivery to citizens on demand;
b. cost-effective mechanism for both citizens and the government;
c. increased transparency and accountability of the government to the citizens;
and
d. higher efficiency and more informed prioritization of redressing citizens
grievances.
386 eGOVsharE 2009
D. Personal Data Sheet
Government officers now use the software personal data sheet (PDS) to access
personnel information from anywhere in the country over the web established by
the Ministry of Establishment. This allows 90% of the officers who are not located
in the capital city to access vital professional information. In future, this system will
have performance based information to which they currently have access only
through physical visits to concerned government departments. This system should
signify a marked change in the way confidential information is handled within the
government.
2.2. District Commissioners' Quick Wins
Similar to the Quick Wins identified by the Secretaries, the district
administrators (called Deputy Commissioners or DCs) of all 64 districts of the
country went through a participatory and collaborative process at the Prime
Ministers Office to identify one critical service delivery area to be improved
through the use of ICTs. They include vital services such as land administration,
issuing and renewal of passports and gun licenses, tax collection, monitoring of
educational institutions under the DCs jurisdiction, among many others. The
completion target for many of these district level Quick Wins is end 2009.
2.3. Web Based Services
A. National Web Portal
The National Web Portal (www.bangladesh.gov.bd) is a citizen-centric gateway
for all government information and services that can be accessed electronically. The
website is positioned as the online one-stop shop for all government eServices and
is providing information on the most popular citizen services, the basic information
of the structure of Bangladesh Government, current news, upcoming events and
other important information and links to all government ministries, divisions and
departments.
B. Single Website with Downloadable Forms
This website (www.forms.gov.bd) reduces time and cost to access forms from
many different organs of the government. Various government and non-
government organizations are already using this site from around the country.
C. Web-enabled Personal Management System
This system, initially developed for the Ministry of Establishment, is gaining
momentum for adoption in several other ministries and directorates including the
Cabinet Division, Ministry of Education, Planning Commission, among other.

eGovernance for Development: Bangladesh Perspectives 387
3. CURRENT SCENARIO: KEY SERVICE SECTORS
Agriculture, health and education are the three most citizen-centric sectors of
Bangladesh. Enhancement of these sectors is vital for the economic and social
growth of the country. In the recent days, there have been quite a few ICT4D
initiatives in these three sectors both by the government and the private sector. A
few examples of those initiatives are given below:
3.1. Agriculture
The Government of Bangladesh recognizes ICT as an indispensable tool in the
fight against poverty. Consequently, it is also understood that ICT can enhance the
contribution to agriculture and rural development tremendously. eKrishi
(eAgriculture) promotes a multi-stakeholder, people-centric, cross-sectoral platform
that will bring together all stakeholders, especially farmers and enable them to
access timely and relevant information, exchange opinions, experiences, good
practices and resources related to agriculture.
eKrishi focuses on leveraging easily accessible ICTs including mobile phones,
radio, TV etc. for information dissemination. With the aim of improving
communication and learning processes between various actors, eKrishi promotes
the integration of technology with multimedia, knowledge and culture. Facilitation,
support of standards and norms, technical assistance, capacity building, education,
and extension are all key components of eKrishi. In addition to introducing new
technologies, eKrishi tends to improve the effectiveness of traditional
communication channels and existing communication practices. Some of the
eKrishi initiatives are below.
A. Agricultural Radio and TV Shows
The government-owned Bangladesh Television has been telecasting an
agricultural TV show called Mati-o-Manush for over 30 years now. This is the
oldest form of information dissemination through an electronic means. This is one
of the most watched shows by the rural farmers and has recently been replicated by
private TV channels. Currently, there is a Radio show called Krishi Dibanishi in
which the farmers call in to have their agriculture related questions answered. This
shows has also gained a lot of popularity.
B. Department of Agriculture Marketing Website
The Department of Agriculture Marketing (DAM) website provides commodity
price information with the aim to involve all agriculture stakeholders, especially
farmers in the decision making process. The database provides wholesale and retail
prices of around 200 commodities from 30 of the 64 districts. The price
information is collected daily and sent to the DAM headquarters in Dhaka through
email.
388 eGOVsharE 2009
C. Soil and Land Resource Information System
The Soil and Land Resource Information System (SOLARIS) under Sugarcane
Research and Development Institute is a 2 GB data repository that stores soil data
using primary information from Upazila Nirdeshika from 460 districts. A
customized GIS software SOLARIS-GIS maps soil data based on classification(Soil
Texture, Landtype, Landform, Drainage, Slope, Surface Water Recession) and
condition (Crop Suitability, Land Zoning, Nutrient Status and Fertilizer
Recommendation).
D. Department of Agricultural Extension Website
In order to develop and strengthen the ICT department of DAE, the
government has initiated a project called The ICT Development of DAE. The
DAE website is one of the key components of the project. This website stores and
disseminates field level information from and through extension workers.
