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What ride-sharing apps can teach us about accountability

  • Published at 06:33 pm January 30th, 2018
  • Last updated at 06:59 pm January 30th, 2018
What ride-sharing apps can  teach us about accountability
As a nation, how keen are we to accept responsibility of our actions? If anyone asks a group of Bangladeshis about a few most chronic problems in the country, they will invariably mention weak governance due to a lack of accountability. In fact, the lack of accountability seems to have spread in every sphere of our social and national lives. Ethics and standards of public life are being challenged by a lack of accountability at all levels. Although the Bangladesh government has adopted the National Integrity Strategy in October 2012, which is aimed at tackling the integrity of various professional groups who have critical impacts on national life, the question remains on the progress and achievements from this strategy. The World Bank data clearly indicates our poor performance in terms of accountability at the national level, illustrating a desperate cry for it in our day-to-day lives. Whether it is the price and quality of commodities, condition of roads, quality of education, services by doctors, lawyers, and other professionals, the lack of accountability is clearly visible. However, over last few months, Dhaka-dwellers are enjoying the services of Uber, Pathao, and other app-based ride-sharing services. These services charge reasonable fares, and provide comfortable and safe journeys. One of the best features of Uber is its transparency and accountability mechanism. The moment you request a car and you are connected to one, it gives the location of the car, the name of the driver, his profile, his contact number, type of car, and car number.
I wish we could rate and provide feedback to our civil servants and other professionals, following the shining example of accountability on wheels by the app-based ride services
You know exactly how long it will take for your ride to arrive and at the end of the journey you will get an email with details of your journey -- locations, distance, start and finish time, journey map, and fare. The accountability mechanism includes the rating system and a note of thanks for the driver and the rider. That means, at the end of the journey, the rider can rate the driver from a scale of 1-5 and vice versa. The higher rating a driver has, the more likely one is to get calls, and hence, more business. This is a simple mechanism to improve the overall quality of service provided to the clients. Both the driver and rider can feel assured about the quality of the ride. I hope the reader does not interpret my humble effort to link the lack of accountability in national life and the presence of it in ride-sharing services as a promotional act on behalf of these service providers. The recent nod by the cabinet to make laws and regulations for app-based car services is a clear indication of their success so far. As a regular user of these services, I feel more assured and I usually get reasonable to excellent services. These experiences, at least for myself, make the lack of accountability in other sectors clear as day. I wish we could rate and provide feedback to our doctors, engineers, lawyers, civil servants, and other professionals, following the shining example of accountability on wheels by the app-based ride services. Shahariar Sadat is an Advocate, Supreme Court of Bangladesh, and Academic Coordinator, Centre for Peace and Justice, BRAC University.