Haoliang Xu, United Nations Assistant Secretary-General and Director of the Regional Bureau for Asia and Pacific at the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), visited the Borohor Union Digital Centre (UDC) in Sirajganj on 24 April 2016. He was accompanied by Pauline Tamesis, Country Director of UNDP Bangladesh and Nick Beresford, Deputy Country Director, UNDP Bangladesh.

During the visit, Haoliang Xu met with Nasrin, the female entrepreneur of Borohor UDC who was awarded the best entrepreneur prize by Honourable Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in November 2011. Nasrin presented a comprehensive overview of how the 4,500+ UDCs are decentralizing the delivery of public services and take them to the doorsteps of millions of underserved citizens.

The Access to Information (a2i) Programme of the Prime Minister’s Office – supported by UNDP and USAID – established these one-stop information and service delivery outlets known as UDCs in all Union Parishads (UPs; union councils), the lowest tier of the Bangladesh government.

The UDCs represent a sustainable model for bringing access to public services closer to citizens and an innovative means to simultaneously strengthen local government. The entrepreneurs – all private citizens recruited from the locality and do not receive any remuneration from the government – invest in the UDCs and so must generate revenues by delivering services to citizens. And the availability of vital services at the union level attracts citizens, particularly women, to come to them. This, in turn, generates valuable foot traffic at the union council offices thereby enhancing citizens’ interaction and familiarity with both elected and government-appointed local government officials.

UDCs ensure that the underserved such as rural women, people with disabilities and the elderly – regardless of their literacy and ICT literacy – can access vital information and services. These one-stop service centers are essentially micro-enterprises run by ‘citizen entrepreneurs’ – 1 male and 1 female in tandem with elected local government representatives. They leverage modern technology to provide citizens both free and fee-based access to public services (land records, birth registration, telemedicine, life insurance, passport and overseas job application as well as application to various other government services) and private services (mobile financial services, insurance, various types of computer and vocational training, etc.).

While visiting the UDC, Haoliang Xu also met with the Borohar UP Chairman and Secretary.