A DNCC mobile phone app is solving the city’s problems in the north with an impressive success rate. Could this be a model for others to follow?
Purak Sarker, a BSc student of Microbiology at North South University, lives with his family at Bashbari of Mohammadpur.
In mid-August last year when the seasonal dengue outbreak was in its initial stage, Purak’s father found the space between their house and the adjacent house filled with garbage. As the rain was pouring down in torrents at that time of the year, the garbage was causing a waterlog, and he also noticed some mosquito larvae.
Despite being requested to clean up the mess, their neighbours didn’t take any initiative. When the whole Sarker family was at a loss, Purak’s elder brother came across an app called ‘Shobar Dhaka,’ run by the Dhaka North City Corporation (DNCC).
Any citizen under the DNCC can file a complaint on the app through separate sections labelled Roads, Mosquito, Garbage, Street Lights, Public Toilets, Sewers, Illegal Installations and Waterlogging – and the responsible authority directly engages with the matter and takes action to solve it at the earliest time.
Once a user logs into the app using their phone number, they can select one of the eight citizen services from it and write about their issues and address in a form.
They are also advised to switch on the GPS of their smartphones and upload a picture related to the problem, which can make the process of tracking down easier for the responsible authority.
Following these instructions, Purak’s family filed a complaint immediately, and a DNCC representative arrived at their doorsteps on the same afternoon and observed the problem first-hand. The following day, some people came with machines to spray the larvicide.
Upon finishing the job, they also served the neighbouring house with a notice that if they remain ignorant in the future, the ward commissioner would take legal action against them. “This is how our problem was resolved within two days, which was a fast move and we appreciate it,” Purak.
Thousands of others have benefited from the ‘Shobar Dhaka’ app. According to Pial Hasan, information officer at DNCC, the app launched on 10 January 2021 has so far received 2,30,293 issues, of which 1,99,994 have been resolved while 30,299 are still unsolved.
As per the analysis of the data, most complaints filed on the app are about mosquitoes, followed by garbage and roads. The least number of complaints are related to public toilets.
Overall, the app’s solution rate stands at 86%, claimed Pial.
The claim resembles the experience of Shahriar Sovon, a resident of Ring Road Garden Street, working as a digital marketing executive at Byte Trek Limited.
He has so far submitted as many as 10 issues, most of which were related to road problems. “8 out of 10 problems I submitted have been resolved. The solution rate is 80%, so I am more or less happy,” shared Sovon.
There, however, have been a few others not quite satisfied with the service.
Noor Alam Masum is a senior officer at Nippon Express Bangladesh Ltd.
He filed three complaints on the app in 2022, one regarding the road from Mohakhali’s Amtoli to Titumir College, and the other two concerning the illegal installations in Mohammadpur and Shyamoli.
“The app attributes the problems have been solved, but in reality, I saw no significant change,” complained Masum.
According to Pial, they are working relentlessly to provide the citizens with the best possible service. Still, some problems might remain unsolved for the time being for several reasons.
“There are many issues that can’t be resolved immediately. Another thing is policy. Under our policy, we might consider an issue resolved but the person filing the complaint might not agree,” he said.
To Sovon, the authority of determining whether an issue has been resolved or not should be in the complainant’s hands. “The DNCC authority is updating issues as resolved. It would be better if they just notified us about their activities, and we got to decide ourselves if the problem is resolved.”
In the review section of Google Play, some users complained that there is no option to upload saved photos from the mobile’s gallery. They asked the developers to consider adding this option, as taking a live photo and posting on the spot is not always possible.
But Mokbul Hossain, public relations officer of DNCC, explained why uploading live photos is necessary.
“Otherwise, people might upload old photos of issues which are now nonexistent. Some might also mislead us with wrong photos intentionally, and as a result, a lot of our time would be wasted,” said Mokbul.
It was reported in September last year that residents of the newly-added 18 wards in DNCC were unable to file complaints on the app. But ever since then, this issue has also been resolved.
The app was launched by the DNCC mayor Md Atiqul Islam, and so far it has been downloaded 41,710 times as of 7 June 2023 on Google Play and App Store, according to Md Abdullah, assistant programmer at DNCC.
He also added the app has already won several prestigious awards, including the Best Innovation in Public Service in Service Delivery Category at Bangladesh Innovation Award 2021.
Meanwhile, there have been many residents of the Dhaka South City Corporation (DSCC), who have publicly shown dissatisfaction on social media over not having an app like ‘Shobar Dhaka’ for them.
Nabhan Zaman, a professional photographer who lives in Baily Road, said such an app is more important for Dhaka South, as “the North side of the city is already developed manifold compared to the South side, which means we have comparatively more problems that need to be addressed”.
He added that having an app for the DSCC citizens would also allow them to contribute their part as citizens by addressing all kinds of problems that catch their eye.
According to Md Abu Taiyeb Rokon, head of ICT and system analyst at DSCC, though they currently have no such app like ‘Shobar Dhaka,’ their citizens can still file complaints through their official Facebook page, or the 24-7 hotline numbers.
“A citizen app is also under construction right now. Once done, our mayor will make the official announcement,” he revealed.