Meena’s father was sick. He had many complications resulting from diabetes and had to take regular insulin to keep himself healthy.

The sudden lockdown had trapped her family inside her area at Ratnapalong union under Ukhiya upazila in Cox’s Bazar and she was unable to replenish her father’s insulin supplies.

Being worried, she sought assistance from the government-run emergency e-commerce service ‘Phone e Nittoponno’ and made a request for insulin for her father from their usual medical store since she could not risk going out of her home.

A volunteer from the service had delivered the insulin the very next day at her residence at Court Bazar Boro Bridge at Ratnapalong, taking proper precautions for contactless delivery.

‘Phone e Nittoponno’, an initiative of aspire to innovate (a2i) programme (formerly access to information) under the Cabinet Division and the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Division of the government, appeared as ‘god out of the machine’ to Meena during her dire need.  

Talking to BSS, Shaela Quader, programme assistant of e-commerce platform of a2i, said following the outbreak of corona virus (Covid-19) in Bangladesh, "ekShop" has set up the e-commerce platform in July 2020, wherein people in lockdown areas can order their essentials by dialling the national hotline 333 with extension 333-5.

"ekShop", a concern for a2i programme, is an automated one-stop marketplace where major local e-commerce sites, delivery providers and digital transaction companies are connected.

The call center network is serving all the general public in this
lockdown stage and acting as the facilitators for the frontline delivery agents for providing "Phone-e-Nittoponno" services nationwide, she said.

Shaela said that they have settled thousands of orders day in and day out and upheld excellent service standards.

“Due to the second time shutdown, many of the citizens could not go out. Hence, they ordered daily essential goods through the Phone-e-Nittoponno service of the National Portal 333-5. This time, alongside Dhaka, the nearby districts are also ordering from 333-5,” she said.

Atia, a working mother, is doing office work staying at home due to the shutdown and she can't go out of home for the foods that her daughter Ayesha need.

In this situation, the working mother, who lives at Kumun village under Gazipur Sadar upazila, opted for ‘Phone-e-Nittoponno’ to deliver her child’s necessities at her doorstep.

‘Phone-e-Nittoponno’ volunteer, Hazzaz Mahmud Hasan Dhrubo, accepted the order and delivered her necessary products in the same day.

“This gave immense joy to me to serve the citizens of the country,” Dhrubo said.

An honours third year student of a local government college in Gazipur, Dhrubo said he even supplied emergency products in families where few members were infected with Covid-19.

“We're maintaining the highest level of caution and health guidelines to provide services,” he said.

Rezwanul Haque Jami, the head of e-commerce at a2i, said because of their promotional activities on digital platforms, people are gradually becoming interested in getting their emergency products from the e-commerce platform.

“We're receiving instant response from the service seekers. Every day we're getting around 2800-4000 phone calls, while around 1500-2500 people are being provided services on an average from our platform,” he said.

Asked about the service recipients, he said actually urban and semi-urban people residing in upazila headquarters and district towns as well as cities are mostly the service seekers.

Jami said they are carrying out a promotional campaign to raise the number of service recipients.

"Besides, we're working on developing a network titled ‘Bazar Bondhu’ where leading private-run e-commerce platforms will be engaged along with local small stores and entrepreneurs," he said.

Jami added it would help small entrepreneurs while people will also get their essentials whatever they want at their doorsteps using the platform.

He said the volunteers, especially graduation-level students, are working voluntarily to deliver services through bicycle or on foot or their convenient vehicles at their localities. "There is nominal service charge (Taka 50) for delivery. Some delivery persons receive the charge, while some don’t," Jami said.    

Shaela Quader said a total of 1,91,969 phone calls were received till April last since the beginning of the e-commerce platform during the lockdown in July last year, while some 1,22,971 phone calls were settled to deliver services.  

A total of 138682 phone calls were received this year, while 87369 calls were disposed of, she said, adding that order can also be placed through facebook page of ‘Phone-e-Nittoponno’.

Shaela informed currently over 5000 volunteers are working with the platform, and they were given orientation as well as necessary guidelines in providing services.

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