Staff Correspondent: 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Faridpur Virtual School (Amar Ghore Amar School -My Home My School) has played a very important role for popularizing online teaching as it connects thousands of students with their teachers and institutions in the pandemic situation of Covid-19. Common people of the Savar upazila, like elsewhere in the country, are also being benefited in their fight against the COVID-19 pandemic through surfing the government sponsored web-portal ‘corona info’.
“This web portal is very helpful. We had taken medical advice and followed health rules taking the help of the site when I along with my husband and two sons became positive for coronavirus,” said Helen Keller, a teacher of Savar Manikandan primary school.
The government’s Digital Bangladesh flagship programme, the a2i with the support of the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare Affairs is running the ‘corona info’ web portal – www.corona.gov.bd – offering a kind of one-stop digital health services related to the pandemic to the masses.
Halen said the telemedicine service and tutorials over different corona related mobile apps, provided by the portal, are very helpful for everyone.
The portal also provides information regarding coronavirus testing and hospital facilities including availability of ICU beds along with the government’s pandemic instructions and district-wise maps pointing the hot zones of the virus.
A six-month pregnant woman of Mohongonj upazila in Netrokona district felt sick amid the Covid-19 pandemic when all the hospitals and healthcare centers were busy with coronavirus patients keeping aside their regular services to other patients.
“I was suffering from cough and skin related diseases during the countrywide lockdown last year when I was pregnant of six months.
I and my family members were anxious about my health since all healthcare facilities were virtually shut for other patients except the Covid-affected ones,” Hriday Moni, a resident of Adarshanagar village of Mohongonjupazila, told recently.
At that time, she came to know about the “Ma-Telehealth Center” being run by the Department of Women and Children Affairs, under the supervision of a2i of the Cabinet Division and the ICT Division with the support from the UNDP, to render health services to pregnant and lactating mothers and children.
“I took medical services from the “Ma-Telehealth Center” twice during my pregnancy and recovered following the treatment provided by the center,” said Hriday Moni, wife of a factory worker, Nizamuddin.
According to the a2i officials, “Ma-Telehealth Center” is ensuring uninterrupted healthcare services for the pregnant and lactating mothers and children while the platform has been serving people since June 14, 2020.
Program Director (Maternity Allowance) of the Department of Women Affairs Rubina Ghani said the “Ma-Telehealth” service got popularity in 39 upazilas of seven districts in the country.
A total of 75 specialist physicians are rendering the digital health services to the enlisted pregnant and lactating mothers and children, she said, adding, “The Ma-Telehealth service has emerged as an extraordinary healthcare programme for the families of the general and pregnant mothers in the 39 upazilas”.
Md Arif, a small but locally popular entrepreneur in Cumilla district, has been delivering different types of products through the country’s largest e-commerce aggregator ‘ekShop’ centre regularly.
Arif had fallen in depression about his much-invested online business over the delivering issue and his depression deepened when e-commerce got momentum due to the COVID-19 pandemic as his deliverymen were facing the crisis of identifying the addresses of the customers on Google Maps.
In the meantime, he got an offer through e-mail for doing a short course on capacity building on how to use Google Maps for product and e-commerce delivery during the corona virus period.
From the short course, Arif said, he came to know that important establishments across the country such as hospitals, pharmacies, big grocery stores or super-shops have been included in the Google Maps through the ‘Bangladesh Challenge’ campaign launched by the a2i.
Once getting consultations from expert physicians was beyond the imagination of the people of Badarkhali, a remote union in Cox’s Bazar’s Chakaria upazila, where healthcare facilities are very insufficient.
But the implementation of Digital Bangladesh made dream come true for rural people as it has reached advanced medicare facilities in the rural area.
Some comments of Ahmedur Rahman, a farmer who resides at Block No. 3 under Badarkhali union, portrayed the scenario of development in the locality in the field of health sector.
“I along with my four family members including wife, son and daughter tested positive for coronavirus.
It was beyond our affordability to receive treatment by going outside of my upazila or district. Then a neighbor suggested me for calling at ‘333’, the national helpline,” he said.
Rahman continued: “Accordingly, I did that and stayed at home after consulting with specialist physicians. Getting treatment through telemedicine service, all of our family recovered from illness.”
The Digital Bangladesh vision of the government has been facilitating people in multifaceted ways as it has reached the government services at the people’s doorsteps in an easier, time-saving and cost-effective way.
Hefaj Morshed, a resident of Dulahazra union under Chakariaupazila, had worked at a private organization in Dhaka but lost his job during the corona virus pandemic. Then he returned home.
Under this circumstance, Digital Bangladesh initiative offered a ray of hope for Morshed as he started doing e-commerce staying home. He initiated his business with products like “shutki” (dried fish), pickles, vegetables and so on. Now he is self-reliant.
“I got frustrated after losing the job. I embarked on the business through online at the advice of a friend with products like dried fish and pickles.
Now I’m also selling vegetables as well at different places including Dhaka and Chattogram. I also supplied my products to Prime Minister’s Office,” Morshed said.
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