a2i initiatives emerge as blessings for people during Covid-19

Easy access to information and communication technology (ICT) immensely helped people across the country in overcoming the hardships rendered by Covid-19 pandemic, thanks to implementation of ‘Digital Bangladesh’ by the present government.
During the miserable days of lockdown and virus panic, normal life and even emergency services were hampered in almost everywhere in the world and Bangladesh was not an exception. But the people here enjoyed the blessing of ICT to make life easier.
UNDP, Bangladesh-supported a2i project of the ICT Division and the Cabinet Division took many initiatives as part of the government’s Digital Bangladesh agenda which translated people’s dreams into reality, especially in the remote areas.
Meena is one of those in remote areas who took the help of ICT to ease their difficulties during the pandemic. Meena’s father was sick. Her father had many complications resulting from diabetes and had to take regular insulin to keep him well.
The sudden lockdown following the outbreak of Covid-19 had trapped her family inside their area at Ratnapalong union under Ukhiyaupazila in Cox’s Bazar and she was unable to replenish her father’s insulin stock.
Being worried, she sought assistance from the government-run emergency e-commerce service ‘Phone e Nittoponno’ through 333 and made a request for insulin for her father from their usual medical store since she could not take the risk of going out of her home.
A volunteer from the service had delivered the insulin the very next day at her residence at Court Bazar Boro Bridge at Ratnapalong, taking proper precautions for contactless delivery.
‘Phone e Nittoponno’, an initiative of the a2i appeared as ‘god out of the machine’ to Meena during her dire need.
Talking to BSS, Adnan Faisal, Communications & Media Outreach Consultant of a2i, said following the outbreak of coronavirus (Covid-19) in Bangladesh, “ekShop” has set up the e-commerce platform in July 2020, wherein people in lockdown areas could order their essentials by dialing the national helpline 333 with extension 333-5.
 “Due to the second time shutdown, many of the citizens could not go out. Hence, they ordered daily essential goods through the Phone-e-Nittoponno service of the National helpline 333-5. This time, alongside Dhaka, people in the nearby districts are also ordering from 333-5,” he said.
The a2i has taken different initiatives in combating COVID-19 situation.
The national helpline is one of those remarkable steps. People get information on COVID-19, emergency health advice, daily essential items, medicines and food assistance by dialling the number – ‘333’.
Sixty-two-year old Farida Hauqe’s body temperature reached 103°F. Her high fever was coupled with mild cough and headache. Her only daughter Ruma was very much anxious for her widow mother.
College student Ruma could understand that her mother, like many others, had Covid-19 symptoms. She became seriously anxious and wanted to get rid of it.
Like other parts of the world, Bangladesh enforced countrywide shutdown (lockdown) to tackle coronavirus outbreak. Hospitals were experiencing huge crowd and there was scarcity of treatment facilities. Doctors were almost unavailable.
Besides, going to a hospital for treatment posed further risks of contagion.
“It was just 10:23 pm on July 26, 2021. I called the number ‘333’… I was a little bit surprised as my call was successful at the first attempt.
The call centre agent forwarded my call to a registered physician of the ‘Doctors’ Pool BD’. The doctor carefully listened to me as I described my mother’s symptoms,” Ruma, an inhabitant of Moukaron village in Patuakhali district, told BSS.
In a tone of satisfaction, she said, hearing all, the doctor finally came to a conclusion that her mother was not likely infected with Covid-19. He prescribed medicines for fever and advised maintaining 14-day isolation.
Talking to BSS, Dr Moniruzzaman Khan, a medical officer and assistant surgeon of Bakerganj Upazila Health Complex in Barishal district, said, “I provided telemedicine service to many patients, mostly the corona patients.”
Tania Ferdous Tarin, a university student, was worried about the protection of her elderly father amid the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic.
She wanted to get her father vaccinated and subsequently found a very simple and easy way to this end. She registered her father’s name through the ‘Surokkha App’ and received a massage within a short time.
Then her father was inoculated in the right time without any hassle.
The ICT Division of the government has developed the ‘Surokkha App’ as part of its endeavour to ensure digitization in every sector aiming to attain the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030.
“My father took two doses of vaccine without any hassle. I want to express my gratitude to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. My father has been suffering from kidney ailments for long.
So, I was very anxious about my father,” said Tania in a tone of satisfaction.
Not only Covid vaccination, in line with the SDGs, the ICT Division is ensuring digitization in every sector of the country.
In the pandemic period, the division is also providing tele-health services through a2i for the patients.
Even at late night, people are receiving the service.
During the lockdown, e-governance, online meeting, e-commerce and online cattle market have become very popular which indicates the progress in achieving SDGs.
Talking to BSS, SDG Focal Point of the ICT Division Nahid Sultana Mallik said the ICT Division is working as lead ministry for achieving the targets of 9.C and 17.8.
The division is also working as co-lead ministry to achieve the target of 9.B, she added.
The a2i officials said the countrymen are getting different information and services and even the help from local administration to solve social problems through dialing ‘333-0’.
The people also get different health related services through dialing ‘333-1’. And the people can buy daily essentials and medicines through dialing ‘333-5’ number.
Physically challenged person Taj Uddin of Sujaul Panchpara village in Borolekhaupazila in Moulvibazar sought food assistance on May 6 last through dialing the national helpline.
 He received food items within two hours after the call.
Twin sister Israt Jahan Anisha and Nusrat Jahan Tanisha (14) can now spontaneously log in Facebook, enjoy live classes, take notes as they need, ask questions and submit their home works in the comment box thanks to the virtual learning that helps thousands of children like them continue their education amid Covid-19 pandemic in the country.
“We’re happy that we are taking part in virtual classes as well as getting our teachers in our house via the digital hubs, specially laptop and android phone,” said Anisha while sharing her experience about online learning.
Although they are residing in their house of Jamadder Dangi village of Charmadhobdia union under Faridpur Sadarupazila (10 kilometer off their school), their school and teachers come to their house magically,” said their father Ayub Ansari.
Anisha and Tanisha are the students of class nine of Saroda Sundari Girls’ High School in district town which remained closed following the instructions imposed by Ministry of Education across the country in the wake of coronavirus but they continued their classes on virtual platform.
“Those who don’t have any device like Android phone can enjoy the classes on TV screen if they wish,” said Anisha.