Bangladesh has made remarkable progress in the sanitation sector, achieving 98.5% basic sanitation coverage for its population. However, the country still faces significant challenges in ensuring safely managed sanitation and hygiene for all, which is the target of SDG 6.2 under the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. According to the JMP data, only 39% of the population has access to safely managed sanitation services, which means that they use improved facilities that are not shared with other households and that safely dispose or treat excreta.

Sanitation is more than just providing latrines. It requires an integrated system that involves various aspects such as toilets, fecal sludge, solid waste, drainage, hygiene, gender equality, etc. To plan, implement and monitor such a system effectively, reliable, and comprehensive data is essential. However, sanitation data is often incomplete, inaccurate, under-represented or siloed in different sources and formats, which hinders evidence-based decision making and resource allocation. Moreover, sanitation data governance requires collaboration, coordination and standardization among various stakeholders and institutions working in the sector.

To address these challenges and to accelerate the progress towards achieving SDG 6.2, the Department of Public Health Engineering (DPHE), and a2i, the multisectoral digital transformation center of the Government of Bangladesh have started a new initiative to establish a Sanitation Data Command Center in Bangladesh. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is providing the financial support, and Global Water and Sanitation Center (GWSC) is responsible for overall management and coordination of the initiative, under the “Strengthening of Public Data Systems for Sanitation in Bangladesh (SPDSSB)” program. This is a unique and timely initiative to enable evidence-based decision-making culture for supporting SDGs in smart WASH and sanitation in Bangladesh.

A workshop on sanitation data command center was held on July 6, 2023, aimed to identify objectives and goals of the command center as well as to solicit feedback and suggestions from various experts and representatives. It was organized by a2i, and ITN-BUET, Dhaka. The Principal Coordinator of SDG Affairs at PMO was the Chief Guest. The Secretary of Local Government Division, the Director of ITN-BUET, and Co-Director of GWSC were the special guests. The Project Director of a2i was the Chair of the workshop and the Chief Engineer of DPHE shared the welcome note.

DPHE and a2i shared two presentations to set the context of the workshop, and GWSC set the context for overall program on the “Strengthening of Public Data Systems for Sanitation in Bangladesh (SPDSSB)”.

The Sanitation Data Command Center will provide a one-stop platform for accessing, storing, analyzing and visualizing sanitation data from various sources and levels. It will build on the existing National Sanitation Dashboard, which was established by DPHE in 2019 with the assistance of the BMGF. The dashboard contains sanitation, solid waste, drainage, SFD related information of 61 cities across the country. The Sanitation Data Command Center will expand the scope and coverage of the dashboard to include additional information on rest of the cities and eventually data from rural areas.

The Sanitation Data Command Center will support data-based decision making, resource planning and management, policy formulation and implementation, and progress tracking and reporting for the sanitation sector. It will also foster transparency, accountability and participation of different actors and beneficiaries in the sector. Moreover, it will contribute to achieving other SDGs that are interlinked with water and sanitation, such as health, education, gender equality, poverty reduction, etc.

The Sanitation Data Command Center is a first-of-its-kind initiative in South Asia, is expected to be operational by 2023, and a noteworthy example of Bangladesh’s vision of Smart Bangladesh. It is a significant step towards ensuring adequate and equitable sanitation and hygiene for all by 2030.