The international conference on ‘Digital Governance in the Post-Pandemic World’ got underway at the Information Technology University (ITU) Lahore.
According to a press release, the first day of the conference focused on how the pandemic has changed the governance landscape of the country and discussed collaboration between ITU’s Department of Governance and Global Studies and the National School of Public Policy.
Delivering the keynote address, Dr Faisal Sultan, the Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on National Health Regulations, underscored the importance of data. However, he noted that ‘unless data is properly used, it is mud.’ He pointed out that when the COVID-19 pandemic hit Pakistan, the country had no national health policy. Narrating the creation of the National Command and Control Centre (NCOC), he noted how it integrated data from all sources to enable proper policymaking.
‘The working of the NCOC ensured that policy was made and implemented throughout Pakistan, which resulted in the remarkable control of the pandemic and much lower deaths than was being predicted,’ said Dr Sultan. ‘Over 4200 hospitals send information to our dashboard every day, which is a remarkable feat, and enables us to know and assess every aspect of the pandemic’ he noted.
Talking about the future, Dr Faisal Sultan said ‘We are also not going to let the success of NCOC be diluted in the future. We are going to transition to a National Centre for Disease Control on March 28, 2022, so that in the future we are always prepared to deal with national health emergencies,’ he concluded.
ITU’s Vice Chancellor, Dr Sarfraz Khurshid spoke about how academia must collaborate with the government and the private sector to ensure that the digital transition is more people and solution centric. Dr Imdad Husain the chair of the department underscored the importance of properly assessing how the digitalisation is changing our world. Dr Ijaz Munir, Rector of the National School of Public Policy emphasised the changed nature of governance due to the pandemic.
Speaking from the South Asia Institute at Harvard, Dr Yaqoob Khan Bangash, emphasized that we must focus on developing a local model of governance. ‘Pakistan has always looked towards other countries for governance models, but this pandemic has given us an opportunity to rethink and develop our own way of doing this. We must grasp this opportunity,’ he said. Other sessions on the first day focused on the challenges of adopting an e-governance model in the bureaucracy, where former federal secretary, Shoaib Siddique, spoke about the challenges of adopting the ‘e-office’ in the federal government.