In Bangladesh, different ministries have developed large electronic databases: the Election Commission has developed the National ID system containing 100 million citizens over the age of 18; the Local Government Division has registered 120 million people in another electronic database; the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare conducts periodic health census covering nearly 100 million people; and the Bureau of Statistics is on task to develop a poverty database covering 160 million people. Since these databases have developed in different formats that is not interoperable, there is no way to deduplicate people from existing databases. Interestingly, despite all these large citizens’ databases, there is no way to tell which citizens are being included multiple times and which ones are completely left out because they do not exist in any of the systems. As a result, the following problems are being raised:

  • Due to multiple IDs, some people are dozing and avoiding taxes, responsibilities, punishments of the courts; overlapping, corruption, misappropriation, and misuse, wastage and duplication usage of precious public funds for the same purpose etc. are common in the socio-economic life of the country.
  • Since some citizens are left behind and are not included in the picture, therefore, are deprived of the social safety net programmes (e.g., vulnerability group development, widow allowance, disability allowance etc) of the government. The large and ever increasing number of internal migrants living in the slums and squatters in various cities is a striking example of it.

The government is spending a lot of public funds to provide the citizens with various services through these different ID systems. This situation points to a huge national wastage due to data collection, data entry and database development.

In Bangladesh, the population census is being done in every 10 years. It takes huge amount of money, manpower, time, planning and process to materialize this census. Unfortunately, by the time the statistics from the census is shared with different stakeholders, the information is already old and outdated. The senior level policy makers are using the information as base of gut feeling during policy formulation and development of planning, the information remains no longer a tool of pin-point decision making. For a densely populated country like Bangladesh and in the digital era, the government should immediately opt for a real-time ongoing demographic statistics system.