E. Agriculture Information and Communication Centre
Ten of the Agriculture Information and Communication Centres (AICCs) are
being set up leveraging the existing infrastructure of farmers field schools, farmers
clubs and other community centres. These centres will be functioning as one-stop
shops for farmers for all agriculture related information and services including
market information, soil testing, crop diagnostic services, etc.
F. Fisheries Information and Communication Centre
These centres will be very similar to the AICCs, but more focused on fulfilling
the farmers fisheries related information needs. The Department of Fisheries holds
a wealth of information related to fish culture, their diseases and remedies, etc. The
existing field workers are hardly enough for disseminating the information
efficiently. The FICCs are hoped to mitigate this issue and improve the efficiency
of information delivery.
G. Krishi Alaponi
Krishi alaponi is a call-in TV show for farmers in which they will be able to call
directly to have their agriculture related questions answered and/or participate in
agricultural policy debates, budget discussions etc. This will be done in
collaboration with Ministry of Agriculture and a private mobile operator in
Bangladesh.
3.2. Health
The Government of Bangladesh has been pursuing for a health system that
ensures provision of basic health services to the entire population. The use of ICTs
in health sector will help in maximum utilization of communication channels and
eGovernance for Development: Bangladesh Perspectives 389
enhancing the existing services within the present resource allocation since it will
reduce the waste in different fields. Data will be generated from all points of
services to be available for use. Eventually people will have more access to
information than ever before and an effective networking will be established. This
flow of information will help to remove the misconceptions of health consumers,
those who are now mostly in the dark due to the unavailability of adequate
information and communication with the service providers. Some of the notable
eHealth initiatives are below.
A. Oral Rehydration Therapy
Oral Rehydration Therapy (ORT) started a Labon gur Sharbat(a home
remedy for diarrhea) campaign through mass media, which was carried out
extensively by BRAC, the largest NGO in Bangladesh. Mass media campaign also
played a crucial role in popularizing this cheap and effective home remedy. Special
initiatives like School ORT program was also carried out.
B. Tele Counseling
Social Marketing Company (SMC) initiated a tele-counseling program named
Tele-Jiggasha on reproductive health, family planning and STI/HIV/AIDS in
the year 2001. It started with a mission of increasing access to information and
personal counseling through telephone hotline with assurance of confidentiality.
Separate numbers were dedicated for male and female callers. Male and female
counselors replied to the queries of the callers. There also existed a mechanism for
referral for required health care services.
C. Electronic Immunization Registry
In 2001, a new computerised information system to register, schedule and track
immunisation of children was introduced by the Department of Public Health in
Rajshahi City Corporation, Bangladesh. On a daily basis, the system uploads new
entries from Rajshahi City Corporation's electronic birth registration system. For
each new-born, a schedule of immunisation is created and printed, then given to
the parents after registration of their baby's birth, attached to the child's birth
registration ticket.
D. Health Line and Telemedicine
Health Line, the medical advice and consultation service of GrameenPhone was
launched in October, 2007. Apart from the core medical consultation services, the
caller of789 through GrameenPhone are also able to get additional medical
information services; they can avail doctor and medical facility information, drug
information, interpretation of laboratory test reports and data, and emergency
support information as supplementary services. Currently, there are other mobile
operators who have also started offering telemedicine services.
390 eGOVsharE 2009
E. Internet Connectivity at Upazilla Health Complex
All upazilla health complexes of Bangladesh have recently been connected to
the internet. This enables them to communicate with the central offices at ease and
provide services to the patients more efficiently. The physicians of these upazilla
health complexes are also equipped with cell phones for remote consultations.
Some of these centres also have tele-conferencing facility with which, they are able
to communicate with the highest authorities of the Ministry of Health.
F. Health Alert through ICT
The government of Bangladesh has effectively used ICT during the outbreak of
Bird flue in the recent times. People were informed about the situation and advised
what to do. Steps taken by the Government to prevent the spread were shown on
the electronic media. This is an excellent example of handling emergency efficiently
through the use of ICT.
Other seasonal health alerts and messages on preventive measures are also sent
to customers of mobile phones through SMS. Some of these messages are sent in
Bangla for the non-English speaking customers.
3.3. Education
To address the challenges of the 21st century where a labourer from Bangladesh
competes with one from Sri Lanka for a job in Malaysia, our countrys education
system must re-invent itself to produce 21st century skills and 21st century
confidence. The curriculum must incorporate material to develop the requisite
skills; the teaching methods must embrace collaboration and creative problem
solving for the locality; the system of assessment must measure whether the
children are growing up to be good citizens and how much they can really
contribute to nation building; and, most importantly, the educational governance
must make sure the curriculum, teaching, and assessment deliver results that move
the nation forward.
