India's largest city, Mumbai, holds the record for some the world's most crowded trains and congested roads. With the help of the World Bank, Mumbai is revamping its transportation systems, embarking on one of the most ambitious infrastructure projects in the world. Resettling 100,000 residents and building new roads and train tracks.
“My country finally owns me!" was the delighted reaction from a high level private sector official to the possibility of a national identity system in Bangladesh. A lot of brain-wracking thought went into the possible economic benefits of such a project.
The sleepless nights of complicated financial analyses and exasperatingly fruitless brainstorming sessions that reach a point when you are not willing to say anything until you find something that will make the rest of them jump on their chairs, make things very difficult sometimes! But, the answer was there, short and simple. Such a refreshing start to an interview for the purpose of identifying the probable benefits to service delivery agencies of having access to a near-immaculate database of citizens, was hardly anticipated.
Rolling out robust, digitized national ID (NID) cards to 100 million citizens over a period of five years is the daunting task ahead for Identification System for Enhancing Access to Services (IDEA) Project. One may argue about the novelty offered by this initiative when Bangladeshi citizens with voting eligibility actually have NIDs since late 2008. A solid counter argument would be the “digitized nature” of the sophisticated NIDs of ‘digital Bangladesh’, enabling machine readability of biometric citizen information embedded in the card, as a replacement of the paper based, easily faked cards with little printed information and near-alien photos that gave rise to popular groups like “I hate my NID photo” on Facebook!
Under the Bangladesh Local Governance program, social audits are being conducted in Union Parishads (UPs) for strengthening social contract between the citizens and their local governments. A weekly TV program "Amader Union" or Our Union was launched by TV Journalist Shykh Seraj, who is documenting and broadcasting these social audits. This is generating lot of interest among both rural and urban citizens. The UP functionaries are also keen to participate in these social audits, so as to showcase their good work and responsiveness to citizens.
I observed a social audit in March 2011 on a LGSP scheme (a 350 feet rural road with brick-soiling in Sarabo Mouza, Kashimpur UP, Gazipur district) conducted by the citizen group (CG). The CG conducted a social audit at the local market by this road. The CG put a large poster detailing the Community Score card (CSC), that had questions and possible responses indicated by symbols. Symbols were used as a large number of rural poor are illiterate. The scores are given over a total number of 100, so that people can distinguish bad performance (below 40%), medium (60%) and good (80% or more).