a2i’s ekShop wins UN’s SDG Digital GameChangers Award

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The ekShop, an innovative initiative of Aspire to Innovate (a2i), has won the United Nations ‘SDG Digital GameChangers Award’ in recognition of reducing the distance between villages and cities by bringing e-commerce services to the marginal areas of Bangladesh. The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) jointly awarded a2i’s initiative ‘ekShop’ as the champion in the ‘Game Changer for Prosperity’ category.

The award ceremony took place on 16 September in at UN Headquarters in New York as part of the UN’s dedicated SDG Action Weekend. The a2i’s Policy Advisor Mr. Anir Chowdhury, Head of Commercial Strategy Mr. Rezwanul Haque Jami and Programme Associate (Outreach & Resource Mobilization) Mr. Md Sahariar Hasan, received the award at the ceremony.

The SDG Digital GameChangers Award honours individuals and organizations working on digital solutions to accelerate progress on global goals. The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), backed by other partners and supporters, presented the SDG Digital GameChangers Award in five categories: People, Planet, Prosperity, Peace, and Pioneer.

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) set out by the United Nations and adopted by countries worldwide in 2015 are far from being achieved. Accelerating progress on the 17 Goals and 169 associated targets will depend on rapid digital uptake combined with continuous technological innovation. As government and business leaders from around the world gathered for the United Nations General Assembly, a new UN-led partnership honoured digital innovators dedicated to SDG success.

The ekShop’s equitable e-commerce model empowers small and medium-sized businesses, refugees, and those facing digital disparities, particularly in the least-developed countries, making a significant impact as a proven digital public good in mitigating the digital divide. It’s a great achievement for Bangladesh and will encourage others to develop a sustainable economic system for the SDGs all over the world.

The ekShop is Bangladesh’s first rural-assisted e-commerce platform, with the aim of delivering daily-necessary products to people’s doorsteps easily and quickly. At present, more than 12 thousand rural artisans are selling products through this e-commerce platform. The ekShop has already delivered more than 80 lakh products to different parts of the country through cash on delivery.

A seller who wants to sell his products can join the ekShop himself. They can also display their products for sale on any e-commerce site associated with the ekShop. This work can be done by the seller himself. Again, in this case, they can take the help of the entrepreneurs at Union Digital Centre. Besides, the ekShop has also a delivery management system. This service was launched during the COVID-19 situation. Any e-commerce organization or entrepreneur can deliver their products to customers through this service. The Post & Telecommunication Division has been added to this platform, along with various product delivery organizations in the country. The various government entrepreneurial institutions have also been brought under the umbrella of the ekShop.

The initiative has been taken to reduce digital disparity by replicating the ekshop’s model not only in the country but also in underdeveloped countries. The ekShop’s model is being replicated to reduce the digital divide, particularly in South Sudan, Yemen, Turkey, and Somalia. This model has also been launched in a province of the Philippines. The UN is helping to roll out this model outside the country.

The a2i, a whole-of-government program implemented by the ICT Division & Cabinet Division, supported by UNDP Bangladesh, catalyzes citizen-friendly public service innovations simplifying government and bringing it closer to people. It supports the government to be at the forefront of integrating new, whole-of-society approaches to achieve the SDGs.