Digital technologies can be of much assistance when used for the education and training of public sector employees or citizens of the country and this too on lower costs and greater outreach than the traditional medium
In the realm of governance and public administration, digital technology can do wonders and lead us to the path of sustainable development. According to experts, governments can leverage digital technologies for increasing their revenue streams, enhancing service delivery, understanding their citizen’s demands and find new solutions for the prevalent policy challenges. Similarly, there is a parallel debate that e-governance or digital governance can be even more rewarding for a democratic system through enhancing participation of citizens, transparent and efficient service delivery, strengthening rule of law, and keeping citizens aware of the milestones and achievements through online medium.
The sole purpose of the public services is the development and growth of a nation and through digitization of these services, – there are numerous economic studies – the quality and quantity have increased while bearing lower costs for the governments, especially in the area of social protection. However, there is a fixed cost associated with the establishment of such services, such as investing in the technology and skillset for building a digital infrastructure.
In the case of a developing country like Pakistan, the transition to digital or e-governance is most apt because the country already fulfills few prerequisites of this digital transformation of public services, such as 60% of its citizens can use mobile phones and the internet penetration currently stands at approx. 28% which is expected to increase over time. Moreover, the country has already embarked on the journey of digital governance at the beginning of the 21st century and currently transitioning from an analog government (where we had closed operations, internal focus and analog procedures) to the E-government, which provides us with greater transparency, user-centric approaches, and ICT-enabled procedures. Pakistan Citizen Portal, Zainab Rescue Application, Online Job Portal, Data4Pakistan, etc. are few nascent examples of the country’s commitment to shift from analogue to digital governance.
Recently, PM Imran Khan inaugurated the Digital Pakistan initiative where a digital transformation roadmap acts as the bedrock of this evolution and Tariq Malik, Former NADRA Chairman and currently associated with UNDP called on PM and discussed the roadmap. The transition process includes the following:
- Digitization of NADRA Registration system and developing a digital Identification System
- National Emergency Helpline linked with National Police Bureau
- Digitalization of Police Investigation
- Digital Payment System – i.e. PayPal
- Digital Infrastructure of Pakistan
- Pakistan Business and Job Portal
Understandably, instituting a digital governance system in Pakistan can not only introduce an effortless public service delivery for the citizens but also induce transparency and help the government to overcome nepotism and corruption.
Literature also supports the fact that public services and economic development have a positive relationship and using the potential of digital technologies like mobile phones, the coverage of these services could be enhanced largely, such as reaching the far-flung remote and rural/peripheral areas of the country. Firstly, mobile-based financial services can increase financial activity, and secondly, it can result in a significant reduction in the cost of collecting, processing and dissemination of information for government agencies. There are examples of Nigeria (an underdeveloped country) and India (a developing economy), where digital technologies are used for economic development and cost-saving of government.
In addition, digital technologies can be of much assistance when used for the education and training of public sector employees or citizens of the country and this too on lower costs and greater outreach than the traditional medium. A real-time example of this has been observed by the world, and specifically by Pakistan, during the ongoing pandemic when educational institutes were closed and online platforms were used to carry out the learning and tutoring. The government of Punjab has already launched an e-Learn portal, which is an official repository of digitized textbooks, and each book has been augmented with video lectures, illustrations, animations, simulations and interactive assessments. Another benefit of harnessing digital technology by governments for public services, such as education, is that it will ameliorate the literacy level in the country and this is a requisite of efficient and effective democracy.
A national-level digital transformation campaign initiated by PM Imran Khan to harness digital technologies for public welfare. Ms Tania Aidrus, a former Google employee who was invited to Head the campaign of Digital Pakistan, while sharing the roadmap of this campaign has identified five pillars that act as a prerequisite for the project. While compartmentalizing the campaign and sharing the building blocks of Digital Pakistan, she said that internet access and connectivity acts as the baseline of this initiative, and then up-gradation of digital infrastructure, E-governance, digital training and skill development, and last one is the patronage of government for the innovation and entrepreneurship.