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In Bangladesh where red-tapism and speed money are deep-seated in public administration, e-Governance can bring about a positive change by putting an end to these bureaucratic tangles. E-Governance or electric governance refers to the delivery of government services through the application of information and communication technology (ICT). Bangladesh is one of the fastest-growing economies in the world with an approximate GDP growth rate of 8.1% and to sustain this growth, transforming the traditional governance structure into digital governance is imperative.[1]

E-Governance has the power to demolish the inertness of bureaucracy by reducing the use of paper in official work making public administration fast and effective. Moreover, e-services empowers citizens by saving a lot of time and money through the elimination of the middlemen. Introducing the National ICT Policy in 2009, Bangladesh envisioned to adopt e-Governance and translate the dream of Digital Bangladesh Vision 2021 into reality. Currently, the country is aiming to be the leader among the South-Asian countries in terms of digital governance development.

Global Status of Bangladesh’s e-Governance

Bangladesh has identified the necessity of digital government as a vital pillar to accomplish the Vision 2021 target and therefore, has taken multiple initiatives to digitize public services. It can be safely said that Bangladesh has made notable progress in developing digital governance as the country was promoted to the 115th rank in the United Nations e-Government Development Index (EGDI) in 2018 from 150th in 2016.[2]

EGDI is found by calculating the weighted average of three normalized scores on three vital components; (1) Online Service Index, (2) Human Capital Index and (3) Telecommunication Infrastructure Index. In 2018, Bangladesh’s weighted average was 0.4862, scoring 0.7847 in online service, 0.4763 in human capital and 0.1976 in telecommunication infrastructure index.[3]

The country had significantly improved in the Online Service Index primarily due to the application of ICT tools in developing different online service delivery systems. However, the Human Capital and Telecommunication Infrastructure need to be prioritized to obtain a higher score in the overall index.

Country EGDI Levels EGDI Rank EGDI Scores
Sri Lanka High 94th 0.5751
India High 96th 0.5669
Maldives High 97th 0.5615
Bangladesh Middle 115th 0.4862
Nepal Middle 117th 0.4748
Bhutan Middle 126th 0.4274
Pakistan Middle 148th 0.3566
Myanmar Middle 157th 0.3328

FIGURE: E-Governance Status of South Asian Countries / Source: United Nations E-Government Survey 2018

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Among the South Asian countries, Bangladesh is in fourth position after Sri Lanka with the highest rank (94th), followed by India (96th) and Maldives (97th). Nepal, Bhutan, Pakistan, and Myanmar were promoted from their previous positions securing 117th, 126th, 148th and 157th rank respectively.[3] This indicates that the neighboring countries are putting continuous efforts to upgrade their status of digital governance inclusion.

Ongoing Initiatives in Bangladesh

Some of the examples of available e-services in Bangladesh are publication of results of examinations, registration for admission to academic institutions, registration for pilgrimage, online banking, online tendering, online bill payments for utility service, digitizing voter registration system, online passport and visa application, e-passports and many more.

Considering the rising number of smartphone users in Bangladesh, a wide array of mobile applications have been developed by the National Apps Bangladesh but the effectiveness of these applications are yet to be assessed.

FIGURE: Smartphone Applications developed by the National Apps Bangladesh / Source: Android Playstore

Access to Information (a2i), a special program supported by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) under the ICT division, has been working to build a citizen-centric public service delivery system. Through its innovations in digital public services, the time to receive services has decreased by 65%, cost by 73% and number of visits by 51%.[4]

A2i has been working in five major fields to improve e-Governance in Bangladesh.

  • Service Process Simplification (SPS): a2i trained civil servants to apply SPS by optimizing end-to-end processes, minimizing the number of steps and making the services more easily accessible to citizens from a larger number of delivery points. This is intended to make the pension delivery system much simpler. The chart shows how the proposed pension system can reduce paperwork, minimize steps and save time.

    FIGURE: Existing and Proposed Primary Pension System / Source: Access to Information

     

  • Less Paper Office: a2i has implemented an e- Filing Solution titled “Nothi” for ensuring faster movement of files in government offices with a view to cutting red tape, improving service delivery and ensuring convenience for citizens.
  • Government Services Portal: “Shebakunja”, a service portal has been developed by a2i that comprises detailed information about citizen-centric services of various government organizations to help the service-seekers.

    FIGURE:  Shebakunja

  • Land Information Service: To reduce the hassle of land-related service-seekers, Land Information and Services Framework (LISF), a technical framework has been established by a2i to ensure that land records and related information can be easily accessed.
  • Government Forms Portal: The website, ‘Bangladesh Forms’ has been developed to convenience citizens that contains all sorts of downloadable Government Forms. The portal will eliminate the distress of collecting and submitting forms manually.

    FIGURE: Bangladesh Forms

Towards a Digital Bangladesh

Though Bangladesh has significantly progressed in adopting e-Governance over the past decade, there is still much scope for transforming the governance system digitally and three key constraints need to be overcome to accomplish this; Digital divide, lack of knowledge about e-services and lack of interoperability systems.

Digital divide can be bridged by mitigating the knowledge gap through conducting necessary and relevant ICT education programs. What is more concerning is that a big number of the internet users are unaware of the available e-services. Inclusive e-participation policy should be formulated to ensure delivery of these services.

Furthermore, a sound National Telecommunication Policy should be formulated and network interoperability systems should be built which will help expand the mobile financial transactions and other e-services.

The ICT Division in Bangladesh has recently undertaken the ‘E-government Master Plan’ in collaboration with Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA) and Bangladesh Computer Council (BCC). The successful implementation of the plan will stimulate the process of adopting e-Governance. Therefore, concentrated efforts should be put in place to ensure better delivery of public services and greater social inclusion, materializing the vision of Digital Bangladesh.

Ishrat Jahan Holy, Trainee Consultant at LightCastle Partners, has prepared the write-up. For further clarifications, contact here: [email protected]

References

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