Bangladesh is going through a pivotal phase, making a transition from being an LDC to being one of the fastest-growing economies in the world. The government realizes that in order to successfully achieve the SDGs, it needs to systematically plan and monitor the impact of its policies, and be able to benchmark data and see year-on-year progress, allowing the potential to make the most impact.
Innovative Platforms such as the SDG Tracker, My Constituency, National Socio-economic Dashboard and National COVID-19 Data Intelligence Platform are at the core of the nation’s systematic approach to data-driven policymaking and planning across all the sectors. Moreover, the country’s data-driven response to and ongoing management of the COVID-19 pandemic has also received plaudits from the global community.
Dependency on traditional, manual data collection processes means government data is usually unavailable before it becomes outdated. This delay makes it impossible to catch and fix issues while they occur. Often times, the problem does not become apparent until it is too late to fix.
As COVID-19 pointed out so ruthlessly, government interventions need to be fast, adaptive, and highly responsive to a rapidly evolving situation on the ground.
In the face of such urgent, major policy questions, the socio-economic dashboard supports agile decision making by the government through real-time sectoral data availability. It engages research organizations, bridges public sector data and private sector data, integrates them and visualizes key findings to enable informed decision making that optimizes outcomes for citizens. Post-intervention, it also provides the means for rigorous, detailed measurement of policy impact.
This makes the socio-economic dashboard a key element of a2i’s efforts to support the government in building forward better in order to protect years of impressive development progress including the proximate milestone of LDC graduation, and the country resuming progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals.
In order to successfully meet the SDGs, measuring progress at a national level is not enough. We need to measure progress at the local level.
The SDG Tracker (sdg.gov.bd), was developed to enable precisely that – the localization and continuous tracking of SDGs. It is a web-based data repository for monitoring the implementation of development initiatives, strengthening timely data collection, and improving situation analysis and performance monitoring of achieving the SDGs.
Launched during the UN General Assembly in 2017 by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, it helps stakeholders, be they policy makers, government agencies, the private sector, civil society organizations, international organizations, or researchers to keep track of the progress against each target of the respective SDGs, and prioritize resource allocation and service delivery accordingly.
In the past, various sector-based indicators were monitored and analyzed by collecting data manually once a year. At present, every three months, a meeting of the National Data Coordination Committee which was formed under the direction of Hon’ble Prime Minister and chaired by the Secretary of Statistical and Informatics Division, Ministry of Planning is being held to monitor and analyze various SDG indicators through SDG Tracker and instructions are being given to various departments/agencies to update information and take action.
Thanks to this novel institutional arrangement, the SDG tracker has gained the capability to show the sector specific development status of Bangladesh. For example, it could tell us how education was faring in Kishoreganj, or what the employment scenario in Sirajganj looked like.
MPs in Bangladesh are not simply lawmakers enacting legislative duties but also act as local development champions for their respective constituencies.
This distinction is vital in Bangladesh. A voter from Bandarban does not vote based on the laws he thinks his MP would act. Rather, the voter expects them to aid in local development, be it the need for improved public health facilities, the quality of schools, requirement for a bridge or advice on the allocation of social safety nets.
‘My Constituency’ is a unique data platform developed by a2i, in collaboration with the Bangladesh Parliament Secretariat and UNDP Bangladesh. It builds on the foundation of the SDG Tracker and creates a localized lens of development that enables MPs to know both the development progress and the development targets set nationally, while simultaneously helping shape those targets and achieve progress locally, in their respective constituencies. It also supports the overall progress of the SDG agenda of the central government by enabling decentralized monitoring of area-based development.
Launched in 2020, the My Constituency provides the latest information for MPs to take informed decisions backed by data. It encompasses data of 10 inclusive themes, including education, poverty, and health, along with 86 total indicators, all designed to provide MPs with up to date, SDG-aligned, local and aggregate, national development data.
For millions of marginalized people and communities living in the world’s biggest flood-prone delta, Bangladesh’s annual floods pose a serious risk.
The Bangladesh Water Development Board (BWDB), under the leadership of the Ministry of Water Resources, with technical support from a2i and Google developed a system that predicts when and where flooding will occur—and keeps people safe and informed.
By processing BWDB’s existing 5-day flood forecasting data, Google uses AI-powered Hydrologic modelling to provide more precise and granular forecasts of various types – including safety advice with contact details for emergency services and supplies, and even harvesting advice – as well as warnings through improved flood maps to the local community. The system works on an instantaneous basis, providing three days to three hours warning before the onset of floods. Another key value addition is the interpretation of the technical forecast into language that is easily comprehensible.
