The government’s Access to Information (a2i) program has, so far, delivered quite impressive results and facilitated citizen-led innovations that are benefitting almost everyone from farmers to teachers.
It is closely related to the Right to Information Act of 2009, similar to Freedom of Information laws in other countries, which recognises and guarantees a citizen’s right to know government-held information and records, where the underlying idea is to make government more accountable to the public.
Presumably bolstered by the success of the a2i program, the government wants to take it a step further and will propose to establish an a2i foundation at this Thursday’s cabinet meeting.
The foundation, which will be partially funded by the UNDP and USAID, aims to scale up the projects under a2i and implement new ones.
From Digital Centres that provide internet access to rural populations, and multimedia classrooms providing quality education to anyone with internet access, the A2i program has already benefitted millions of Bangladeshis in a number of ways.
But most importantly, embedding greater ICT technology into the bureaucratic process reduces inefficiency and also opportunities for corruption. Ordinary citizens no longer have to bribe their way through unscrupulous and uncooperative public officials just to avail services that should be easily available to all, such as getting a passport or birth certificate.
It is especially significant for women in rural areas, not least because they now have access to a wider world, but also because, as part of the project, thousands of women entrepreneurs from rural areas will receive training.