Not only the developed countries, but also the developing nations including
Bangladesh are making increasing use of ICT to offer better services to the people
and to ensure accountability and transparency. The use of ICT in all of its
conceivable and readily available forms can enable us to achieve successes in the
area of education.
A. Electronic Publication of Exam Results
The two major state certification exam results (SSC and HSC) are now
published electronically. Previously, the procedure of viewing a students result was
rather cumbersome which involved standing in long lines and flocking at the
schools. With the new system, the students can receive their exam results through
email or can view it via web or mobile.
eGovernance for Development: Bangladesh Perspectives 391
G. GIS-Based Education Planning
This Geographic Information System (GIS) map-based software by BANBEIS
is a powerful planning tool for the policy makers. It quickly helps identify areas for
intervention based on priority criteria such as underserved status, poor teacher
training, lacking or disaster-affected infrastructure, and other critical educational
issues.
H. Digital Content for Education
Many of the NGOs of the country including BRAC, which has an extensive
network of schools in the country, have started producing audio-visual content for
teacher training and students. Although in its infancy at the moment, the digital
content for education is being planned as a significant thrust area of the country at
the moment with many public-private partnership efforts developing. Thousands
of schools are being equipped with modest computers laboratories, internet
connection is spreading quickly to secondary educational institutions and digital
content is increasingly being used to improve the quality of science, mathematics
and English education in secondary schools.
3.4. ICT as Business Sector
A. Bangladesh Software and IT Industry
Though the current size of Bangladesh IT Industry and software/ITES industry
in particular is still lot smaller compared to the overall economy and the number of
population (over 140 million), over the last few years the industry has grown
considerably and is expected to grow at that rate for some time. It is estimated that
during the last five years the average yearly growth rate of software & ITES
industry has been over 40%. The growth has been driven by both good export
trends in recent years as well as the growing IT automation demand in domestic
market (local demand has been led by large automation projects by telecom,
banking and export oriented garments/textile industry). Currently there are over
four hundred (400+) registered software and IT-enabled services (ITES)
companies in the country employing over 12,000 ICT professionals. Software and
ITES account for around 39% of the total IT market (excluding telecom) that is
estimated to be over 300 million US dollars.
392 eGOVsharE 2009

(Source: BASIS Survey)
Figure 1. Total IT Market in Bangladesh (Excluding Telecom Service)
B. Current International Market and its Potential
Over hundred (100+) among the four hundred software/ITES companies in
the country are exporting to over 30 countries worldwide. Though a majority of the
companies are exporting in the North American Market (mainly USA), during the
recent times there have been encouraging performance by a good number of
companies in European and East Asian (mainly Japan) market. Among the
hundred export focused companies, at least 30 companies have been set up either
as joint venture (between foreign and local entrepreneur) or as ODC (offshore
development centre) with hundred percent foreign investment. Most of these joint
venture/ODCs have actually been set up during last couple of years. During last
five years, the average export growth rate of software and ITES service has been
61.2 %.
eGovernance for Development: Bangladesh Perspectives 393

(Source: Export Promotion Bureau)
Figure 2. Export of Software and ITES From Bangladesh During Last 5 Years
(Mill US Dollar)
To meet the high quality standard of offshore jobs and to comply with the
expectation of overseas clients, the companies in Bangladesh are rightly focusing
on putting in place global standard practices and processes. Over twenty companies
have already got ISO certification. A number of companies are in the process of
acquitting CMMi certification and by 2008 at least six companies are going to get to
Level 3 in CMMi.
a. European Union has recently identified Bangladesh as one of the best 20
outsourcing countries for EU market;
b. In 2006, Goldman Sachs Group has included it in a list of 11 developing
countries that, according to its analysts, have the greatest potential to
emulate the long-term economic success expected from China, India, Brazil
and Russia.
C. Environment and Capacity of ICT in Bangladesh
Bangladesh is a country of over 140 million people. A significant portion of the
population belongs to the young age group (16-35). The people are intrinsically
creative, hard working, willing to learn and passionate about their job. Over 10
million professionals and migrant workers working outside the country is a
testimony for that. So, human resource is considered to be the main resource of
Bangladesh.
394 eGOVsharE 2009
For a country to excel in a knowledge based service industry like software and
ITES, this people strength is the cornerstone of Bangladesh ICT capacity. During
recent years, considering the importance of availability of good quality of
institutional capacity for training the human resources, both the government and
private sector have invested in building the required education infrastructure for
training in ICT related programs. Currently, there are over one hundred
Universities, Colleges and Institutes offering graduate/engineering degree (4 year
program) and post-graduate degrees. These are producing over 5,500
graduates/engineers every year in ICT subjects. Out of that number, around 2,500
are computer science graduates or software engineers. Apart from the
Universities/Colleges/ Institutes offering graduate level program in ICT, there are
several hundred centers across the country offering shorter duration courses
(two/one year/six month diploma or certificate courses) in different IT skills.
