In the cities of Khulna and Jhenaidah, Bangladesh, the SNV team gathered census data on faecal sludge containments using geographic information systems (GIS) back in 2016. Efforts in both cities gathered close to 87,000 geo-localised data on containments, building outlines, and access roads in both cities. Now merged with other municipal information, these types of data sets are helping increase the efficiency, responsiveness, and accountability of local government and service delivery systems. This is the story behind the emergence of Bangladesh's Integrated Municipal Information System (IMIS).
Data is a precious asset requiring regular update. But data collection is often time-consuming and resource-intensive. When data is no longer up-to-date, the risks of inadequate or poor planning and decision-making are heightened. To mitigate these risks and as part of SNV's ongoing collaboration with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the IMIS was developed by SNV's CWISE project to provide a more systematic method of data storage and collection.
IMIS generates useful information - e.g., type of containment, access road, etc. - to ensure that the appropriate (logistical) arrangements are made to deliver to the (faecal) service requests of customers. Further, during service delivery, IMIS makes it possible for emptiers to update IMIS information themselves, with real-time data, using mobile apps (e.g., status of sludge emptying or customer’s feedback).
Beyond these, working with IMIS opens up great possibilities to revolutionise data systems in municipalities. Besides the Jhenaidah Paurashava - which thanks to the SNV project now works with geo-localised holding ID number information - digital municipal service databases are scarce. Paper-based and excel-based information lists continue to dominate. Geo-localised data are rare.
Overcoming slow uptake of IMIS
Despite the promise of better data and efficient services, local authorities’ buy-in of SNV’s IMIS was not immediate. Initially limited to providing FSM information, potential IMIS users voiced concerns about having to manage several data sets across different systems. Although some national government-led IT projects did pilot the digitalisation of some municipal information services, none worked with geo-localised information and map visualisation.
In response, SNV explored the possibility to engage in data fusion processes. To make optimal use of data, SNV began integrating Holding Id information into its IMIS. This merger opened access to an exponential amount of linked data, including municipal tax payments (holding ID, solid waste, water, drainage, sanitation), water supply tariff rates, building licenses, trade licenses, etc.
In addition, a non-GIS digital customer database for FSM services – also put together by SNV – was integrated into the IMIS. Containing customer information on service delivery related aspects – from application, operation, payment, to customer feedback - this data fusion ensured that IMIS would evolve into a powerful management and accountability tool for a wide range of municipal services. Enabling the shift to digital record keeping, tracking, and collection (e.g., the convenience of using a mobile app for direct and on-site information recording), IMIS enlarged the potential to engage in the cross analysis of national databases in, for example, health diseases and climate risks, as well as the possibility to facilitate mobile payments; all in line with the national government’s Smart City Initiatives.
National agencies, local governments, and development partners started taking an interest.
'IMIS - if successfully implemented - will make our work easier. When decisions are made based on real-time data, then services and resource mobilisation will become more appropriate. IMIS is a smart innovation for planning, monitoring, and decision-making over urban services by city authorities.' - Saidul Karim Mintu, Mayor, Jhenaidah Paurashava
IMIS: a tool for government officials and service providers
In 2019, IMIS was launched officially in the city of Jhenaidah. So far, the city of Jhenaidah’s experience with IMIS has been very favourable.
IMIS enables authorities to carry out three key functions:
- reporting for accountability using a customisable dashboard of indicators and information;
- managing FSM services, linked with a mobile app for service providers to record application, service delivery, and customer feedback on-site; and
- planning and informing (long-term) investments through spatial-based analysis.
Use of IMIS does not require GIS expertise to operate, besides remote IT support for maintenance. IMIS is a web-based application, which centralises all information in one platform. Supported by numerous mobile apps, IMIS runs on open source software (PostgreSQL database to store GIS layers and GeoServer to render open maps), and the mobile app uses PHP’s framework Laravel. The systems are aimed to be stored at the National Data Center, managed by the Bangladesh Computer Council under the ICT Division of the Government of Bangladesh.
Beyond information consolidation and the delivery of the database, SNV staff and a team of software developers trained city officials – from conservancy, engineering, and health departments, to revenue and water departments – and FSM service providers on IMIS use. Strengthened capacity and know-how accelerated Jhenaidah to migrate earlier databases to the IMIS, and use IMIS to monitor service status, to obtain snapshots of the state of services across the city, and to conduct diverse spatial-based analyses.
Progressive nationwide scale up of IMIS
IMIS adoption in other cities are underway. Khulna city’s adoption of IMIS is likely to be completed during the year. It will facilitate the management of its holding database, trade licenses for business, and of course, FSM services; with support from a private service provider. Jashore’s IMIS is also in development. So far, the digitalisation of containment information in one ward has been completed. Similar to Khulna, Jashore’s IMIS will be managed by a private sector partner following a Public-Private-Partnership bidding process.
Gazipur City Corporation (GCC) is on its way to developing the largest and most complete IMIS. In partnership with the 2030WRG of the World Bank Group, data collection in close to 150,000 buildings and containments is in progress in Gazipur. Upon completion, the Gazipur database is likely to have the most comprehensive municipal services information across the country, including FSM services and sewerage data, water supply connections, and holding ID.
As Bangladesh continues to make good progress in its digitalisation efforts, it is important for sector actors to sustain this interest and momentum. At national level, SNV aims to advocate IMIS use and support the Ministry of Local Governments and relevant agencies (DPHE, LGED, WASA) to develop a centralised platform with information from a network of city IMIS. Doing so will enable the implementation of the Government Performance Management System, and will strengthen progress tracking on Annual Performance Agreements between the Local Government Division and local governments.
Prepared by: Marc Pérez Casas with Shahidul Islam
Photo credits: SNV in Bangladesh
Note: SNV's work on IMIS stems from its ongoing urban sanitation partnership with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. To learn more about SNV's collaboration with the Gates Foundation, visit the project pages of Citywide inclusive sanitation engagement and Pro-poor market-based solutions for faecal sludge management (completed).