Dhaka City: baby steps towards a smart city

Sumaiya Nehla Saif, Dhaka Community Manager
Dhaka, 25 May 2016

The population of Bangladesh, along with few other similar developing countries, is highly dependent on cities. Consequently, urban development has been high on the agenda of government officials, policymakers and other actors involved in implementing change to make these cities more livable. Many contemporary approaches have been incorporated into urban development in cities: bottom-up, participatory development, inclusion of poor and marginalized societies and so on. Furthermore, developing countries of the Global South are now aiming at "smart cities" that essentially integrate information and communication technology (ICT) into urban development. This is in pursuit of technology-driven, sustainable, environmentally friendly cities that effectively respond to recent explosive growth.

Discussed in platforms such as "Strong, Effective City Corporation, and Safe, Women Friendly Dhaka Metropolitan," organized by Bangladesh Mahila Parishad (BMP) and part of a project called “Digital Track,” Dhaka is taking baby steps towards the “smart cities” approach to urban development by installing closed circuit television (CCTV) cameras across the city. The goal is to ensure safety and attempt at preventing crime on the streets. These cameras are also designed to send signals to nearby police stations and control rooms once any blacklisted person, vehicle or object is spotted. This initiative is fully functioning in the area of Gulshan, Dhaka and 11 check posts in this area have access to reports from the CCTV cameras in real time.

This project is aimed specifically to ensure better safety and security for women so that they feel no less secure than their male counterparts to lead a regular life and challenge taboos that do not allow women to go out after dark. The underlying transition here is to build a safer infrastructure for women so that they are not restricted on the grounds of safety, instead of accepting gender-based abuse and violence on the streets and keeping them behind closed doors – safe and sound.

Recently, a secular activist and blogger was killed and six suspects had been identified, arrested and condemned for the killing through CCTV footages of criminals fleeing the crime scene. Although, Dhaka is not eligible as a full pledged smart city, incorporating such development solutions can yield effective results for a safer and more livable society. It is these baby steps that can lead to well-rounded urban development in an increasingly urban-dependent country.

Photo: Nicolas Nova

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