12:00 AM, May 22, 2011 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, May 22, 2011

Online GD fails to make a mark

Only 2,082 general diaries filed in one year; unawareness seen as reason

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Rizanuzzaman Laskar and Asif Islam

The government move to digitalise policing initially with online general diary has failed to make an impression as most people are unaware of it even a year after its launch.
Most people, who have recently visited police stations to file GDs for snatching, lost documents or other reasons, were found scratching their heads when asked why they did not go for online GDs.
In most cases it turned out that they have never heard of it.
"I visit the police station almost every month to report of stolen goods from my garage," said Ahammad Hossain at Tejgaon police station.
"But no-one at the station informed me that I could file GDs from anywhere," said the owner of a garage in Karwan Bazar.
As many as 2,082 GDs were filed electronically since the online system was introduced in March last year.
On the other hand, 38 police stations in the city received 32,721 handwritten GDs in April alone -- 15 times the number of online GDs recorded so far.
Police say the online general diary system, launched as an e-governance initiative, was intended to make it easier for citizens to file GDs. It meant no longer going to the police station to file a GD for "non-emergency" matters.
Instead, the system has remained merely as a window dressing, according to citizens and experts, who say the police have put little effort to make it attractive and useful.
"It seems the service exists only in name," said Mustafa Jabbar, president of Bangladesh Computer Samity, a national coalition of IT-based organisations. "It is just there without helping anyone, neither people nor the police."
A GD is usually filed for legal or security matters that do not warrant police cases.
Dhaka police stations receive over 35 handwritten GDs a day, compared to some five GDs or so that are filed electronically every month, insiders say.
The statistics came as little surprise to Anirban Ghosh, a Khilgaon resident.
The software engineer tried to file an online GD for his lost office identity card in December.
After losing his ID card, Anirban went home, fired up his computer and logged into the police website to file the GD, which involved filling out an elaborate form with required information.
Everything went well. He received an identification number for collecting a copy of the GD from the police station concerned.
Ten days later he received a call from his local police station.
"They said I did not provide enough information, so I need to visit the station and give a handwritten application instead," said Anirban.
"So here I am to file a GD that could have been taken care of ten days ago had I come here in the first place," he said, adding, "The website is a total waste of time."
Police officers admit the new system is unattractive, clunky and a flop among the citizens.
Speaking on anonymously, a top home ministry official blamed lack of promotion and the slow online process, which ironically is more time consuming than the handwritten process.
It takes days for the electronic diaries to get sorted and sent to the respective police stations, from where the complainants can collect their copies of GD, police sources inform.
"Conversely, you can file your GD and get a copy in five minutes if you go to a police station," commented a duty officer at Dhanmondi Police Station who refused to be named.
Police officers say the website is not user-friendly and does a poor job of instructing the citizens on how to fill out the diary properly. It creates problems for both the police and the complainants.
In October, Tejgaon police received a GD where the description of the incident read: "Dear Sir, Please save me".
The complainant, an alleged stalking victim named Shifa, mentioned the name of the stalker. But she did not provide any contact details or any other information.
The lack of user-friendliness in the website reflects poor efforts and planning from the police, experts observe.
They questioned the police administration's sincerity towards going digital and added that much of the corruption in police would go away with digitalisation.
This could be a reason for the lack of interest in implementing many of their digitalisation initiatives, said a retired police official requesting anonymity.
Home Minister Sahara Khatun during inauguration of the online GD system dubbed it as a part of fulfilling the government's electoral pledge of a "Digital Bangladesh".
If the online general diary system is a reflection of the government fulfilling its dream of "Digital Bangladesh", the country has big things to worry about, Dhaka residents observe.

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