Traffic snarls in capital Dhaka cost $4.6 billion a year in lost time, fuel and health consequences, among other elements, says the UN Development Programme (UNDP).That is the annual income of over a million citizens but many people felt they had no choice but to commute by cars and scooters, since public transport seemed too unreliable, UNDP says in its 2015-16 Results Report.Bangladesh entered a solution pioneered by UNDP with the Bangladesh Road and Transport Corporation and Go-BD, a local start-up.
It placed GPS (global positioning system) trackers on buses, linked to a mobile app showing where the buses are and how the traffic is flowing (or not).By the end of 2015, commuters had used the app nearly 34,000 times on one bus route alone, with some commenting that is has become the best way to navigate around their congested city.UNDP’s Regional Bureau for Asia and the Pacific released the report at the United Nations, New York last week.In Bangladesh, a pilot project by UNDP of a handful of digital centres for public services has been scaled up and now 5,300 digital centres dot the country. Those centres were accessed by nearly 216 million users by the end of last year.According to the report, Bangladesh has drawn on UNDP’s assistance to help establish nearly 5,300 digital service centres nationwide, mainly in areas with high rates of poverty and marginalisation.The centres offer 102 public and private services, such as for birth registration, land records, passport applications, and access to email and the Internet. By the end of 2015, people had used them 216 million times.UNDP has also helped the government of Bangladesh establish an e-file document management system that processed 700,000 requests for information and services in 2015, with a 50 percent increase in response times.In the judicial arena, a pilot digital case management system has replaced the former system of manual entry.Mobile devices now record court cases, making the process faster and more efficient. Information is immediately uploaded online so it is readily available to different branches of the judiciary system as well as the public at large.The year also saw worrisome threats to democratic space and rights, from attacks on activists and religious minorities in Bangladesh, the report read.In 2015 and into 2016, across Asia and the Pacific, UNDP helped countries protect and advance gains that have been made, while reducing risks of reversal.It represents the first attempt to coordinate national and local actions to reduce poverty in cities, make development there more fair and inclusive, and build in resilience to climate change, given Bangladesh’s vulnerability to storms and rising sea levels.UNDP has leveraged low-cost innovations, knowledge exchanges between countries in the region, and emerging technologies, to provide new opportunities to some of the most marginalised communities in the Asia-Pacific region, says the report.In breaking from traditional development models and trying to ensure that ‘no one is left behind,’ UNDP put sustainable development front and centre, in its country and regional development programmes, the reports says. It efforts are helping tackle some of the toughest development challenges in the region, including extreme poverty, unequal growth, rapid urbanisation, and climate change, the report said.In addressing UNDP’s goal to help countries achieve targets of the newly adopted Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), UNDP Assistant Administrator and Director for Asia and Pacific Haoliang Xu stressed the importance of tackling the triple challenges of poverty, inequality and exclusion.“We’re partnering with governments to integrate the SDGs across their national development plans and investments,” Xu said. “And we’re taking the lead in solving emerging challenges, and taking advantage of the data revolution to measure the progress of the Sustainable Development Goals.”During 2015-2016, UNDP received about US $116 million in co-financing from 17 Asia-Pacific governments.In 2015, UNDP also became one of the first international organizations accredited as an implementing agency for the Green Climate Fund, which operates under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.