However, relative to the population of Bangladesh, the number of Android phone users in remote areas is still low. To address this, there is ongoing discussion with mobile networks to find a way of sending predictions via text messages.
Getting past the Covid-19 pandemic called for a combined effort from all sectors. Developed at the height of the pandemic, the ‘National COVID-19 Data Intelligence Platform’ has been one of the country’s most effective interventions to stop the spread of the virus. Designed with the support of Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) and in collaboration with Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS), the platform is a Collective Data Intelligence System that brought together private sector, civil society, academia, media and development partners from around the world to form an unprecedented partnership and establish a novel, Collective Data Intelligence System that enables:
The system, through the use of advanced Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning tools, analyzes data coming from citizen self-reports from different telecom services (333, 16263, *3332#), hospitals, telehealth centres, websites, RT PCR labs, vaccination centres, etc. It presents them in the National Statistics Dashboard, Weekly Dashboard, Hospital Information dashboard and the Vaccination Dashboard. These dashboards have been the most important tools during the pandemic for Policymakers to understand the Covid-19 situation and prioritize and take necessary health and resource management interventions.
Sanitation Data Governance: Unleashing Opportunities and Tackling Challenges for Improved Sanitation
Bangladesh has made remarkable progress in the sanitation sector, achieving 98.5% basic sanitation coverage for its population. However, the country still faces significant challenges in ensuring safely managed sanitation and hygiene for all, which is the target of SDG 6.2 under the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. According to the JMP data, only 39% of the population has access to safely managed sanitation services, which means that they use improved facilities that are not shared with other households and that safely dispose or treat excreta.
Sanitation is more than just providing latrines. It requires an integrated system that involves various aspects such as toilets, fecal sludge, solid waste, drainage, hygiene, gender equality, etc. To plan, implement and monitor such a system effectively, reliable, and comprehensive data is essential. However, sanitation data is often incomplete, inaccurate, under-represented or siloed in different sources and formats, which hinders evidence-based decision making and resource allocation. Moreover, sanitation data governance requires collaboration, coordination and standardization among various stakeholders and institutions working in the sector.
To address these challenges and to accelerate the progress towards achieving SDG 6.2, the Department of Public Health Engineering (DPHE), and a2i, the multisectoral digital transformation center of the Government of Bangladesh have started a new initiative to establish a Sanitation Data Command Center in Bangladesh. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is providing the financial support, and Global Water and Sanitation Center (GWSC) is responsible for overall management and coordination of the initiative, under the “Strengthening of Public Data Systems for Sanitation in Bangladesh (SPDSSB)” program. This is a unique and timely initiative to enable evidence-based decision-making culture for supporting SDGs in smart WASH and sanitation in Bangladesh.
A workshop on sanitation data command center was held on July 6, 2023, aimed to identify objectives and goals of the command center as well as to solicit feedback and suggestions from various experts and representatives. It was organized by a2i, and ITN-BUET, Dhaka. The Principal Coordinator of SDG Affairs at PMO was the Chief Guest. The Secretary of Local Government Division, the Director of ITN-BUET, and Co-Director of GWSC were the special guests. The Project Director of a2i was the Chair of the workshop and the Chief Engineer of DPHE shared the welcome note.
DPHE and a2i shared two presentations to set the context of the workshop, and GWSC set the context for overall program on the “Strengthening of Public Data Systems for Sanitation in Bangladesh (SPDSSB)”.
The Sanitation Data Command Center will provide a one-stop platform for accessing, storing, analyzing and visualizing sanitation data from various sources and levels. It will build on the existing National Sanitation Dashboard, which was established by DPHE in 2019 with the assistance of the BMGF. The dashboard contains sanitation, solid waste, drainage, SFD related information of 61 cities across the country. The Sanitation Data Command Center will expand the scope and coverage of the dashboard to include additional information on rest of the cities and eventually data from rural areas.
The Sanitation Data Command Center will support data-based decision making, resource planning and management, policy formulation and implementation, and progress tracking and reporting for the sanitation sector. It will also foster transparency, accountability and participation of different actors and beneficiaries in the sector. Moreover, it will contribute to achieving other SDGs that are interlinked with water and sanitation, such as health, education, gender equality, poverty reduction, etc.
The Sanitation Data Command Center is a first-of-its-kind initiative in South Asia, is expected to be operational by 2023, and a noteworthy example of Bangladesh’s vision of Smart Bangladesh. It is a significant step towards ensuring adequate and equitable sanitation and hygiene for all by 2030.
Published at Global Water and Sanitation Center