Government of Bangladesh declared a vision of Digital Bangladesh by 2021 to ensure services at peoples’ doorsteps. A total number of 4,501 Union Information & Services Centres (UISCs) have been established at all Union Parishads, all of them inaugurated simultaneously on 11th November, 2010 by Hon’ble Prime Minister of Bangladesh and UNDP’s administrator & former Prime Minister of New Zealand Ms Helen Clark in order to translate the dream of ‘Digital Bangladesh’ into reality.
UISC is ICT enabled one-stop service outlet located at Union Parishads at union (the lowest tier of the local government) level. Similar to the ‘telecentre’ concept by different private organizations, the UISC model, however, is unique in the sense that it builds on the concept of Public Private Partnership (PPP) instead of donation dependant models. Now 9002 young entrepreneurs are working with 4,501 UISCs, and half of them are women. Entrepreneurs are self-employed, they are not the paid employees of Bangladesh Government, and they manage their life with their own income.
In order for UISCs to survive successfully in the long run, support from various govt. and private organizations is being mobilized through partnerships, these entities not only offer people oriented services through these centres, some of them also provides hardware maintenance and other technical support to keep these centres operational. In the forefront of such partnerships are private banks (e.g. Dutch-Bangla, Mercantile, Trust, BRAC) – powered by the upcoming online banking facilities, Life Insurance agency (e.g. Jibonbima), telecommunications (e.g. Robi, Banglalink), non-govt. organizations (British Council, Practical Action, Ankur ICT Development Foundation), troubleshooting support organizations (BCS, Cyber Cafe Association of Bangladesh) and govt. agencies and projects (e.g. Bangladesh Computer Council, Cabinet Division).
UISCs commonly offered three types of services; government services, information services and commercial services. Government Services, like Online Birth Registration, different types of government forms, government circulars and notices, online university admission, examination results, population census data entry, citizenship certificate, citizen charter of Union Parishad. Information Services, like Agriculture, health, education, law & human Rights, tourism, environment & disaster management, science & technology, industry & commerce and employment. All these livelihood information are provided by National e-Tathyakosh (National e-Content Repository) which has online (www.infokosh.bangladesh.gov.bd) and offline (CD) version. Commercial services, like m-Banking, life insurance, English learning, computer training, internet browsing, email, printing, scanning, compose, photocopy, laminating, data entry, photography, phone call, flexi load, mobile ringtone download, video show, video conference, projector rent, passport & visa processing, height & weight measurement, blood pressure measurement, soil test, arsenic test etc.
UISC is a local knowledge centre. These hubs of information and services at doorsteps of local people save their time, energy and money. Now it has the challenge for the citizens to carry out the benefits of UISCs and make these sustainable. As a result, UISC will be a centre of service excellence which will meet hassle free citizen demand by reducing digital divide between core and periphery.