A2i’s smart initiatives: Paving the way to a digital Bangladesh

December 30, 2023

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The Aspire to Innovate -a2i is working towards simplifying citizen services and making them more accessible by using modern and integrated information technology.

The implementation of the Digital Bangladesh initiative has laid the foundation for building a Smart Bangladesh. This initiative has transformed century-old methods of information dissemination, service delivery, financial transactions, and governmental administration into contemporary, time-efficient, and technology-driven processes.

The vision for Smart Bangladesh is to make it even more modern, technology-driven, inclusive, and integrated.

On December 12, 2022, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina announced the vision to build a Smart Bangladesh by 2041. The vision rests on four fundamental pillars: Smart Citizen, Smart Economy, Smart Governance, and Smart Society. The journey towards Smart Bangladesh is planned to unfold over 18 years, starting from 2023 to 2041.

Aspire to Innovate (a2i) of the Cabinet Division and ICT Division, supported by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), is working towards simplifying citizen services and making them more accessible by using modern and integrated information technology.

Simultaneously, efforts are underway to develop services tailored to the specific needs of individual citizens. The a2i initiative and its associated projects have received over 17 national and international awards, demonstrating their commitment to technology-dependent services and innovation for Smart Bangladesh development.

National and international achievements

Aspire to Innovate – a2i, has received prestigious awards from the United Nations. Their ‘Covid-19 Telehealth Center’ initiative has earned them the ‘World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) Prize-2023’ for their remarkable work on the international stage.

In addition, their ‘ekShop’ platform has been awarded the ‘SDG Digital Game Changer Award’ by the United Nations, for its contribution to extending e-commerce services to both rural and urban areas and breaking down the distance barrier. a2i has also been recognized with the ‘WITSA 2023 Global Innovation and Technology Excellence Awards’ for their excellence in skill development and education through online platforms like ‘National Intelligence Employment and Entrepreneurship (NISE)’ and ‘MuktoPaath.’

A2i has received several national awards, including the ‘National Human Welfare Award 2021’ for significant contributions to the welfare of disabled and neurodevelopmentally challenged individuals, life quality improvement, employment opportunities, inclusive education, and social security. In addition, a2i was celebrated at the ‘Fifth Bangladesh Innovation Awards-2023’ for its innovative projects, such as the ‘Teacher Portal,’ ‘Multimedia Talking Book,’ ‘Accessible Dictionary,’ ‘Covid-19 Telehealth Center,’ ‘SDG Tracker,’ ‘Digital Strategy Design Lab (DSDAL),’ and ‘konnect.’ The organization also earned recognition from ‘BIJID’ for its digital financial inclusion initiative for women, called ‘Sathi Network.’

Agency to Innovate (a2i)- 2023 act has been passed in the National Parliament

The “Agency to Innovate (a2i) Act” was passed in the eleventh National Parliament with the aim of establishing the Agency to Innovate (a2i) in order to enhance citizen services and foster an innovative culture in the country. In 2009, following the establishment of the government, the Access to Information (a2i) initiative was created as part of the “Digital Bangladesh” project, which was funded by the UNDP to oversee digital initiatives in Bangladesh. In 2018, a2i was placed under the Information and Communication Technology Division and the Ministry Division for project implementation as per the Prime Minister’s directives. Recently, in 2020, the “Aspire to Innovate (a2i)” project began, and a2i is gearing up to become an information technology policy agency.

E-quality center for inclusive innovation launches

A2i has received national and global recognition this year for its various innovative solutions. A2i is taking proactive steps to reduce digital disparities through the establishment of the e-Quality Center for Inclusive Innovation. This center is a collaborative effort between a2i, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Bangladesh, and the ICT Division, and it is supported by UNDP. During the 78th United Nations General Assembly in New York on September 25, Foreign Minister Dr AK Abdul Momen announced the center’s launch.

The initiative aims to bridge global digital divides and promote inclusivity in technology. In addition to knowledge exchange to reduce digital disparities in countries lagging behind in technology, the E-Quality Center has already established the I-3 Matching Fund, which provides financial support to innovative projects.

The fund has already provided financial assistance to five countries, including Gambia, Uganda, Sao Tome and Principe, Somalia, and Ghana.

