The dream of e-governance in Pakistan
THE way power is exercised through a country’s economic, political, and social institutions comprises strategies, actions and processes through which citizens and institutions meet their obligations and talk over their differences. E-governance is an important step in the evolutionary process towards this end.
Electronic means are employed in mutual interaction of government & citizens and government & businesses, as well as in internal functioning of government offices.
E-governance is the integration of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) into the government system to make the working processes efficient, accessible, and convenient.
The major intent is to make things easier, simpler and to improve multiple aspects of governance.
E-governance is not simply presenting or using certain technological tools, rather it is related to bringing change in the mindset and work culture to integrate government processes and functions to serve the citizens better.
In Pakistan, Electronic Government Directorate was established in October 2002. In 2014 Directorate was merged with Pakistan Computer Bureau to form the National Information Technology Board (NITB).
NITB facilitates Federal Ministries in the implementation of e-governance programs intending to improve information and service delivery, efficiency and transparency.
Pakistan is gradually moving towards the path of implementation of e-governance to increase the coverage and quality of information and services provided to the general public using ICT in a simple, economical and cost-effective manner. NITB successfully implemented 24 interactive webs and 9 mobile apps.
During COVID it developed and implemented 7 apps to facilitate decision-making in complex COVID scenarios.
In recent years, Pakistan in general and its Punjab province, in particular, have made significant progress in the digitization of their respective public sectors.
However, keeping in view its importance as an integrated part of the public service delivery mechanism, there is a need to increase the scope, improve quality and expand its outreach. There are a large number of obstacles in the implementation of e-governance in Pakistan.
There is a diversity in culture and languages in Pakistan. The literacy rate is low. The acceptance of the English language in Pakistan is very low.
The e-governance applications are written in English that is why e-governance projects do not get much success.
Hence, the e-governance applications must be written in the local language of the people so that they may be able to use and take advantage of these applications.
Now the majority of e-governance applications implemented by the government are also available in Urdu and it is a good effort to sort out the problem. The majority of people are unaware of the usage of IT gadgets and modern applications.
The majority of people in Pakistan do not have connectivity with the internet. Government networks have to go into all areas which are even unfriendly to live. It is, however, costly to manage this big network.
The separation or digital divide that exists between the individuals, communities and businesses that have access to Information Technology and those that do not have such access. Economic poverty is closely related to limited information technology resources.
People who are living below the poverty line cannot afford a computer and internet connection for themselves to take the benefits of the e-Government and other online services. Economic poverty is not the only cause of this separation; it may also be caused by the lack of awareness among the people.
In Pakistan, even some of the economically stable people do not know about the scope and services of e-Governance.
Government has to take some actions to narrower this digital divide to effectively implement the e-governance projects.
In developing countries like Pakistan, the cost is one of the most important obstacles in the path of implementation of e-Governance where the major part of the population is living below the poverty line. The per capita income of Pakistan is low as compared to the other countries.
Therefore, majority of people cannot afford online services provided by the government which is a challenge for the implementation of e-governance.
Government must issue a licence after training to those people who are willing to provide such services.
Such trained people can provide services to those who are unable to use e-governance applications with nominal charges. It would create a new opportunity for the unemployed.
It is also necessary to continuously monitor the outcomes of the already implemented e-governance system.
If no one monitors the ratio of requests by the people to the relief granted to the people by the e-governance system then soon it would become a cliché.
Now instead of implementation, it is also a big challenge to monitor the efficacy of the e-governance system.
It is necessary to change the meaning of ‘e’ in the phrase of e-governance from electronic to efficient. Anyhow, in Pakistan, it would take more time to implement an efficient e-governance system.
— The writer is Lecturer Department of Humanities and Social Sciences, Khwaja Fareed University of Engineering and Information Technology, Rahim Yar Khan, Pakistan.