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Dhaka Tribune

Uber ban an affront to Digital Bangladesh?

Update : 25 Nov 2016, 11:38 PM
"Smart cities are integral parts of the Digital Bangladesh and I'm very excited to have Uber in Dhaka as a part of our efforts to build smart cities,” said ICT State Minister Zunaid Ahmed Palak at the launching ceremony of Uber Bangladesh. “In countries across the world, Uber has been a glaring example of sharing economy and bringing efficiency in our urban life. It will also give our community the ease of having rides at the push of a button. Uber has the potential to bring untapped economic opportunity to Bangladesh,” he added.However, in stark contrast to the minister's enthusiastic encomium, on Friday, Bangladesh Road Transport Authority (BRTA) issued a public notice in newspapers, warning Uber drivers and clients against using the service, citing different legal issues. The BRTA also termed the service “illegal” in Bangladesh.
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“Uber violates the taxicab policy of Bangladesh,” BRTA Director Nurul Islam told the Dhaka Tribune on Friday. “A company needs to take permission from the BRTA before running a taxi service, but Uber did not do that before its launch,” said Nurul Islam. “Therefore we declared the service illegal by publishing a notice in different newspapers.”

Uber’s response

Responding to a request for comment on the latest development, an Uber spokesperson told the Dhaka Tribune: “Uber is a technology platform that has transformed urban mobility in more than 450 cities across 74 countries by connecting riders with drivers at the tap on a smartphone app. In line with the government’s vision of Digital Bangladesh we want to work with the government and policymakers to help bring innovation to our cities through constructive dialogue and engagement.”
In a media statement on Tuesday, Uber India and South Asia President Amit Jain said the company’s goal was to use technology to “make our cities more accessible” while “reducing congestion and pollution.” “In line with the government’s vision of Digital Bangladesh, we are thrilled to be in Dhaka to harness technology for the benefit of riders, drivers and the city,” Amit Jain said.

Shifting positions

As late as last week the BRTA seemed to be more amenable to Uber's entry into the market. Last week BRTA Secretary Sawkat Ali told the Dhaka Tribune that in order to allow Uber to run business in Bangladesh according to its global model, the government would have to change the draft Road Transport Act 2016. “A provision will be required to be added to the draft act so that private vehicles, likely with a new type of licence or registration, are allowed for commercial use. But such a change can only be considered for public interest,” he told the Dhaka Tribune.Furthermore, Shyam Sunder Sikder, the secretary of ICT Ministry, told the Dhaka Tribune last week: “There is no legal barrier for apps like Uber in our country, but there is the issue of using private vehicles for commercial purposes: it is not allowed here.”
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Earlier in October, Road Transport and Bridges Division Secretary MAN Siddique told the Dhaka Tribune that Uber will only be able to run their service if it signed agreements with the existing cab companies.

What else did the notice say?

Friday’s BRTA notice warns the owners and drivers of Uber against the continuation of the service and says anyone found to be using Uber will be “punished accordingly.”The notice also reads any car or microbus that runs on hire must be painted in different colours (black body and yellow top) and have necessary route permits in accordance with the law.
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