The Parliament and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Bangladesh on Tuesday virtually launched the country’s first ‘My Constituency’ data platform, web and mobile-based application for Members of Parliament to measure the progress of SDGs.
The data platform will support the MPs to track the development progress of their respective constituency and identify the areas for inclusive development planning to improve the lives of underserved people.
It also envisions strengthening interaction with citizens, according to a press release.
UNDP is currently supporting over 60 parliaments around the world and it has had a long and productive partnership with the Parliament of Bangladesh since 1997, through a series of projects. This included the initiation of an international network of parliamentarians for climate justice, policy advisory support to the Speaker’s office, as well as ICT support for MPs’ offices and secretariat staff.
Upon renewal of UNDP’s MoU with the Parliament in 2019, the organisation set out to strengthen the capacities of MPs and the Parliament Secretariat, support MPs with better access to evidence-based data and organisational development.
The data platform was a priority activity, supported by Aspire to Innovate (a2i) Programme of the ICT Division and the Cabinet Division, supported by UNDP Bangladesh.
Accurate, reliable and timely data is key to measuring progress in the Sustainable Development Goals. Members of Parliament have to handle a plethora of responsibilities for the good of their constituencies, such as enacting legislation, adopting budgets, and ensuring accountability for the effective implementation of SDGs.
My Constituency app gives the MPs better access to quality data for evidence-based decision making and development planning for their constituencies.
This platform was created with a focus on human development data. Its main objectives are to help MPs track the progress of their areas, identify pockets for development planning and strengthen interaction with citizens.
Speaking as the chief guest, Speaker Dr Shirin Sharmin Chaudhury said that Parliamentarians are the voices of the people and their involvement in realising the SDGs is necessary for the good of the people.
"We must remember that the clock is ticking – there’s only a decade left to reach the SDGs. Meanwhile, there’s a global change due to the pandemic, which makes it difficult to keep the economy on track while also ensuring that we stay on the right path for the SDGs."
She said that the app was born out of the question – how can we best use the parliamentary strengthening and cooperation that UNDP provides? This app is driven by the needs of MPs and their feedback has been incorporated into it.
It will cater to them and make it easier for them to find any information they need on their constituency with just a few taps.
The Speaker said that it will give a whole picture of the constituency, and help MPs identify existing challenges to make evidence-based decisions. Ultimately, it facilitates and accelerates good decision-making, and is open to future improvements.
"Surely this is a constructive tool for realising the SDGs, but we must not be complacent as it is important to constantly come up with the next step for reaching the goals," she said.
‘Building data-driven nation’
State Minister of ICT Division Zunaid Ahmed Palak said that this app will reflect the citizen's needs and help MPs act accordingly. They can connect their work in their constituency with both the SDGs and the government's overarching vision for development.
"Data is of huge importance while making these decisions and the app organizes, and to some extent, analyses data on constituencies. It can greatly benefit future decision-making and inclusive development. We want to build a data-driven nation,” he said.
Resident Representative of UNDP Bangladesh Sudipto Mukerjee said that the platform will allow MPs to see which parts of their constituency are lagging and act accordingly. It will help parliamentarians be in the driving seat of realising agenda 2030.
Team leader for Inclusive Political Processes Governance and Peacebuilding under the Bureau of Policy and Programme Support of UNDP Charles Chauvel said that the spirit of innovation and adaptation of necessary tools is needed for development in the country. The level of talent and dedication in Bangladesh is commendable.
"There’s a need to do better in environmental protection and spreading the benefits of economic development throughout Bangladesh, and access to information is key to making evidence-based arguments and decisions. This unique app will surely help parliamentarians stay up-to-date and address these issues," Chauvel said.
In the later part of the programme, Anir Chowdhury, Policy Adviser, a2i, presented the data platform, while Deputy Speaker Fazle Rabbi Miah moderated the question and answer session.
Among others, Dr Zafar Ahmed Khan, Senior Secretary of the Parliament Secretariat, Zuena Aziz, Principal Coordinator of SDG Affairs at the PMO; Md. Kamal Hossain, Secretary (Coordination & Reforms) of Cabinet Division; Mohammad Tajul Islam, Director General, BBS; and Radwan Mujib Siddiq, Trustee of CRI, Mozammel Haque, Policy Specialist of UNDP, were present at the event.