Electronic filing system, bureaucratic efficiency and public service delivery: Evidence from Bangladesh

E-governance initiatives have emerged as the traditional system of doing business by the public sector are proving to be ineffective in, for example, public service delivery and public procurement. Hence, the important research question is: to what extent are these initiatives successful in tackling the inefficiencies in public bureaucracy and public service delivery?

The current Government of Bangladesh has mandated what is called a ‘Digital Bangladesh’ to improve public sector inefficiencies and contribute to economic growth. A considerable number of initiatives since 2009 have been implemented including digitisation in public service delivery processes, digital access to information, and electronic procurement.

One such intervention is the electronic filing system in the Deputy Commissioner (DC)’s Office in Bangladesh. A DC office, the administrative head and the centre point of public sector activities at the district level, processes a large number of files in a given day. The public management system, however, is notoriously slow with its bureaucratic red tape and poor monitoring system. Corruption in the form of extortion and bribery makes things worse.

The electronic filing system, introduced by the Access to Information (A2I) programme in 2013 in DC offices, digitises files and letters and then allows them to move within the system digitally. More important, the DC can observe how a certain file moves along the system, identify where a file is located, and how many days it has been there from the system dashboard on his computer. The DC is also able to observe the performance of each officer working under him/her — who is holding how many files at the end of the day/month and how many days it takes an officer to process a file.

This project would investigate the effect of these two interventions on the performance of DC offices. Two sets of performance indicators will be considered:

  • The number of letters and files processed by the DC office in a month.
  • The number of individual citizens served by each public service.

The data of the study will come from two sources: the A2I office in Dhaka and each DC office. A few additional district-specific economic and public sector data will also be collected for the purpose of controlling district-specific factors.