These centres play important roles in producing large numbers of IT workforce
who are mainly employed in different ITES sectors (e.g. graphic design, DTP,
engineering drawing, web design/publishing, network maintenance etc.)
a. Number of Universities (Public & Private) offering IT Programs: 60+
b. Number of Colleges/Institutes offering Graduate/Engineering program in
IT: 40+
c. Number of Institutes/Centres offering Diploma or vocational programs in
IT: 300+
Table 1: Number of ICT Graduate/ Engineers
Graduates/ Engineers
Total number available in
the country
Yearly Production of
Graduates/Engineers
Computer Science Graduates/
Software Engineers
15,000 2,500
ICT Graduates/ ICT Related
Engineers
40,000 5,500
Source: BASIS Survey
Table 2: Number of ITES Workforce in the Country in Selected ITES Areas
Graphics (2D&3D) & Animation, Web Design 12,000+
New Media: Prepress DTP, Web publishing 8,000+
CAD (Architecture, Mechanical, Construction) 5,000+

eGovernance for Development: Bangladesh Perspectives 395
D. Human Resource Development Activities
The key issue for the software industry in any country in order to successfully
cater to the growing outsourcing requirement of international clients from all over
the world is the availability of high quality software professionals at different stages
(software engineers, project managers, technical leaders, etc.). BASIS gives high
importance on theHuman Resource aspect for the industry. BASIS, with the
partnership of academia and government agencies has taken a strategic approach to
address the issue in the best possible way. The objective of this approach is to
make high quality software HR pool available in the country that can support the
sustainable growth of the industry, particularly with respect to offshore software
outsourcing jobs.
The three-tier approach by BASIS to ensure high quality HR available for the
software outsourcing industry is the following:
a. IT career awareness building with the objective of attracting higher number
of young talents from across the country to ICT fields. This is targeted to
increase the number of enrollment in different ICT subjects offered by the
Universities and ICT institutes.
b. Programs targeted for fresh IT graduates to make themsoftware industry
ready. These programs have the objective of bridging the gap between the
acquired skills of fresh IT graduates and expected skill in the real industry.
Some of the programs and initiatives that are currently coordinated by
BASIS are:
i. Working closely with the University and other IT institutes for academic
curriculum update/modification according to recent industry needs;
ii. Working with the Universities and related government agencies for
development of a common skill assessment framework of the fresh IT
graduates;
iii. Conducting focused skill enhancement programs for the fresh graduates
andentry level software professionals working in the industry;
iv. Internship programs participated by BASIS member companies and
supported by Ministry of Science, Information and Communication
Technology
c. Higher Excellence Program for senior level software professionals of BASIS
member companies. As a part of these programs BASIS has been organizing
series of training programs (workshops, seminars etc.) conducted by local
and international industry experts in areas like software project management,
software architecture & design, testing & QA, CMMi etc. The main
objective of these programs are to orient the existing professionals with the
most advanced global industry trends, standards and practices so that they
can be introduced in the local companies with the goal of achieving
excellence and becoming internationally competitive.
396 eGOVsharE 2009
E. ICT Infrastructure
One of the very important factors for the significant growth in the overall IT
sector during the recent time has been the phenomenal investment (both from the
government and private sector) in the telecom and related ICT infrastructure in the
country over recent years.
Bangladesh is currently hooked up with SEA-ME-WEA 4 submarine cable for
international connectivity (with 10 Gb capacity- expandable to 80 Gb) through
Internet (All the Internet Service Providers have VSAT backup for redundancy).
Currently, all the major cities within the country are connected through high speed
fiber optic backbone. All parts of the country are accessible though Internet
provided by thelast mile connectivity through wireless (GPRS/Edge or Wi-Max
technology). Thanks to over 100% yearly growth in mobile penetration for last five
years, the country has currently nearly 50 million mobile phone users (93 coverage
in terms of geographical area and 33% of the total population).
F. Government Policy Support
The Government of Bangladesh provides good policy support for growth of
software and ITES sector, particularly with a view to promote the export of the
services. In the recent National Export Policy (2006-9), the Government has
declared Software as one of the sixhigh priority export sectors for the economy.
Here are some of the government policy supports for the industry.
a. Tax Holiday: The corporate income tax for the software business has been
kept completely tax free.
b. Investment & Financing Support: In the 2009-2010 budget, the government
has allocated Tk. 200 crore as equity financing support for the local software
and ITES companies. The Export Promotion Bureau (EPB) also provides
working capital loan to software exporting companies against export orders
at a very concessional rate. To attract foreign investment in the sector, the
government has allowed 100% ownership in the sector and full profit
repatriation for the investors.
c. Low or Zero Tariff for Capital Goods/Computers for the Software
Industry: Since 1996, Government has been allowing zero/low tariff for
computers and other capital goods required for software industry.
d. ICT Internship: Government provides financial support (60% of the
salary/allowance cost) for recruiting interns (fresh graduates) by any
software companies. For this program which started in 2005, Government
has allocated budget for 1,000 interns for every year.
e. ICT Park and ICT Incubator: Government has recently started a mega
project for establishing a high tech park (IT Park) right outside the capital
city. When completed, it is expected to provide world class facilities
eGovernance for Development: Bangladesh Perspectives 397
(available in any reputed IT park in other countries) to the local and foreign
IT companies. Government is also providing incubation support to smaller
companies by providing infrastructural facilities.
