There was a time, as recently as five years ago, when putting the locations of garment factories in supplier countries on a map seemed like a Utopian fantasy. There was fear on the buyers’ side to be associated with a certain kind of (read: sub-standard) factories and on the suppliers’ side to disclose their address and location. Now, this fantasy has become a reality: In what is a major breakthrough for the garment industry worldwide, the first digital map of garment factory locations in Bangladesh has been launched to increase transparency and accelerate the sector’s progress further.
The initiative, titled “Mapped in Bangladesh” (MiB), digitally maps all export-oriented ready-made garment factories across the Dhaka district of Bangladesh and users can gathers vital information about a factory, an area they are interested in or what buyer is manufacturing in what factories. MiB is led by BRAC University in Dhaka, with funding from the C&A Foundation and support from BRAC USA.
Beta version of RMG factory map for Bangladesh launched
“This is a very timely and significant initiative. The buyers who purchase products from us can know more about the factories. The factories can also find themselves on a digital map. Our honourable prime minister Sheikh Hasina has dreamed of a Digital Bangladesh. This initiative has added a new feather to that goal. I wish that this map will be developed focusing on the RMG sector and its overall development,” said Tipu Munshi, Bangladesh’s commerce minister, while inaugurating the map in a ceremony on Sunday, 10th February.
It is also guided by an expert project advisory committee, which includes representatives from rights-based organisations, research organisations, international brands, NGOs, major industry associations like the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) and the Bangladesh Knitwear Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BKMEA) and received support from the Department of Inspections for Factories and Establishments (DIFE) under Bangladesh’s Ministry of Labor and Employment.
“This transparency initiative serves as a starting point toward re-branding the apparel industry of Bangladesh” said BGMEA president Siddiqur Rahman. “We have made tremendous progress in safety and sustainability of the industry in recent years. BGMEA engaged and facilitated this initiative to promote transparency of this industry. We believe the digital map will empower stakeholders across the industry, including factories, brands and retailers, and government through establishing a better understanding about the industry and will help the users with correct and real-time information. This will strengthen the effectiveness of improvements already underway,” he added.
Mapped in Bangladesh is a public project
‘Mapped in Bangladesh’ is a public database that not only puts RMG factories on the map but also records each factory’s name, its GPS location, postal address, number of workers employed, the products manufactured, the export countries it supplies to and, most importantly, the brands and buyers it is commissioned by. In addition, information about memberships, affiliations and certifications is stored as well. The data was collected by enumerators who used a door-to-door approach and visited each factory to gather the required data. Following a Wikipedia approach, data updates will be crowdsourced to the public and then verified to ensure that the information remains current.
“‘Mapped in Bangladesh’ enables a collective action approach to advancements in the garment sector by bringing together key industry stakeholders. Transparency tools like ‘Mapped in Bangladesh’ can continue to strengthen improvements and facilitate growth in the ready-made garment industry,” commented Linda Patentas, program manager for cities, supply chains and migration, BRAC USA, in a press release published on Tuesday.
“We at BRAC University believe that once this platform is fully released, there will be various uses and benefits to stakeholders across the industry,” said Syed Hasibuddin Hussain, project manager for ‘Mapped in Bangladesh’. “The government, city planners, and civil society organizations can utilize this map’s industry dispersion and concentration data. The industry can also use the tool to showcase its capability and enable greater efficiency. But most of all, as an academic organization, we feel excited by the prospect that this user-friendly resource can support future research initiatives on the RMG industry”, he added.
Those who worry about the reach of the project need not to: An expanded map, incorporating factories from across the country, is expected to be completed in 2021.