The Hajj website of the Bangladesh government has proved to be a financially sustainable model.
"The operational costs of the website launched in 2002 are being collected through a small fee from individual pilgrims," Bangladesh Enterprise Institute (BEI), a private think tank, said in its study of E-government in Bangladesh.
The study said the website had a start-up cost of about Tk 20 million, which was borne by the Ministry of Religious Affairs (MoRA) from its own resources.
The operational expenses of maintaining the website are now covered through a small 'computer fee' collected from individual pilgrims.
"As a result, it is not a financially draining project, as most E-government projects in Bangladesh initially tend to be," the BEI said.
It termed the website an excellent example of a tripartite partnership model in which the government, private sector and academia joined hands in building an effective business model.
The BEI said the government outsourced the development and maintenance of the website for two years to a private firm-Hatil IT which in turn engaged the Institute of ICT of the Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (BUET) to develop the website and to manage the various technical aspects.
Hatil IT is now responsible for updating and maintaining the website.
In its recommendations for further enhancement of the website, the BEI stressed the need to increase the use of Hajj management MIS by government officials, create a Bangla version, build a more user-friendly and searchable, database-driven agent list and provide printable versions of all application forms.
If a user selects district and thana, the website lists all registered pilgrims for the upcoming Hajj from a particular thana, together with each individual's pilgrim pass (PP) number, photograph and other personal details.
Then if a user inputs a specific PP number, the website provides the most recent status of the pilgrims with the particular PP number.
Besides, the website allows easy and reliable communication between pilgrims and those interested in their pilgrimage as well as access to policies and regulations on issues such as health instructions, baggage rules and latest Hajj policy.
It also contains alphabetical list of authorised agents and their contact information.
This list is important for verifying the validity of particular agents.
Apart from MoRA, the BEI study in its category-1 or success stories included Department of Roads and Highways, Bangladesh Bank and Rajshahi City Corporation.
Summarising the current status of E-government in 45 government ministries and agencies, the BEI said by the end of 2004, the government of Bangladesh is expected to achieve significant progress in E-government.
The Ministry of Planning launched SICT (Support to ICT Taskforce) programme in 2003 with the mandate of providing administrative and secretarial support to the ICT Taskforce in realising various ICT projects, particularly E-government.
Mentioning the importance of the study, BEI president Farooq Sobhan said the growing and expanding use of ICT through the use of informatics can help improve governance in multiple ways. It can also serve as a tool to enhance productivity and improve the quality of government services.