4. CURRENT SCENARIO: LEGAL AND POLICY ENVIRONMENT
Several legal and policy developments have established a platform for
eGovernance in Bangladesh to move forward. The National ICT Policy 2009, the
ICT Act 2009, the Right to Information Act all these were major milestones for
Bangladesh to cross to take the country to the next phase of eGovernance and
eService delivery.
4.1. National ICT Policy 2009
The revised ICT Policy 2009 has incorporated new policy directions in line with
the ever changing technological advancements in this area. The most remarkable
changes that have been made in the revised National ICT Policy 2009 are (1) a
methodical framework of the policy document and (2) inclusion of planned action
items in conformity with policies and strategies. There is also 306 action items
under the below 10 objectives: Social Equity, Productivity, Integrity,
Education and Research, Employment Generation, Strengthening of Exports,
Healthcare, Universal Access, Environment, Climate & Disaster Management,
and Supports to ICTs.
The 306 action items included in the policy have been divided as short-term (18
months), medium-term (5 years) and long-term (10 years) actions to be taken by
the government, academia, private sector and the NGO sector of the country.
These action items are providing clear directions for all ministries, division and
directorates of the government to embark on specific tasks to implement the
policy.
4.2. ICT Act 2009
The ICT Act 2009, passed in the Parliament, will allow online financial
transactions, digital signatures, dispute resolution for electronic transactions, and
law against cyber crime, among others. The passing of this act was made possible
through facilitating the legal and logistical issues among the Ministry of Law, Justice
and Parliamentary Affairs, Ministry of Science and ICT and Bangladesh Computer
Council to establish the Controller of Certifying Authorities (CCA) within an
already existing organization thereby accelerating the pace of operationalizing the
Act greatly.
398 eGOVsharE 2009
4.3. Right to Information
Right to Information Act 2009 has been effected in Bangladesh on April, 2009.
According to the act, the government and other institutions using public funds will
have to provide people with necessary information within 20 days of applying for
it. If any official refuses to provide information, anybody can file appeals with the
National Information Commission. The official concerned, if found guilty, may be
penalized from 50 Taka for every day of delay, but the total sum shall not exceed
5,000 Taka.
Enactment of the Right to Information Act (RTI Act) is a landmark move
towards ensuring peoples access to information and it can also be utilized as a tool
of reducing poverty. Utilization of RTI law as a development tool can make sure
that people know all information about the development projects. They should
know about the funds and how the money is being spent during project
implementation.
The government is committed to implementing the Right to Information (RTI)
law, however challenging the task may be. A National Information Commission
with three commissioners has been formed to implement the act.
4.4. eGovernance Interoperability Framework
The government agencies must have interoperability standards to follow when
developing their databases, Management Information Systems (MIS), Websites and
Information Portals. The eGovernance Interoperability framework will help the
government agencies avoid situations where systems developed within the
government are mutually incompatible and hence inherently wasteful.
National Identities Registration Department (NIRD) has already started
working on formalizing several recommendations of the framework as part of its
work to establish the foundation for nation-wide eCitizen Services.
The Bangladesh eGovernance Interoperability Framework (BD-eGIF)
developed by the Prime Ministers Office specifies some technology standards that
should be used to achieve interoperability across government. The major
components of the BD-eGIF process are the following:
a. Policy & Scope: covers both the top level government policies and detail
technical policies with pragmatic scoping definitions.
b. Management Processes: covers Implementation support, working groups,
standards evolution process, change management, and similar issues.
c. Compliance Management: covers the verification and validation process for
the eGovernance Interoperability issues.
eGovernance for Development: Bangladesh Perspectives 399
4.5. National ID Database
The national voters database by the Election Commission Secretariat is one of
the largest personnel databases in the world containing over 80 million voters
information. This database will now be used to provide over 20 public services
including issuance of drivers license, passport, education certificate and delivery of
health services and other social safety network programs. This platform is also
forming one of the foundation elements for driving database and service
interoperability amongst the service delivery agencies of the government.
5. IN CHARGE OF eGOVERNANCE
Although currently there is no one institutional framework in place, the below
entities and organizations have been coordinating the countrys eGovernance
planning, strategy and activities.
