M-government examples from Bangladesh

Public service delivery in Bangladesh is leveraging growing mobile access—80 million subscriptions at August 2011 according to the Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission and according to the Bureau of Statistics, a household penetration rate of 64% in 2010 (up from just 11% in 2005) compared to home PC penetration of just 3%.  Examples of these innovative m-services which cover various domains such as health, agriculture, education, public transport and disaster warning include:
  • e-Purjee aimed at the agricultural sector. Purjee refers to the pink sheet of onionskin paper used for the last 200 years to inform sugar cane farmers of when to bring their product to the mill. The paper purjee often got lost or found its way to rent seeking middlemen. As a result some sugar cane farmers never received their purjee or had to pay for it. The mills suffered with a mismatch between supply and capacity. e-Purjee is an SMS-based system informing farmers to bring in their cane. Farmers can either register their mobile phone number—increasingly widespread in rural areas—or that of a relative or friend. After a successful trial, e-Purjee was extended to some 200,000 farmers and all 15 of the country's state-owned sugar cane mills and a feature was added alerting farmers when their payment was ready. Sugar production rose 62% percent following the introduction of e-Purjee and farmers are benefitting from a more transparent system.
  • University admissions. Instead of having to travel to a university to provide application forms and other supporting documents and take needed tests, students can now just send an SMS. This allows them to apply to more than one university, virtually impossible before because of the need to physically visit one school. The SMS-based admissions results are popular where around 1/2 million students a year take the Higher Secondary Certificate (HSC) examination. They no longer have to face large travel and accommodation costs and the hassle of traveling hundreds of kilometers. Instead they just send their HSC results via a mobile phone and get a reservation for the university exam. Application fees are deducted from the applicant's mobile phone account. Following the successful piloting of the SMS registration, 28 post secondary educational institutions implemented the system in 2010. 
  • With the Bangladesh Railways Passengers Information System (launched September 2009), citizens can review schedules, book and purchase train tickets through their mobile phone. Most railway passengers are low and middle-income groups who are victims of harassment at railway station counters and faced illegal ticket sales at higher prices not to mention long lines. Around 45,000 tickets were sold within 8 months of introduction.
  • State-owned Dhaka Power Distribution Company and Gas Transmission and Distribution Company enabled utility payment via mobile phone freeing citizens from having to spend precious working hours queuing at banks. Some 45,000 electrical bills and 25,000 gas bills are paid through mobile phones every month.
  • The Disaster Management Bureau has the “Early Warning Dissemination through Cell Broadcasting System (CBS)” application.  It has been implemented in cyclone prone Coxsbazar and flood prone Sirajgonj with plans to expand to 14 coastal districts. The application uses CBS to send alerts to mobile phones when waters or cyclones exceed certain limits covering areas with a population of five million citizens.  The service received the 2010 Manthan Award (recognizing best ICT practices in South Asia) in the E-Environment category.
  • The Upazila Health Complex Health Line was launched in 2009. Over 400 hospitals and health centers throughout the country were provided with mobile telephones with the numbers distributed to local residents to call for medical advice. One doctor at each health facility is available 24 hours per day seven days per week to receive incoming calls from citizens. 
  • Mobile phones are also being combined with different service delivery methods. For example visitors to government offices can register their mobile numbers to confirm receipt of their applications for services and when their applications have been completed. 

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