The project taken in 2018 to transform Sylhet into the first digitalised city of the country has hit a snag as it has made little programme, if any, despite missing deadlines.
The project was supposed to be completed by June of 2019, but, when the work was not completed within the stipulated time, the deadline was extended till June 2020. And yet, the work on the project was yet to begin.
In this situation, the project now got another extension until June of 2022 through a revised development project proposal (DPP) in February.
Under the supervision of the ICT Division, the project worth Tk30.20 crore is being implemented by the Bangladesh Computer Council (BCC).
As part of the project, Sylhet MAG Medical College Hospital was to be brought under automation through the Health Management Automation System. Sadly, even after a two-time extension, work on the project is yet to begin.
"Work on the automation process has not started yet but when implemented, getting services will be easier," said Dr Himanshu Lal Roy, deputy director of the hospital.
Roy said that once the automation process is completed, every service provided by the hospital will be digitalised, which will significantly reduce the suffering of the patients.
"Patients' medical history including the medicine they are taking and tests they underwent will be stored in the hospital's database, so when the patients later revisit, their previous health complications will be easy to track, which will make the doctors' work easier," he added.
When asked why the project has not started yet, Madhusudan Chanda, deputy director of the project, said that the project got delayed due to the pandemic.
"The tender for the automation project of the hospital was scheduled to be called this month but now we are going through the second wave of the pandemic, so that is not possible. However, we hope that the project will be completed by 2022," Chanda added.
Earlier in 2018, when the initiative of the 'Digital Sylhet City' was taken, 10 sub-projects were mentioned that would be implemented around the city, including installation of face recognition cameras to identify criminals, setting up free WiFi zones, construction of computer literacy centres, automation of government educational institutions and hospitals, automation of ten services of Sylhet City Corporation, and improvement of civic amenities in addition to modernisation of tourism and hospitality system.
The project also mentioned making digital telephone directories and creating databases by collecting information from various service organisations to provide additional benefits to expatriates.
However, seven components of the project were later dropped by the concerned authorities.
Work is now underway to install the face recognition cameras, set up free WiFi zones and automate the Osmani Medical College Hospital.
Deputy Director of the project Madhusudan Chanda claimed that the two core components of the project have already been completed.
"Face recognition cameras have been set up at various corners of the city and been handed over to the Sylhet Metropolitan Police," he added.
Chanda said that functional free WiFi zones have been created at some 126 zones around the city and last month they have been officially handed over to the Sylhet City Corporation.
Regarding the omission of seven other components of the project, Chanda said that Sylhet City Corporation has already digitalised some of its services and the rest are being done or are being planned by other organisations. So, those have been omitted from the project.
According to the project sources, in the 'Digital Sylhet City' initiative, citizen safety was given the top priority, so facial recognition cameras were set up inside the city.
As part of this initiative which is first-ever in Bangladesh, Internet Protocol (IP) cameras were installed at important areas of the city, of which 100 cameras are for Face Recognition (FR) and 10 others are for Auto Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) to identify number plates of vehicles.
A control room was set up at the Kotwali Model Police Station of the city to monitor the cameras.
B M Ashraf Ullah Taher, additional deputy commissioner (Media) of the Sylhet Metropolitan Police said that some 110 cameras have been installed in the city.
"Some of these cameras have 360-degree zooming facility and they are helping the law enforcement officials tremendously to identify culprits," Taher added.
Taher also said that the cameras are helping with the data collection of vehicles and the identification of criminals.
On the other hand, some 126 free WiFi access points were installed at around 62 points in the city which were launched experimentally in January last year.
However, users complained that the access points are not fully functional in many areas and the internet speed is very unsatisfactory.
Jaber Uddin, a businessman from the Zindabazar area of the city, complained, "There is a free WiFi access point right next to my business establishment but I can never use this internet as the speed is very slow."