5.1. National ICT Taskforce
Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Task Force had been
constituted with the Honorable Prime Minister as its convener and Secretary,
Planning Division as its member secretary to make decision on ICT related
activities. In the election manifesto Awami League affirmed to revive the ICT Task
Force formed during their last term and it is in the process of being reconstituted
as of August, 2009. The ICT taskforce may initiate the process of making the
national ICT roadmap. The first work of the revived task force would be to prepare
an eReadiness plan to asses the current ICT resources and skilled human resources
of Bangladesh. This may include assessing the current infrastructure, internet
accessibility, available skilled ICT professional, digitization level of the country and
others. After a good assessment, the job will be to identify the projects and
programs that need to be focused and consolidated at the national level, and all the
sectors, including public and private that need enhancement and development.
5.2. eGovernance Cell at Prime Minister's Office
In the World Summit on Information Society (WSIS), it was decided that a
knowledge-based society would be developed throughout the world by 2015, which
is in line with the government's decision of building a digital Bangladesh by 2021.
The government is now more prudent in taking steps towards their vision of
achieving a digital Bangladesh.
To transform the current government into an eGovernment, a separate body
had been established for policy formulation and coordination of the eGovernance
activities. Accordingly, the Government of Bangladesh had established an
eGovernance cell at the Prime Minister's Office in 2006. The cell is in charge of the
following activities:
400 eGOVsharE 2009
a. Preparation and implementation of eGovernance Vision, Strategic Goals
and Flagship Projects through a consultative process;
b. Development of an infrastructure strategy;
c. Development of a conducive, legal and regulatory framework;
d. Coordination and implementation of a Human Resource Plan
Launched in 2007, the Access to Information Programme (A2I), a UNDP-funded
umbrella initiative undertaken by the Government of Bangladesh at the eGovernance
Cell, Prime Ministers Office, is aimed at ensuring the appropriateness of new
initiatives and programmes for ICT for Development within the context of national
priorities. It assists the government to plan and coordinate the ongoing and future
activities across various ministries, divisions and agencies of the government to utilize
ICTs as a tool to a) make government services hassle-free, faster, cheaper, more
inclusive andat citizens doorsteps' and b) bring efficiency, effectiveness, transparency
and accountability to the administration.
5.3. Focal Point
Each ministry has an eGovernance Focal Point at the level of Joint or
Additional Secretary to coordinate their respective ministrys eGovernance related
activities. The Access to Information programme of the Prime Ministers Office
holds regular workshops and meetings with them for the purpose of sharing new
ideas, progress or addressing challenges. These interactions also induce healthy
competition amongst ministries and innovations.
5.4. Ministry of Science and ICT and Bangladesh Computer Council
The Ministry of Science and Information & Communication Technology
(MoSICT) is promoting Science and Technology as stewardship of positive change
in society and for balanced socio-economic enhancement and national well-being.
The main function of MoSICT is to support attainment of overall socio-economic
development of the country through research, development, extension and
successful utilization of science and technology including information and
communication technology.
Bangladesh Computer Council (BCC) is one of the key organizations under
MoSICT. The main objective of establishing BCC is to ensure the effective
application and expansion of the use of information technology. In view of this
BCC has been formulating appropriate policies and implementing them since its
inception.
eGovernance for Development: Bangladesh Perspectives 401
6. WAY FORWARD: DIGITAL BANGLADESH 2021
The current government of Bangladesh, which took office in January, 2009
following an unprecedented popular support in the December 2008 election, had
made eGovernance and eService delivery a central focus in its election manifesto
termedA Charter for Change'. In this charter, Digital Bangladesh is a central
feature of the vision 2021. The charter specifically mentionsAdministrative reform,
right to information and eGovernance will be introduced' thus linking
eGovernance to administrative reform, government accountability and
transparency, and efficient delivery of services and information to citizens. Of the
many priorities of Digital Bangladesh, computerization of land records, human
resource development for increased remittance, nurturing of the ICT sector for
massive increase in foreign earnings and employment are of particular note.
In the first 100 days of office, the government promulgated the ICT Act 2009
and Right to Information Act, passed the revised ICT Policy 2009 in the Cabinet.
However, translating many of the mandates of the current government into
practice requires setting up of strategies to ensure that service delivery is enhanced
and that people at large get the maximum benefits from Digital Bangladesh.
Discussions have been continuing with the senior policy makers and law makers to
ensure better service delivery at all levels.
In many ways,Digital Bangladesh is a reincarnation of the vision ofSonar
Bangla (Golden Bengal). Hence, it may be wise to keep it as an overarching
objective rather than a conclusive target. From this viewpoint, where it makes
sense, ICTs and new technologies need to be leveraged in all aspect of national
progress of a Digital Bangladesh. Some of the key areas in which ICT can be
leveraged immediately are outlined below.
