Dwoha Chowdhury

22 October, 2022 17:39

Digital City Sylhet: Inactive Wi-Fi connections, CCTV cameras are non-functional

The initiative to upgrade Sylhet as the country's first digital city was praised, and the introduction of free Wi-Fi and surveillance cameras to detect crime was widely applauded.

However, both services installed under the "Digital Sylhet City" project are in shambles, while authorities concerned are struggling to keep the initiatives operational.

People can still connect to the free Wi-Fi connection -- Digital Bangladesh -- from 126 access points in the city with the password "joybangla", but they will not be able to use the internet.

Sylhet Metropolitan Police (SMP) is also struggling to keep the surveillance cameras operational, as 80 out of the 110 cameras were damaged before the inauguration in 2019.

SMP with its budget repaired some cameras. Now, around 80 cameras are operational, but the licence of the face and number-plate recognition software has expired.

Another component of the project -- Health Information Management System of Sylhet MAG Osmani Medical College Hospital -- is still in the software-development stage. The project is now rescheduled to be completed by June 2024.

With a budget of Tk 30.20 crore, Bangladesh Computer Council (BCC) initiated the project in November 2017 with a target of completing 11 initiatives.

However, with intervention from higher authorities, most components were dropped from the project. Only three remained -- the health information management system of Osmani hospital, IP camera-based surveillance system development and Wi-Fi hotspot in Sylhet and Cox's Bazar.

Under the project, BCC installed 126 Wi-Fi hotspots in 64 areas of the city with 10-Mbps dedicated bandwidth at each access point.

The Wi-Fi service was officially handed over to Sylhet City Corporation (SCC) on March 21 last year. Over time, it kept deteriorating; either connecting to the internet was difficult or internet speed was slow.

Under the project, BCC installed 126 Wi-Fi hotspots in 64 areas of the city with 10-Mbps dedicated bandwidth at each access point.

For the last two months, the service remains completely unavailable, as internet service providers cut connections because SCC did not pay bills.

Ruhul Alam, SCC executive engineer (electrical), said, "The city corporation does not have sufficient budget allocation to pay the bills, for which these Wi-Fi access points are now without internet."

"We have sought quotation from internet service providers, and they said it will cost Tk 2.52 lakh to 8.82 lakh per month to ensure connectivity for these access points," he said.

BCC had installed 110 CCTV cameras for face and number-plate recognition.

In June 2019, Zunaid Ahmed Palak, state minister for ICT, inaugurated the surveillance system, and its control station was set up at Kotwali Police Station.

SMP Commissioner Md Nisharul Arif said, "During the unofficial handover of the cameras, 80 of them found to be non-operational, because the cameras' fibre cables and the cameras themselves were damaged during city corporation's development works."

"With our own funds, we have repaired around 50 cameras. However, due to the lack of a maintenance budget, the licence of the facial and number-plate recognition software has expired," he said.

"We have contacted the authorities concerned for a special budget allocation for the maintenance and renewal of the software. We also urged the city corporation to repair the damaged cables."

When asked, SCC's Ruhul Alam said during the city's road expansion work, some electrical pillars of Power Development Board needed to be reallocated, and cameras and their cables were damaged in the process.

"As we don't have sufficient budget, we have requested the mayor's intervention in this regard," he added.

Mohammad Mohidur Rahman Khan, manager of BCC (security operations) and project director of Digital Sylhet City, said, "After completing two components under the project, we managed the maintenance for a year, and then, the responsibility went to the authorities concerned (SMP and SCC) as per the signed MoU."

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