Techvision24 Desk: Today marks the 10th year anniversary of Digital Centres, which started its journey on November 11, 2010 with the aim of bringing services to the doorsteps of the people. On this occasion, a conference and a folk music concert was organized online over a video conferencing platform, on 11 November 2020.
Md. Tajul Islam, MP, Hon’ble Minister, Ministry of Local Government, Rural Development and Cooperatives, was present as the Chief Guest. Zunaid Ahmed Palak, MP, Hon’ble State Minister, ICT Division; Khandker Anwarul Islam, Cabinet Secretary, Cabinet Division; Helal Uddin Ahmed, Senior Secretary, Local Government Division; and Sudipto Mukerjee, Resident Representative, UNDP Bangladesh were present as Special Guests. Dr. Md Abdul Mannan, PAA, Project Director (Additional Secretary) of the Aspire to Innovate (A2I) programme, delivered the welcoming speech of the event which was chaired by N.M Zeaul Alam, PAA, Senior Secretary, Senior Secretary, Information and Communication Technology Division. Anir Chowdhury, Policy Advisor, A2I, also gave a presentation on the activities of Digital Centre for the past 10 years during the event.
Chief Guest, Md. Tajul Islam, MP, Hon’ble Minister, Ministry of Local Government, Rural Development and Cooperatives, said that the benefits of Digital Bangladesh have now reached every household in the country. He added that people living in the remote rural areas are adapting to technology. Today, living in the remotest of areas, people are being able to remain in contact with people from all over the world. He also pointed out that due to digital platforms, even the coronavirus crisis was not able to restrain much of the lives of the people. He also mentioned that digital platforms have revolutionized people’s lives, as well as, opened new horizons in various fields including education, healthcare, agriculture, industrialization and employment and economics. New innovations in the ICT sector will take Bangladesh to newer levels of development and prosperity. The minister added that, Sajeeb Wazed Joy, a veteran in the field of ICT, is providing his full support and working tirelessly to fulfill the dream of a digital Bangladesh of Hon’ble Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. The government is also working tirelessly to spread the benefits of ICT everywhere.
Special Guest, Zunaid Ahmed Palak, MP, Hon’ble State Minister, ICT Division, in his speech said that the vision of the Father of the Nation was to develop the country through non-discriminatory society and rural development. Hon’ble Prime Minister, Sheikh Hasina, is working to implement this philosophy. Subsequently, Sajeeb Wazed Joy, son and ICT Affairs Adviser to Hon’ble Prime Minister, came up with the plan to implement Digital Bangladesh, according to which we are currently working on. We began our services with the idea of only providing information to the citizens. Later we started bringing services at their doorsteps. He added that digital centres has been playing a vital role in building a non-discriminatory state realizing Bangabandhu’s dream of building a discrimination-free Bangladesh. In terms of access to services, the distance between the citizens, gender inequality, rich-poor inequality and corruption have been eliminated. He also added that, we are working to build high-speed internet, good relations with local administrations and public representatives up to the union level and increase the number of new services in response to the demands of entrepreneurs. We are working to transform this ‘Service Base Platform’ into a ‘Business Hub’, build human resources. We also took the initiative of setting up a digital centre every 2 kms and include 500 services by the year 2025.
Khandker Anwarul Islam, Cabinet Secretary, said, “When we started working on digital centres 10 years ago, a lot of people were skeptical about its feasibility and how we would provide technical assistance to the entrepreneurs. However, we were gradually able to provide support to all entrepreneurs. In the beginning there was no electricity in about 1600 Union Parishads. We brought solar panels from China for them. All this has been possible due to the sincerity of the Hon’ble Prime Minister”. He further said that our entrepreneurs have repeatedly shown us the way behind the success of this long journey. In addition to our specific services, they are bringing many new services to the doorsteps of the people on their own initiative.
Helal Uddin Ahmed, Senior Secretary of the Local Government Division said that even 10 years ago, people had to go to district or divisional cities to receive various government services. Now, digital centres are providing them these services right around their homes. However, this journey was not easy. First, we had to raise funds to provide technical materials, like cameras, laptops, projectors, to the entrepreneurs. Then we had to manage a place for them to sit in the union councils for them to provide services. We organized various workshops, educational tours and certificates to enhance their social recognition and skills. He further said that the implementation of Hon’ble Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s election manifesto ‘Village will be City’ is moving forward at an indomitable pace through Digital Centres.
In the welcoming speech, Dr. Md Abdul Mannan, PAA, Project Director (Additional Secretary) of the Aspire to Innovate (A2I) programme said that these centres are providing various public and private services across the country. No one ever imagined of getting government services sitting in their villages before the launch of Digital Bangladesh whereas today, people are getting more than 270 services from their villages. Citizens living in remote areas across the country have received free e-services through the “Mujib Borsho E-Sheba Campaign”. Additionally, health camps, seminars, courtyard meetings were also organized in this campaign. He hopes that the rate of innovation in digital services will accelerate in the future through the creation of more entrepreneurs.
Sudipta Mukherjee, Resident Representative, UNDP Bangladesh, said “Bangladesh, starting its journey as an independent country in 1971 with a population of 70 million and a weak economy, is now well ahead of other South Asian countries in various international indices. Digital centres have played a very positive and vital role in the lives of the rural people. Mobile banking and agent banking in particular have also enriched the country’s economy. Now the people of the village are also interested in savings.” According to him, digital centres will provide more drive to public-private partnerships. He hopes that digital centres will improve the quality of life of the people.
For the last 10 years, Digital Centres have been working to bring public-private services to the doorsteps of the rural citizens of the country. The Aspire to Innovate (A2I) programme of the ICT Division and the Cabinet Division, supported by UNDP, has been implementing the activities of Digital Centres. These Centres have already provided more than 55.4 crore services saving citizens 168 crore working days and over BDT 76,775 crore. At the same time, entrepreneurs have been able to earn BDT 465 crore providing an average of 60 lakh services per month. More than 270 services can be availed from digital centres which include Social Safety Net Allowance, Mutation Application, National Identification Card, Passport Application and Fee Payment, along with, Agent Banking, nline buying and selling, Air, Bus, Launch Ticketing, Medical Visa and Appointment, Remittance etc.
In the conference conducted by Dr. Dewan Muhammad Humayun Kabir, Joint-Project Director of A2i and Joint Secretary (e-Governance) of the Cabinet Division, certificates were awarded to the best entrepreneurs participating in the “Mujib Borsho E-Sheba Campaign” organized by Digital Centre to mark the 100th birth anniversary of the Father of the Nation, Bangabandhu Sheikh. On the event, administrative officers, local representatives and entrepreneurs and service recipients of different districts expressed their views about digital centres highlighting the positive changes that digital centres have brought in the lives of the rural people. Senior officials from ICT Division, A2i and media personnel were also present during the event.