6.1. Human Resource Development
Digital Bangladesh needs people who can take it forward and thrive in such a
country. This component is about the future of Digital Bangladesh and is a
precondition to propel the agenda to its final destination. Clearly, a student who
used ICT to learn will find it easier to use ICT to apply whatever s/he learned in
the Digital Bangladesh.
The key objective here is to make the best use of new technologies to build
world-class skills in all areas of study especially mathematics, science, and English
language. Taking advantage of newer and less costly delivery tools and digital
learning contents the aim will be to build the competencies needed to compete in
the globalized 21
st
century world.
6.2. Connecting to Citizens
Ensuring access to the Digital Bangladesh for all citizens, poor or rich, literate
or illiterate, urban or rural is another foundation stone of Digital Bangladesh. The
402 eGOVsharE 2009
key objective of this component is to find a sustainable channel so that people can
benefit from all that the Digital Bangladesh would offer in a manner that s/he
could easily use and afford.
More specifically, this component will deal with i) building awareness and
capacity of the communities to access public services leveraging ICTs, ii) issues
associated with local language content and locally relevant content, iii) innovative
access channels and platforms for common men/women, etc.
This component will also deal with establishing two-way channels to promote
participation of grassroots in policy discourse and provide feedbacks to the policy
makers on particular policy adjustments.
6.3. Digital Government for Pro-poor Services
The key objective of the eCitizen service sub-component is to ensure anytime,
anywhere services to anyone in need of such services at a cost that he/she can
afford and in a way that is transparent to all. The key outcome of this component is
to make sure that people, especially the poor and marginalized, get the most out of
public provisions of information and services.
Hence, the key deliverables of eCitizen Service initiative is innovative service
design and delivery channels that suits citizens lifestyle. In terms of specific
indicators, this would mean i) reduced number of interaction, especially face-to-
face interactions, between the service provider and recipient, ii) delivery in a speedy
and cost effective manner, iii) extended service availability (where possible 24x7
window), etc.
6.4. ICT in Business
This component will deal with three broad issues of Digital Bangladesh namely
i) access to market, ii) promotion of ICT business to support Digital Bangladesh
and iii) ICT as an export oriented sector.
Leveraging ICTs to promote access to markets by the disadvantaged producers
and businesses would be a prime objective of this component. By extension, this
also includes the issue of leveraging ICTs to maintain a socially responsible and
equitable market for all. The second sub-component would be the issue of
promotion of the ICT business. The basic objective would be to support the
industry so that it may provide the services and technology needed to sustain the
three other components of Digital Bangladesh. Fially, the third sub-component
involves promoting the ICT business sector to boost its potential for ICT export
and earn foreign currency. This may also involve providing the right springboard
required for the local companies to access the global market.
eGovernance for Development: Bangladesh Perspectives 403
7. CHALLENGES
7.1. Challenges in Public Service Delivery
Delivery of services to the citizens by the government is fraught with
inefficiencies and lack of transparency in a developing country like Bangladesh.
Other significant challenges that the Government of Bangladesh faces in delivering
services to the public include the following:
a. The current government service delivery channels find it very difficult to
reach transportation facilities.
b. Extreme poverty of the target population often makes them unable to reach
the government service centres.
c. Typical service delivery channels of the government are largely unable to
cater to the needs of persons with disabilities thereby leaving them outside
of the service delivery facilities.
d. As more and more government functions become decentralized, it becomes
increasingly difficult to monitor progress and guide implementation.
e. The government officials do not have enough incentives to excel in service
delivery. The accountability to citizens is largely absent in the current
structure of the Government of Bangladesh.
f. Through the traditional approaches, it is almost impossible to get feedback
from citizens on government's performance in service delivery.
7.2. Rewards for Service Delivery Innovation and Every Risk
It is clear from experiences in other similar countries and in Bangladesh that the
government needs to spur innovations in public service delivery to address the
problems mentioned above. However, in reality, the Government of Bangladesh
has no built-in mechanism to reward innovation in this regard. Innovations, if any,
have been typically driven by personal heroic efforts, many of which bring risks to
the harbinger of the change. This has deterred and discouraged many reform-
minded government officials to take initiative to improve the citizens' experience in
receiving services from the government.
Since innovations have often depended on personal interventions by senior
officials without full buy-in from the service delivery organizations, it has
traditionally been difficult to manage the process change necessary to sustain the
innovation. Thus, the innovations have not seen proper institutionalization and
have resulted in only temporary improvements.
7.3. Citizens' Demand for Improvement
Citizens in Bangladesh have become used to poor service quality after centuries
of facing poor quality. By and large, they are not aware that receiving services from
404 eGOVsharE 2009
the government in a timely fashion, with quality and at their doorsteps is a
constitutional right. Rather, most citizens are under the impression that services
from the government are a privilege delivered through patronage of the
establishment. This gives rise torent-seeking' behaviour within the government
service delivery machinery and creates otherwise unnecessary intermediaries.
