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Sunday, December 12, 2010

Bangladeshi police responding to SMS - Latest science fiction

This is one of the recent technology related development that caught me by surprise – Where you can send SMS to complain to police in Bangladesh. There is no wonder that mobile based value added services in Bangladesh are pioneering, innovative and much ahead of the game in the region. However this one went a bit too far. In a place where its challenging to get help from the police in time even through normal means, expecting that men in shining armour will show up just by sending an SMS is a bit far fetched. Moreover, I really don’t understand why would someone send an SMS to file a General Diary with police when the same could be done more conveniently by just dialling up number.

Foreign development agencies sometimes have a mandate to show impact to their donors. When it comes to technology, may be its too lucrative for them to show a science fiction like project for the local region which might wow the donor and media. It would have helped if UNDP could have looked at the existing systems of policing and thought of how to improve that first. For example, how about a 999 like nation wide number for emergency services such as fire, medical emergency and police related issues? I accept however that there are a few strange socio-cultural snags in Bangladesh which makes it difficult to even get a cab from the streets to make it to go where you want to. And to get help from police in time, without any involvement of bribes and bureaucracies is still a rather utopia. SMS and technology in general may be can’t change basic mindset or the impression towards police, something UNDP need to keep in mind. So lets come down to earth from science fiction like projects such as this and see how we can make basic technology work to provide public services to the common people.


Anonymous said...

In many countries like Bangladesh the rural poor are more SMS literate than written English and more likely to send an anonymous text complainig about something than they are to call. SMS has/will give access to banking, money transfer, and greatly improve the access to communications technology of the poor. Empowering entrepreneurship opportunities is the first step to self help and so for me any SMS useage is a step in the riht direction. Why not public health messaages, weather warnings etc from the government via SMS. The record of numbers at the telephone comapanies provides a great data base and should not just be sold to marketing companies but used to transmit important messages - its the new 'radio' in that sense but has the advantage of being directly interactive.

Shehzaad Shams said...

Dear Anon, I am not against SMS technology. But a tool such as this can't be used as a solution for any and all kinds of service. My argument is just for the case that regarding police services, which requires urgency, some sort of a human intervention to ensure security, SMS is not the best means.