For the third consecutive year, Bangladesh has won the world’s most prestigious award for excellence in information technology – the “World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS)” award – for innovative initiatives of Access to Information (a2i) Programme of the Prime Minister’s Office. This year four initiatives from a2i Programme and one initiative for women journalists from Bangladesh NGO’s Network for Radio and Communication (BNNRC) have been awarded champion’s certificate. a2i’s initiatives include SPS for Increased Transparency, Efficiency and Responsiveness (category 6), Development of the web-based Environmental Clearance Certificate (ECC) Application System of the Department of Environment (category 7), Teachers’ Portal for Empowerment (category 9), and Farmer’s Window (category 13).
On 4th May, in UN’s International Telecommunication Union (ITU) headquarters, the WSIS champion certificates were handed over to the representatives from Bangladesh. The Bangladeshi delegate included the State Minister for Posts and Telecommunications Advocate Tarana Halim, Policy Advisor (a2i, PMO) Anir Chowdhury, Director of Innovation (a2i) Md. Mustafizur Rahman, and Domain Specialist (a2i) Md. Lutfur Rahman.
The four innovative initiatives that a2i has been awarded for this year are as follows:
1: SPS for Increased Transparency, Efficiency and Responsiveness (category 6)
The a2i Programme of the Prime Minister’s Office works around the slogan “Taking services to citizen’s doorsteps”. For instance, retired teachers had to previously undergo 21 steps to receive their pension which was hasslesome and time consuming. Through a2i’s SPS related intervention, this process has come down to only 7 steps. Similarly, citizen’s time, cost, and hassle are being reduced in receiving services from different government offices through service process simplification.
2: Development of the web-based Environmental Clearance Certificate (ECC) Application System of the Department of Environment (category 7)
The Department of Environment (DoE) is the single most important agency mandated to preserve and protect the environment, but it faces the challenge of businesses’ reluctance to apply for Environment Clearance Certificate (ECC) because of the cumbersome and time-consuming application process. By developing an innovation supported by the Service Innovation Fund (SIF), it has re-engineered the ECC application system making it more transparent, accessible, accountable and user-friendly resulting in 200% more applications and significant decrease in time, cost, and visit within 7 months of its launching, doubling its revenue and demonstrating visible progress on SDGs 9 & 13.
3: Teachers’ Portal for Empowerment (category 9)
The traditional teachers’ training system, with limited class size of 1500 seats, was costly and ineffective when it came to training the 900,000 teachers in Bangladesh. The Teachers’ Portal has quickly gained popularity among teachers (with 100,000 plus members) as a collaborative, co-creative and problem solving platform where they can create/share digital content for all subjects.
4: Farmer’s Window (category 13)
The 25,000 strong field force of agriculture extension workers are not equally knowledgeable about all the problems that any farmer might face during the various stages of pre-production, production, and post-production and therefore might suffer from a lack of confidence when suggesting solutions to the affected farming communities. The farmers of Bangladesh do not receive up-to-date and timely information on ways to identify and treat plant diseases, and their lack of formal education means they use crude and inaccurate terms to identify with plant diseases. These challenges have been addressed by Krishoker Janala, an inexpensive-to-build and inexpensive-to-operate, user-centric indigenous innovation.
Every year, WSIS honors the ICT-based technological innovations and related services that promote basic and human welfare. It is mentionable here that a2i program and community radio work together in communication and awareness development for greater interest of the people of Bangladesh. Previously, a2i has clinched the WSIS award in 2014 for a2i’s “Services at Citizen’s Doorsteps” project and in 2015 for a2i’s “National Web Portal” project.