7.4. Capacity of Government Officials for Quality Service Delivery
The other side of the coin is that government officials in most cases do not feel
accountability to the citizens. Citizen-centric governance is merely rhetoric in their
day to day functions. The government as a whole lacks adequate capacity to ensure
that services are delivered equitably, on time and with quality. The training
programmes emphasize rule-based operations of the government rather than
citizen-centric service delivery.
7.5. Difficulty in Changing Mindset
The biggest barrier to leveraging ICTs for public service delivery is the
government officials' willingness to consider alternatives to current service delivery
options. As there is little incentive to bringing true innovation to service delivery,
combined with the reality that officials may be penalized for breaching status quo,
large-scale change will still be difficult. However, theQuick Wins' push has created
widespread enthusiasm to experiment with alternative service delivery channels. It
is expected that the momentum created will see a fair amount of sustainability and
permanence in this direction.
7.6. Legal Barriers
There are still some legal barriers to using digital documents as legal paper. With
the enactment of the ICT Act 2009, digital signatures now have legal status in the
country resulting in the government's ability to accept electronic documents. This
will basically mean that the government can then accept electronic documents as
part of numerous types of applications from the citizens. The government can also
provide certificates, awards of tenders, notifications of various kinds to the citizens
without having the citizens physically visit a government office multiple times. This
will greatly reducerent-seeking' and wastage of time and money on parts of both
the government and citizens. However, the country is yet to establish the
Controller of Certifying Authorities (CCA) to operationalize the ICT Act and
enable the government institutions and the citizens to take advantage of digital
signatures.
7.7. Legislation for Electronic Fund Transfers
Legislation is necessary for small electronic fund transfers through mobile
phones to set up a truly legal basis for this mechanism. The absence of an
eGovernance for Development: Bangladesh Perspectives 405
electronic payment gateway today creates islands of payment mechanism within
each mobile phone operator.
8. CONCLUSION
Bangladesh has not been able to harness the power of ICTs for economic and
social gains to the extent that other countries of the world have. The promise of
ICTs has only become stronger with time and a future without ICTs in any part of
the world is unthinkable. As the financial barrier to ICTs is much lower than many
other modern technologies, and as the future of human society is inextricably
linked with ICTs, the Government of Bangladesh along with its private partners,
NGOs as well as development agencies is coming to realize that Bangladesh as a
country must embrace ICTs as a matter of policy and set an aggressive strategy to
make up for the current lag and leapfrog into the ranks of top ICT-ready countries.
There is also an obvious and visible shift in the countrys development strategies as
a whole.
Optimal resource utilization, certified skills development, efficient
communication and quality education delivery are some of the ways in which the
above goals can be realized within the specified timeframe by pushing the growth
rate to above 7.5% through extensive use of ICTs. By sustaining this level of
growth, the countrys GNP can be increased twenty-fold from the present level and
high-income status can be achieved within 30 years.
9. REFERENCES
[1] Election Manifesto of Bangladesh Awami League: A Charter for Change, December, 2008
[2] Digital Bangladesh: Draft Concept Note prepared by KAM Morshed (UNDP), Enamul
Kabir (BCC), Reza Selim (Amader Gram), Monirul Alam (ex-BTCL), May 11, 2009
[3] Digital Bangladesh Priorities presentation by Anir Chowdhury (A2I), KAM Morshed
(UNDP) to Renata Lok Dessallien and Sazeeb Wazed, April 12, 2009
[4] Digital Bangladesh Possibilities presentation by Anir Chowdhury (A2I), KAM Morshed
(UNDP) to UNDP Senior Management, January 12, 2009
[5] e-Vision 2021 Documents for e-Krishi, e-Shasthyo, e-Shikkha, e-Sthaniyo Sarkar and e-
Administration, developed by Access to Information Programme, Prime Ministers Office,
2008
[6] National ICT Policy 2009
[7] Broadband Policy 2008
[8] 50 Most Important Services and 50 Most Important Information Needs of Citizens: An e-
Government Assessment of Bangladesh, prepared by Development Research Network
(D.Net) with sponsorship from the World Bank, 2006
[9] Access to Information Quarterly Progress Reports 2007-2009, developed by Access to
Information Programme of the Prime Ministers Office
[10] E-Gif Interoperability Framework, developed by Access to Information Programme of the
Prime Ministers Office
[11] E-Citizen Services by Mobile Operators developed by Access to Information Programme of
the Prime Ministers Office
406 eGOVsharE 2009
[12] Public Service Delivery for Media developed by Access to Information Programme of the
Prime Ministers Office
[13] ICT Industry in Bangladesh, Developed by Fahim Mashroor, Bangladesh Association for
Software Information and Services (BASIS)
[14] A Strategy for Developing the Information Technology Enabled Services, developed by
International Trade Centre (ITC) and published by the European Commission (EC),
October 2008

eGovernance for Development: Bangladesh Perspectives 407