People in developing countries often become victims of corruption because of lack of information about their rights and entitlement. Access to information is the key to empowerment through awareness and preparing the citizens to prevent and resist corruption, especially at the level of service delivery. With this realization Transparency International Bangladesh (TIB) has set up the Advice and Information Desks (AI-Desks) in the offices of its civic engagement forums called the Committees of Concerned Citizens (CCCs) in 45 different locations of the country outside the capital plus one in the capital Dhaka, with the objective of facilitating people’s empowerment through access to information.
The main objective of the AI-Desk is to provide the people with access to information about their rights and entitlements, and thereby empower them so that they can stand up against corruption. The specific objectives of the AI-Desk are to:
-Provide information and guidance to local people (on request) about their rights, entitlements and duties with particular reference to public service delivery institutions especially in education, health and local government;
-Organize mobile information and advisory services (called Satellite AI-Desk) in public places, especially in schools, hospitals and local government offices to proactively reach out to the people with information and guidance;
-Provide referral service to victims of corruption and other violations of rights in partnership with relevant organizations; and
-Receive information and complains of corruption which are forwarded to the relevant authority for necessary action.
The Main Features:
Operated mainly by members of the Youth Engagement and Support (YES) groups under the supervision of the CCCs, the AI-Desks are the repository and provider of information on the nature and range of services provided by the relevant institutions, charges for the same, if applicable. Regularly updated thematically and institutionally categorized user-friendly and location-sensitive fact sheets, information booklets, flyers specially produced for the service are used by the by YES members who like the CCCs work on a fully voluntary basis. All information and advice are also provided free of charge. A locally stationed Counselor, who is usually a member of the CCC, also provides legal advice including referral guidance, where appropriate.
The AI-Desks, introduced in 2003, were originally designed to be only an outlet in the CCC offices to provide information on request received through personal visits, phone calls or written requests. The Satellite version was created in 2005 in response to the felt need to take the AI-Desks closer to the people directly at the doorsteps of the relevant institutions. From an initial experiment in 6 different locations, the AI-Desk has by mid-2011 expanded to all 45 CCCs plus one in Dhaka.
In 2010 the total number of people served by the AI-Desks outlets was over 1500, while the satellite service reached to over 105,000, of whom more than 37 percent were women. The thematic coverage of the information and advice provided by the AI-Desk include: education, health, local government, land administration, women & child rights, judicial service, birth registration, right to information, NGO activities, passport service, transportation service, power sector, etc.