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Satellite mapping fights corruption in Bangladesh

Digital maps of Bangladesh are proving invaluable in the fight against sleaze in a country branded as one of the most corrupt in the world.
The maps are used together with a computerized national database to decide where new roads or schools should be built. The aim is to ensure that tough decisions about development priorities and spendings are governed by local needs rather than the whim of politicians.
Mr Siddique headed the Local Government Engineering Department for 18 years and oversaw the creation of the computer-based mapping system, based on Geographic Information Systems (GIS). GIS uses information that is stored on databases and places it on a map, making it clear to read and understand. Now retired, Mr Siddique saw that the system could be used to fight corruption. Corruption has plagued Bangladesh in the past. The country came top of the public sector corruption list for the second year running in a recent report by the lobby group Transparency International. Mr Siddique explained how political interference in the past had affected the development of Bangladesh’s infrastructure.
He cited the example of a local power plant that was built in a politician’s constituency, rather than close to a local river. The computer-mapping system is designed to prevent any such abuses happening any more. This openness means that local councillors are fully informed about plans for their area and are thus better able to make sure they spend their budget wisely. In the future, the digital maps will be available over the web to councils with an internet connection. Local authorities see this as the next logical step.
Work on creating the first ever accurate digital map of Bangladesh started in 1991. By the time it was completed in 1996, it offered the most accurate and detailed geographic guide to the country. The maps were put together using satellite images bought commercially. Every year they are updated by engineers who go around the country on motorbikes to check the information using handheld Global Positioning System devices. At headquarters in Dhaka, staff can draw up maps of the country and superimpose information like the size of villages, location of schools or condition of roads. The department is responsible for 200,000 kilometres of roads in the country where only one in six is paved.