The State of Governance in Bangladesh Report is an annual report of
the Institute of Governance Studies (IGS) of Brac University. This
report analyses governance in the country in sectors of topical
interest. In this year's report energy, food security, labour migration,
and e-government have been covered. The chapter on e-government looks
at initiatives by the government to leverage ICT under the banner of
In its election manifesto, the
incumbent Awami League government declared a desire to make Bangladesh
digital by 2021. The Digital Bangladesh (DB) vision is being developed
by the UNDP funded Access to Information (A2I) Programme and is based in
the Prime Minister's Office. The two key pillars of the DB vision --
connecting citizens and reaching pro-poor services to the citizens'
doorstep -- if successfully implemented will exemplify innovative and
pluralist service delivery models that cater to the poor.
The context of ICT in Bangladesh
has not kept up with ICT developments worldwide, and the overall ICT
infrastructure is woefully inadequate to support DB goals.
World Economic Forum-INSEAD prepared "Global Information Technology
Report (GITR) 2009-2010" reviewed Bangladesh's placement on three key
ICT indicators: (a) environment (infrastructure, market and political),
(b) readiness and (c) usage. Bangladesh ranks 118 out of 133 countries.
The country's overall low ranking highlights the urgent need for
improvements in areas such as (i) the regulatory framework, (ii)
developing human resource capacity, (iii) providing greater access and
increasing usage of ICT by citizens and (iv) investing in ICT
What is Digital Bangladesh (DB)?
the 2008 elections, the Awami League's election manifesto "Vision 2021
Bangladesh: A New Horizon" introduced the concept of "Digital
Bangladesh." The concept was also reiterated in the government's updated
manifesto (July 2009). The DB agenda is composed of four pillars that
outline key areas in which ICT can be utilised immediately:
-Human resource development
-Private sector (ICT in business)
The DB agenda is a long term-vision, which views ICT as an enabler for socio-economic and human development by 2021.
Digital Bangladesh and
the years, a number of definitions have conceptualised e-government.
However, this chapter bases its analyses on the one below from the World
Bank's E-government Handbook (2002, p.1) as it emphasises the core
principles of good governance: "The use of information and
communications technologies (ICT) to transform government by making it
more accessible, effective and accountable. E-government includes:
providing greater access to government information; promoting civic
engagement by enabling the public to interact with government officials;
making government more accountable by making its operations more
transparent and thus reducing the opportunities for corruption; and
providing development opportunities, especially benefiting rural and
traditionally underserved communities."
Overview of ICT laws
ICT Policy: Bangladesh introduced its first ICT Policy in 2002. Due to
weak implementation capacity, this policy was never fully realised.
Post-election, the government revived the ICT policy and legal framework
to enable their DB vision, and approved the new ICT Policy in 2009.
Act 2009: In addition to the ICT Policy 2009, the ICT Act 2009 was also
promulgated. This was almost exactly the same as the ICT Act 2006,
which was never adopted. The only change was an amendment to Clause 18,
which had stipulated that the Controller of Certifying Authority (CCA)
should be appointed within 90 days of the promulgation of the (2006)
Overview of institutions
multiple institutions implementing ICT-related policies and legislations
in Bangladesh. The findings reveal that the institutions responsible
for the oversight and nurturing of the ICT sector have limited
implementation capacity and unclear, sometimes overlapping, mandates
that severely weaken sectoral policy execution and programme
Improving the legal and
business process-engineering and adequate ICT infrastructure allowing
automation to make processes faster and more efficient for citizens.
adequate data privacy and security provisions that ensure the
confidentiality of sensitive personal information and prevent
unauthorised access to it.
-Provide a roadmap for ICT Policy
implementation. The ICT Policy 2009 has 306 action points, which seem
disjointed and are bound to experience challenges in its implementation.
-Implement the Right to Information Act 2009 to make the government more transparent and accountable to citizens.
restructuring, reforms and capacity building required to mainstream ICT
in the provision of government services to citizens.
initiative under the Access to Information Programme, the Union
Information and Service Centre (UISC), aims to achieve the two
citizen-centric pillars of the DB agenda -- (i) connecting citizens and
(ii) delivering services to the citizens' doorsteps. The centres are
housed at a publicly accessible location, e.g. a union parishad office,
and are run by a villager or local entrepreneur.
As a means of
start up funding, the A2I Programme provides additional hardware and
digital content. The UISC model is, however, not new in Bangladesh.
D.Net's Pallitathya Kendra (PK), i.e. village information centre, has a
similar model that has been implemented in selected rural areas.
to two UISCs in Sirajganj and Tangail districts and conversations with
local entrepreneurs, service users, the union parishad chairman and
staff were used to study the UISC model and explore whether they were
successful in using ICT tools to improve rural citizens' lives with
access to information. While UISCs are a useful approach to sensitise
rural people on what ICT can do for them, the current model does not
meet the primary objectives of facilitating access to information and
delivering pro-poor services.
The government's new regulatory and
institutional initiatives -- in particular passing the ICT Act 2009 and
establishing high level committees devoted to the proliferation of ICT
for development -- are positive. However, much depends on whether new
legislation is effectively implemented and whether these committees are
successful in mainstreaming ICT at both governmental and citizen access
The following are some recommendations:
institutional restructuring and process refoms: A centralised body must
be institutionalised that can coordinate with ministries and execute the
necessary reforms to make achievement of the citizen-centric pillars of
the DB vision a possibility.
-Strengthen the regulatory
framework: The ICT Act 2009 must be amended to provide adequate data
privacy and security provisions and the Right to Information Act 2009
must be put into action using enabling ICT tools, so that citizens can
access information quickly and effectively.
within the bureaucracy and depoliticise the agenda: The DB agenda is
being planned and implemented by the UNDP funded Access to Information
(A2I) Programme without building adequate ownership within the
bureaucracy. True political will from all political parties that is
sustained over many electoral cycles is required for ICT tools to
facilitate true empowerment.
-Bridge the digital divide through
greater community awareness and pro-poor service provision: UISCs as
they are currently designed and implemented have not been able to meet
the needs of the poor. Awareness raising and competitive pricing are
essential as people need to see a value to these centres in order to use
them. The A2I Project should offer flexible, responsive, and innovative
investment mechanisms. If not, "Digital Bangladesh" will continue to be
seen as just another clichéd political slogan that in reality does not
create positive development outcomes for citizens, particularly those
who are poverty stricken and marginalised.