DHAKA, BANGLADESH – Through a partnership with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), heads of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) ministries travelled to Dhaka, Bangladesh for a learning exchange visit to know more about Bangladesh’s Aspire to Innovate (a2i) program. The learning exchange visit aimed to provide first-hand exposure and knowledge that will be crucial to the implementation of the Localizing e-Governance for Accelerated Provision of Services (LeAPS) Program of UNDP Philippines, which is being supported by the Ministry of the Interior and Local Government (MILF) of the BARMM. LeAPS is a flagship program, which will support the Office of the Chief Minister, all BARMM ministries, and several local government units in using ICT solutions to simplify business processes, improving the quality and speed of local public services and making these more accessible to the Bangsamoro people.
In July 2020, MILG-BARMM and UNDP Philippines signed a partnership agreement to pilot an 18-month pilot implementation plan Project Initiation Plan (PIP) for the LeAPS Project in MILG and two target municipalities of BARMM. The success of the pilot paved the way for the full-blown implementation of the LeAPS Program in support of the 5-Year Digital Transformation Roadmap of BARMM after 2023.
Joined by staff from UNDP Philippines, the BARMM delegation to Bangladesh was comprised of the Director General of the Ministry of Interior and Local Government (MILG), the Deputy Minister and the Director General of the Ministry of Trade, Investment and Tourism (MTIT), five (5) MILG-Technical Working Group of the LeAPS Program, the Municipal Planning and Development Coordinator of Piagapo, Lanao del Sur, and two (2) focal staff from The Moropreneur, Inc.
The BARMM delegation was warmly received by the a2i team and was honored by the presence of the H.E Zunaid Ahmed Palak, Honorable State Minister, Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Division of the Ministry of Post, Telecommunications and Information Technology of the Government of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh. H.E Alan Deniega, Honorable Ambassador of the Embassy of the Philippines in Dhaka, was also present to welcome the BARMM delegation
Key digital public service projects were showcased during the learning exchange trip. Among them is myGov, an app that allows Bangladesh citizens to access over 2,500 government-to-citizen services and 51,000 public offices anytime and anywhere. The delegation also learned about the Union Digital Centers (UDC), where citizens can visit to access government services such as requests for personal documents, online bills payment, or e-commerce. Over 8,100 UDCs are currently set up across Bangladesh.
Another initiative that was highlighted was the Village Courts, an e-court app that facilitates response to justice and law protection needs of the community. Other applications for e-commerce, postal services transformation, and blended education to achieve 2041 Digital Bangladesh also proved insightful for the BARMM delegation as they evaluated the feasibility of adapting them in the Bangsamoro region.
The delegation also visited the Innovation Lab National Museum of Science and Technology, and the Union Digital Center. They were also invited for a cultural visit to the historical National Martyr’s Memorial. The group also paid a visit to the Sheikh Russel Public School and College (SRPSC) to interact with students and to learn more about innovations for e-learning.
During the learning exchange visit, UNDP Bangladesh and UNDP Philippines signed an agreement to deepen collaboration in the field of digital governance. Signed by Sudipto Mukerjee, Resident Representative of UNDP Bangladesh Country Office and Selva Ramachandran, Resident Representative, UNDP Philippine Country Office, the agreement opens the door for further technical assistance and advisory support from UNDP Bangladesh and the a2i programme of the Government of Bangladesh.
“There is a need for the government to be firm about digitalization. While it is included in the 12 priority programs of BARMM in the next three years, we need an implementing policy,” said MTIT Deputy Minister Sukarno Abas, the head of the BARMM delegation.
“We can’t keep doing things the way we used to because the world is changing. Our citizens have changed. They have different needs now, so we should respond to these needs differently,” said MTIT Director General Rosslaini J. Alonto-Sinarimbo about her learnings from the exchange.
“I have many learnings here. I highly recommend this kind of learning exchange to encourage buy-in among top tier leaders,” added MILG Director General Khalid Dumagay.
The LeAPS Program will be expanded to cover at least 38 additional municipalities and ministries of the regional government over the next two years to pave the way for the five-Year Digital Transformation Roadmap of BARMM after 2023. It is set to strengthen digital governance in all the 116 municipalities, two cities, and all the barangays in BARMM.