In Bangladesh, citizens must travel long distances, often make multiple trips, incur high costs and endure considerable delays and frustration when accessing various services, especially government services. They also lack information on how to navigate through convoluted public service delivery processes. In addition, the Government must spend substantial amounts to cover administrative and transaction costs because of archaic, paper-based, manual processes. Due to the centralized, hierarchical nature of decision- making, officers at mid- and field levels rarely have an opportunity to contribute their input, even though they are better placed to offer useful ideas and solutions to improve service delivery at citizens’ doorsteps. Similarly, several adaptive technologies can be used to make citizens’ lives easier, featuring small innovations to improve accessibility and affordability. Intuitive officers and innovators often lack the resources or a conducive environment to experiment with potential solutions.
Towards a Solution
To fulfil the national development targets and SDGs, Access to Information (a2i) has been making significant efforts to nurture innovation across the country and bring sustainable solutions to citizen-centric problems. The Service Innovation Fund (SIF) is designed to encourage the upscaling of innovative home-grown solutions and ensure that these localized and effective solutions are accessible. The initiative embraces the notion of co-creation and engages government agencies, development organizations, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), academic institutions, private companies and even individuals as active partners to pursue innovation and help simplify citizens’ lives. a2i facilitates innovative ideas with seed money to conduct pilots in a specific region for feasibility testing and assesses the adaptive potential of the solution. To date, more than 150 innovations have been created through this funding mechanism.
The SIF defines an innovation as any idea or initiative that eliminates unnecessary steps that citizens must take to access services and leverages technology to improve them. The innovation must reduce the time, cost and travel or number of visits required to obtain them and also improve their quality. Anyone can apply any time, year-round, to a seed fund for a maximum of USD 32,000 per innovative project. The priority areas include service decentralization and delivery, gender empowerment, empowerment of persons with disabilities, healthcare, agriculture, rural development, right to information, green initiatives disaster management and low-cost devices.
Innovators who are awarded seed funds to develop and implement innovative solutions are introduced to experts and mentors from relevant fields to refine and improvise the solution from the very beginning of the project. a2i facilitates linkages between innovators and relevant ministries/government sectors that can contribute to scaling up or replicating the innovations at the national level. Innovators become co- owners of the intellectual property rights to the ideas. This facilitates ownership by the ministries and directorates for national scale-up. It also provides the basis for revenue-sharing arrangements for innovations that have the potential to generate financial return.
The SIF created an unprecedented opportunity to incubate solutions from both governmental and non- governmental stakeholders. To facilitate innovative solutions to national problems, a2i provides a seed fund through various competitive mechanisms under the SIF. As of March 2018, a total of 208 projects have received pilot seed funding; 20 of those have been prepared for national scale-up. The innovative solutions have been cultivated from civil service, start-ups, academia, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and students throughout Bangladesh.
Sustainable Development Goal target(s): 8.2
Countries/territories involved: Bangladesh
Supported by: Government of Bangladesh, UNDP and USAID
Implementing entities: Access to Information (a2i) Programme, ICT Division, Bangladesh
Project status: Ongoing
Project period: 2012-Present
URL of the practice: www.ideabank.gov.bd
Name: Ms.ShahidaSultana,InnovationSpecialist,a2i Programme, Bangladesh
Name: Mr. Md. Shaheenur Rahman, Senior Assistant Chief, Economic Relations Division, Bangladesh, Ministry of Finance, Bangladesh
Email: email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org