Zero digital divide campaign

A2i is committed to fighting digital division on a global scale. To achieve this goal, they have launched a worldwide campaign called #ZeroDigitalDivide with the support of UNDP.

This initiative aims to reduce the digital divide and increase global access to digital services.

DPI-AI international conference

A2i is leading the way for technological advancements in the country by emphasizing the importance of creating a Digital Public Infrastructure (DPI) ecosystem to bring citizen services to the individual level.

To ensure the creation of an inclusive and digitally equitable world through the optimal use of Digital Public Infrastructure (DPI) and Artificial Intelligence (AI), national and international experts are brought together for an international conference.

The conference spans two days and results in the announcement of the significant ‘Dhaka Declaration 2023,’ outlining 10 points of action that will reduce digital disparity and strengthen DPI and AI empowerment.

International consultation on blended education

Blended education is considered essential for the development of a Smart Bangladesh.a2i organized a consultation to encourage discussions on the significant potential of blended education in creating skilled manpower and generating opportunities in market-oriented workplaces.

The objective is to implement integrative blended learning methods, a collaborative international consultation was organized this May, involving stakeholders from various fields including government, non-government, and development partner organizations. One of the goals of this consultation is to raise awareness and make the blended education system fully effective by coordinating government and private institutions to advance the country’s education system to meet the demands of the fourth industrial revolution and keep pace with developed countries.

Smart Initiatives of a2i

In pursuit of building a Smart Bangladesh and bringing smart services to the doorstep of the citizens, a2i has launched many smart projects over the past year. On Sheikh Russel Day, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina inaugurated five innovative projects: ‘Smart 333,’ ‘Smart E-Trade License,’ the integrated electronic toll collection service ‘ekPass,’ the student learning and comprehensive evaluation app ‘Noipunno,’ and the ‘Smart Pregnancy Monitoring System’ for pregnant women. To make civic services more accessible and user-friendly, the virtual assistant app ‘Sathi’ has been introduced as an initiative to assist in achieving Smart Bangladesh’s vision. The MyGov platform has also been launched, consolidating all public services in one place and digitizing 209 government services in a year. The Ministry of Textiles and Jute has added 27 services under the Citizen Charter, and 146 digitized services from various departments and organizations under this ministry have been implemented on the digital platform. Additionally, the Dhaka district administration has included 59 services under the Citizen Charter, and four digitized services from the National Institute of Media have been initiated.

A2i for innovation

Throughout the year, a2i has been supporting various innovations. By providing financial support and recognition, the organization has encouraged a culture of innovation in the country. To encourage the development of rockets within the country, the “Rocketry Innovation Challenge-2022” was organized, with millions of Taka awarded as seed money and certificates to the top innovators.A2i selected seven innovators for innovative ideas, such as smart meters and sub-meters for water usage in households and industries, monitoring vital physical data during pregnancy using digital methods for pregnant women, and creating customized letters for government office documents as top innovators. The top innovators are awarded seed money as awards.

Moreover, a2i has awarded winners of the “Smart District Innovation Challenge” with prize money and certificates, a competition based on innovative programs at the country’s district level. FinLab BD has awarded three institutions with one million Taka each for their innovative ideas that actively involve women in the financial sector.

Accessibility guideline

a2i is committed to providing inclusive digital services for people with disabilities. In pursuit of this goal, the government has adopted accessibility guidelines following a2i’s continuous efforts.

a2i’s Procurement Process Got ISO Certified:

a2i has been working actively towards enhancing transparency and improving the government procurement process, by fostering better relationships between buyers and suppliers, as well as improving the expertise in non-governmental sectors. This year, a2i has been awarded the International Standardization (ISO) certification for its procurement management and related activities, guaranteeing organizational success in these areas.

a2i’s contribution in Disaster Response:

During the challenging time of disaster in the country, a2i stood by the people. The powerful cyclone ‘Mocha’, which swept through the coastal areas, promoted 24-hour assistance through the National Helpline 333. Through toll-free calls, the national helpline provided information related to the cyclone, alert signals, weather updates, and emergency assistance. During this crisis, the helpline received 1.4 million calls related to ‘Mocha,’ and more than 34 thousand calls were specifically for disaster assistance.

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