Unions digitised | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, November 12, 2010 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, November 12, 2010

Unions digitised

PM cuts digital ribbon to open info service centres across country

Bangladesh launched Union Information and Services Centres in 4,501 unions across the country to disseminate information and deliver government services to all citizens.
The union parishad based information centres, equipped with computers and wireless Internet, will offer various online and offline services to people at nominal charge.
The launch was made through a videoconference between Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, who was at her office in Dhaka, and United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Administrator Helen Clerk, who was visiting Char Kukri Mukri union in Charfession upazila of Bhola.
Science and ICT Minister Yeafesh Osman also joined the videoconference from Jashudal union of Kishoreganj where another launch programme was held.
The prime minister called this launch a revolutionary step towards the government's hope to deliver information to every citizen in the country. She said it was a step forward to realising the dream of a 'Digital Bangladesh'.
She said this would not only integrate technology into the everyday lives of rural people, it can also be used to curb corruption and make local administration more proactive ICT-wise.
She said these from her office in presence of high-profile government officials and chiefs of telecom companies.
The real celebrations, however, were at Char Kukri Mukri union of Bhola, one of the remotest chars (landmass emerged from water) of the country lying over 30km from the mainland in the Bay of Bengal and 530km off the capital.
Almost all the 14,000 people living there gathered around the Char Kukri Mukri union parishad office to see the inaugural ceremony.
"It is a good sight to see such a large number of people showing up here with so many expectations," said Helen Clerk, UNDP administrator and former prime minister of New Zealand, to Hasina.
Information enhances and empowers people, Clerk said, adding that availability of information would help people of such disaster-prone region to prepare and protect themselves from cyclones and tidal surges.
Clerk congratulated the prime minister on attaining such a landmark.
State Minister for Environment and Forest Hasan Mahmud and local MP Abdullah Al Islam also addressed the programme from Char Kukri Mukri through videoconference.
According to Deputy Commissioner of Bhola Md Mesbahul Islam, the locals will get online and offline facilities such as different government forms and information about agriculture, health, education, legal aid, human rights and employment through the service centre.
The centre would also provide rural people with services like email, word processing, Internet browsing, printing, and scanning. Multimedia projectors would also be given at a nominal price, he said.
"From now on, rural people would not need to visit district towns for government services or to obtain information," he said, adding, "They can get hold of important forms, documents, information from these information centres and also enjoy a number of other services."
Gradually more services, including banking and other local administration services, would be brought under the new computerised system, he said.
The project to set up the UISCs was accomplished by the government in assistance with the UNDP's Access To Information Programme.
Nine thousand people were trained by the DC offices to serve as information officials at the UISCs.
Char Kukri-Mukri, the 43 sqkm island, is one of the country's regions most vulnerable to climate change and natural disasters. The government officials believe that early information on weather forecasts will significantly reduce casualties and losses during natural disasters.
Mesbahul Islam said when services like these are available in a char so far away from the mainland, you can tell the country is making long strides in promoting ICT.
Clerk said the char people are at the front line when the country is facing a natural disaster, and availability of necessary information can make a big difference in terms of casualties.
She said Bangladesh is making long strides in respect of disaster management, adding that growing mangrove forests in the coastal areas would be helpful to battle natural disasters.
On the issue of global warming, she said the developed countries are not doing enough in this regard. "They need to do more," she said.

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