The Access to Information (a2i), a programme of the government's Digital Bangladesh agenda-the “Vision 2021” of the Prime Minister's Office, is now well-known as a tool of country’s tremendous development for its innovative and people-friendly activities having worldwide recognitions.
It specializes in introducing citizen-centric public service innovation to simplify public service delivery and facilitate an easy and dynamic life with the blessings of information technology (IT).
Aimed to improve the lives of citizens by increasing transparency, governance and thus reduce the time, difficulty and costs of obtaining government services, the a2i programme in the last 13 years has gained numerous recognitions both at home and abroad.
The a2i, now redefined as "Aspire to Innovate" after the implementation of “Vision 2021”, a political manifesto of Bangladesh Awami League before winning the National Elections of 2008.
"The a2i has set an example of simplifying the citizens’ life and making government activities easier . . . And these activities tremendously helped attain national and international recognitions,” a2i Project Director (joint secretary) Dr Dewan Muhammad Humayun Kabir told BSS recently.
He said the a2i programme’s prime object is to make life easier and reach IT services at people’s doorsteps. It is working under the directives of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and PM’s ICT Adviser Sajeeb Wazed under the Cabinet Division as well as the ICT Division and with the support of UNDP.
“The prime minister earlier announced the ‘Digital Bangladesh’ concept to reach government’s services very fast so that the government activities don’t depend on the office only and services can reach the people timely,” the project director added.
Due to the recognitions of establishing an innovative culture with bringing modern technology-friendly services at the doorsteps of the people in cities, simultaneously the marginalized people countrywide, the a2i programme has won a number of awards and accolades at the national and international levels.
"Let it be the culture of ‘a paperless office and a cashless society’ - that is our goal," the project director said, adding that the government has a plan to make this event a global brand, through simplifying life and facilitating government’s activities.
The 'Volunteer Doctors Pool BD' app won the 'Best Innovation Award-2021' by the Bangladesh Brand Forum for providing telemedicine services to people of all walks of life across the country using 333 national helpline. Besides, the ‘muktapaath (video tutorial of the e-learning platform) initiative has won the 'Best Innovation Award-2021' by the Bangladesh Brand Forum.
The a2i achieved the ‘United Nations Public Service Award 2020’ in the category of 'Development of Transparent and Accountable Government Institutions' in recognition of the implementation of e-mutation initiatives countrywide.
The e-mutation or e-namjari project is being implemented throughout the country with the technical assistance of a2i and under the management of the Land Ministry and with the assistance of the Land Reform Board.
Mentioning that Bangladesh ranked 119th out of 190 countries in the UN e-Government Ranking activities in the 2019 survey for making significant contribution to e-Governance, the PD said the country has always been in the forefront, even though it was once lagged behind in the ranking.
Meanwhile, Bangladesh moved 24 steps ahead from 147th position to 124th in 2016. Basically, among the three components, Bangladesh has gained 0.51 points in the Online Service Index and with the co-position with countries like Estonia, USA, Canada, Austria, and Australia.
Of the innovative initiatives implemented by the a2i for providing people’s door-to-door services include: Digital Center in 2014, Jatiya Tathya Batayan in 2015, Service Providing Facility (SPS) in 2016, Department of Environment's Online Clearance, Shikkhok Batayan and Krishoker Jalana (Farmers’ Windows), Multimedia Talking Book-2017, Telemedicine Project of Dhaka University, 'Use of Social Media in Citizen Service Innovation' and 'e-Document'. It attained ‘muktapaath’ and 'Police Clearance Certificate Management System' awards in 2018.
In 2019, Shikkhok Batayan and mobile-based Age Verification Before Marriage Registration while in 2020, rural e-Commerce ‘Ekshop’ and National Intelligence for Skills, Employment & Entrepreneurship (NISE) of the a2i got World Summit on Information Society (WSIS) award.
Bangladesh government awarded the ‘Public Administration Medal 2016’ to the a2i for its significant contribution to the technical (institutional) category at the national level.
In the innovation category, the programme also got three awards - the International Innovation, Innovation and Technology Exhibition (ITEX) Award in 2016.
In 2017, the a2i programme achieved ‘President’s Award’ and ‘Award of Distinction’ for ‘Office Information and Service Framework’ and ‘Land Information and Service Framework’.
In 2018, the a2i received ‘President Award’ from the Open Group for implementing ‘EkSeba’ Software Solution. It got the award in ‘Enterprise Architecture Enabled Government Transformation’ category of an international competition on innovation of Indian city of Bengaluru.
The a2i programme achieved BASIS National ICT Awards 2017, Asia Pacific ICT Alliance (APICTA) 2017, Henry Viscardi Award 2017, National Mobile Apps Award 2016, BRAC Manthan Digital Innovation 2016, Information Society Innovation Fund (ISIF Asia) Award 2013 and Zero Projects Award on Inclusive Education 2013.
The 'National Helpline 333' also won the BASIS National IT Award, the Asia Pacific ICT Alliance Award and the Govinsider Innovation Award.
Ekshop, the country's first and largest online business platform, got five national and international awards. These are: Epicata Award, Asia Pacific ICT Alliance Award, BASIS National ICT Award, ITEX Award and Best Process Innovation Award of Bangladesh Brand Forum.
It also earned iTex Awards and Apolitical Awards from iLab, PNPK, Ramp Pump, Used Cooking Oil, Smart White Can-Itex Award 2019 Silver Medal.
Asked about the future plan of the a2i programme, Dr Dewan said, “It is a project now . . . But, we want to be a completely independent organization. It would help accelerate the digital activities of the government in an intensified manner.”