By Shehroz Kaleem
ICT helps governments to deliver services to the citizens with greater accountability responsiveness and sensitivity. Using ICT we could eliminate the classic hierarchical bureaucratic system, as information can be simultaneously shared across different levels and people. As volumes of transactions and information can be electronically handled and delivered over a wider area through web, qualitative services become possible in least time, in least cost, in least difficulty and in greater convenience.
Researchers have found that corruption severely affects a country’s development because it takes resources away from the economy, leads to uncertainty and impairs investment. Administrative reforms, often, have focused on procedural details and restructuring of systems and processes of government organizations. The basic objective of these reforms is to enhance capacities of the systems. ICTs can be used and are being used now to give further impetus to the process.
A truly e-governed system would require minimal human intervention and would be automated and system driven. An immediate impact of automation would be on the paperwork. Paperwork is reduced to a greater extent with communication being enabled via electronic route and storage and retrieval of information in the electronic form. All this will lead us to emergence of Paper-less office.
Data could be presented to the masses through internet as per need for greater transparency and accountability. The access to information empowers the citizens. Informed citizenry can participate and voice their concerns, which can be accommodated in the program/ project formulation, implementation, monitoring and service delivery. Web enabled participation will counter the discriminatory factors affecting our societal behavior.
Social media is used by citizens all across the globe; however, not all government departments are using social media to its full potential. While many businesses are reaping the benefits of social media, decision makers within government departments and agencies will have to start public interaction using them. As the number of Facebook and Twitter users increase, users are consistently voicing their opinions on user policy and functionality. Social media teams are able to follow these opinions and change the platforms settings accordingly, resulting in increased participation.
Thus, it is inevitable that government departments, in order to achieve their desired policy objectives. However, it is apparent both local and national governments are still hesitant with their social media use and are fixated on the ‘try and see phase’. Stiffness resides in government where traditional practices about public relations are deep-rooted; however, they are seen as obsolete in the digital age. Such practices only leave the government to be seen as nameless, faceless and even untrustworthy.
Citizens increasingly expect the websites of state and local government agencies to match those offered by the private sector. But government agencies typically face more restrictive budgetary, cultural, and process constraints than their private-sector counterparts. Furthermore, many state agencies and localities operate on outdated and disjointed legacy technology platforms and have limited IT resources.
Fact is that until now most of the government officials do not have official email accounts nor have presence over social media. If some officials use government provided email accounts, then they don’t use them/or check and reply emails properly.
The Main challenge for E-Governance in Pakistan is the low literary rate of people, and the top management that supports resistance to change to electronic ways, and the unstable governmental policies. As well as the issue of management and deployment of huge ICT in infrastructure, the possible invasion of privacy, and the insecurity of private data from intruders, less collaboration between different organizations, and trainings for employees are also a challenge.
Digitization, unless comprehensive, is useless. Until recently, Pakistan’s digitization efforts were piecemeal and sporadic, taken up by random government departments. Unsurprisingly, the benefits were limited and the cost, high.
I believe technology’s transformational power is bigger than any of the challenges we face today. With exciting developments in Cloud, Mobility, Social Media and Analytics, Pakistan should grab the opportunities provided by digital technologies and leverage their impact to propel itself as the leader of the new economic order. In other words, e-governance in Pakistan has reached the tipping point and citizens and policy-makers alike should take note of it.