Digital Transformation of Pakistan

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By Ali Ashar Jaffri

Accurate, real-time, and consolidated data leads to beneficial decisions which is key to good governance and primary objective of a country’s public sector.

Information Technology has acted as a key enabler in the digital transformation of all areas of a country’s economy but this global digital revolution has faced greater obstacles in the public sector as opposed to private organisations.

Public sector digital transformation can be hindered by the extremely large amount of unconsolidated data, several complicated processes existing in digitally unconnected departments, resistance to status-quo from stakeholders, lack of Information & Communication Technology (ICT) infrastructure, high cost, and low ICT literacy.

A similar situation has been witnessed in the case of the digital transformation of Pakistan’s public sector organisations.

The country’s public sector has embarked on the journey of digitalisation since the last decade but the transformation has not been smooth.

In Pakistan, modern technology adoption hardly exists in public sector organisations. This anxiety causes the nontechsavy people to start resisting its adaption and implementation. The fear stems from people feeling that their power will be replaced with technology.

The success of public sector digitalisation mainly depends on handling the issues of stakeholder awareness and the adoption anxiety.

This can be accomplished through the development of public and private sector partnerships to implement this digital transformation.

The private sector may have greater knowledge, expertise, and experience with the adaption of modern technologies like the Internet of Things (IoT), big data, robotics, automation, cloud computing, artificial intelligence, and mobility.

The services of digital nomads can also be availed to ensure effective and efficient provision of various digital solutions. Another main concern in this journey of digital transformation is the issue of data security. For the public sector the issue of cyber-security is a major challenge and obstacle towards digital transformation. Pakistan has experienced a number of cyber-attacks from various internal and external agents that have severely impeded the stakeholder trust on various digital solutions. Effective digitalisation requires the data to be safeguarded with multi-layer support-backup through a security contingency plan.

The journey of digital transformation has progressed substantially in the present environment due to the unprecedented situation created by the COVID-19 pandemic. In Pakistan, the banking industry is one of the front runners to adapt to the digitalisation of business processes.

The launch of RAAST, an application that is Pakistan’s first instant payment system, is an important step in this direction.

Similarly, Punjab digital policy that has been developed by the Punjab Information Technology Board (PITB) focusing on the digitalisation of the various public sector organisations and augment the development of the country’s IT industry is yet another step in this direction.

Various government initiatives like the E-Pay, Baldia Online, Qeemat Punjab, Police Khidmat Markaz, E-Khidmat Center, etc. are also included in this list. Digitalisation of public sector organizations can foster the development of flawless and corruption-free record of data and enable processes with aentralised control mechanism.

Digital connectivity is the cornerstone for enabling the formation of a sustainable economy, enhancing transparency in government services, and improving service delivery to citizens. Digitalisation of the public sector can provide enormous opportunities for the development of Pakistan’s economic, social, and environmental sustainability.

It should be integrated in the heart of the country’s national development strategy. To fully exploit the opportunity that digitisation offers, key stakeholders on this journey including the government, civil society organisations and the private sector need to collaborate in order to accelerate the impact of digital transformation on the socio-economic progress in Pakistan.

(The author is the Group Head – Administration & IT at Bank AL Habib Limited, Pakistan)