There is an unrealistic amount of faith that is pitted on the digitization of services (through BAL's much drummed 'Digital Bangladesh' ventures) as a way of relief from corruption by our present government. The Finance Minister admitted recently that corruption has just spread to all nook and cranny of public services and also cited the digitization of services as THE way out. That may be the case in certain areas or aspects, but if anyone has been to public offices with hopes of receiving services, they'll remember those uninterested faces, those blank stares, those lifeless creatures behind the counters and desks who seem quite bothered to have seen you, who state their (unlawful) prices quite frankly, even with anti-corruption posters hanging around them. You cannot expect to digitize everything and there will ultimately be servicemen and women you will have to deal with. The government seem to be suggesting that until we get those software development cycles complete and services up and running - a decade possibly, we keep on going about it the same way. Digitization doesn't happen with the snap of Jewel Aich's fingers!

What I find really lacking is an easy way to report when a public office declines to provide someone a service, fails to provide a service, or asks for unlawful funding from the public (recently, there was an extra charge under "Miscellaneous" for re-issuing my wife's license even after all the due payments have been made). At the point these happen, you are standing at a public office, quite possibly having traveled through Dhaka's usual high traffic, sweating, uneasy, and also having to spend time away from your actual day job, and you may ponder what is the way to get what you came for. I assume the beings behind the counter know these all too well, and that is what gives them the courage and pleasure to put you in a tight spot, where you'd rather pay that extra charge than having to risk not getting the right papers. Imagine driving without a license, or going for that business trip without a passport, or not being able to pick up your Tax Certificate, or not getting to register your new born child!

These officers have too much leverage on the public that they use to their gain, and the way out is to take away that leverage. Digitization IS a possibility for that, but immediately actionable consequences to these officers' way of working is also a quickly implementable counter to it. If those anti-corruption posters had along with those high sounding advice, a hotline that handles complaints for that specific office, and you could launch a direct complaint against the handler, or the office. It could be a mobile court, or there could be an overseeing officer responsible for action against malpractices within that office. Even while writing this, I can see how it falls into a cycle, since somewhere within our systems, we need people we can rely on.


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