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Montag, 15.07.2024
eGovernment Forschung seit 2001 | eGovernment Research since 2001

I visited Sylhet and Dhaka recently which gave me the opportunity to observe at close range how the environment in Bangladesh was conducive to bring to reality smart opportunities the 21st century brings to its doorstep.

After all what are smart cities? Urban areas where technology and data collection are used to help improve quality of life and ensure sustainability and efficiency of city operations where information and communication technologies (ICT) and the Internet of Things (IoT) and other smart technologies are used by local governments for transportation, energy conservation and infrastructure. The more a city incorporates these technologies to update its systems and structures the smarter the city becomes!

The Bangladesh prime minister's latest call to transition from a "Digital Bangladesh" to a "Smart Bangladesh" is a good starting point to examine where the country stands today on the "Smart" matrix index. A "Smart Bangladesh" requires smart cities with smart elements like a smart city plan for traffic management that uses smart traffic systems to alleviate congestion, smart surveillance and monitoring systems for security and a smart e-governance platform to streamline public services. Cities like Sylhet and Dhaka would require smart renewable energy solutions and smart grid systems that ensure efficient energy distribution. They would require an expansion of public Wi-Fi zones to increase internet accessibility and extensive use of Internet of Things devices and data analytics to monitor and manage city operations. Smart sustainability and environment in the cities would require energy-efficient buildings to reduce the carbon footprint and smart waste management that would mean smart bins and waste tracking systems to enhance cleanliness and recycling efforts.

So, what did I see that qualified as progress to be "smart"? Crossing into Bangladesh through the Dawki-Tamabil border crossing to reach Sylhet, while the road between the two-border check-posts must be necessarily traversed on foot, on reaching Bangladesh's Tamabil Land Customs Station and Immigration department, I found computer stations capable of inputting directly into the immigration server in Dhaka. Remote Tamabil had Wi-Fi connections capable of capturing photographs of every visitor onto the immigration server. That this system worked efficiently was evident when I exited smoothly at Dhaka airport on my way back, the immigration data already keyed in, fittingly available on the central server. Ironically on the Indian side on my day of departure, the immigration server was not functioning, necessitating the entry of my "departure from India" details by hand, to be transferred onto the computer later depending on availability of the internet connection. While re-entering India I faced a barrage of questions from immigration officials at Kolkata airport which had me wondering whether Indian immigration at Dawki had at all entered the departure data seamlessly into the server.

While securing my Bangladesh visa itself, I had experienced one e-governance initiative. I could file an online application through a Bangladesh Machine Readable Visa (MRV) format, showcasing how Bangladeshi citizens too access government services online, participate in decision-making processes, and provide feedback to improve service quality.

Staying in hotels at Sylhet and Dhaka did not feel dull and disconnected from the rest of the world, the hotel's spacious guestrooms were fit with modern conveniences such as ergonomic work desks, LED TVs with satellite channels and high-speed Internet Wi-Fi access. Technology seemed intertwined seamlessly with daily life making mundane everyday things feel smarter, efficient and enjoyable, the streets alive to the hum of smart technologies. Travel within the city had become very smart with an "Uber" available at the drop of a hat. Paying the Uber driver after the ride had to be in cash since my phone wasn't linked to my bank account and I couldn't use the UPI (United Payment Interface), as I would do in India. With efficiency and sustainability going hand in hand the ecosystem seemed designed to make life easier.

Not just immigration, energy-efficient hotel buildings or improved urban mobility on city roads through smart transportation systems in Sylhet and Dhaka, there were other constituents of comprehensive smart city projects, like smart e-governance, efficient waste management, water conservation, sustainable energy management, technology integration, sustainable energy practices that enhanced the quality of life for city residents. Evidently waste management is another critical aspect of a smart city project, in Dhaka's tonier precincts of Gulshan and Banani today, I could see very few overflowing bins on the roadside perhaps due to effective waste segregation, recycling programmes and the implementation of smart waste management systems.

In Sylhet, I noticed several smart healthcare facilities and education initiatives, components of the city's smart qualifications, while merely reckoning the numerous hospitals and medical colleges that created a holistic urban environment. "Sylheti youngsters" I talked to were knowledgeable about IoT devices, data analytics, cloud computing, AI-powered solutions, and advanced communication networks. Further to the use of huge cycle rickshaw populations, a non-motorised public transportation option was reducing Sylhet's congestion, concrete evidence of integrated smart technology in action. Bangladesh indeed has a "Smart Bangladesh Vision 2041" focusing on "Smart Citizens, a Smart Government, a Smart Economy and a Smart Society". Future urbanisation will bring in more challenges including infrastructure limitations, funding constraints, data privacy concerns, and lack of inclusivity in technological advancements. Evidently, Bangladesh is in the early stages of its smart city journey, but the commitment to leverage technology for urban development is evident, the movement towards developing SMART cities has gained momentum. Going by my own observations during my short visit to Sylhet and Dhaka, Bangladesh is indeed propelling itself towards its goal of creating livable and resilient cities by integrating technology into the fabric of city planning and management.


Autor(en)/Author(s): Priyan R Naik

Quelle/Source: The Daily Star, 09.06.2024

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