The concept of digital governance seems very complicated in a system like Pakistan’s, where most government departments handle information manually, and those who happen to be digitized are not connected to any centralized digital hub under one government platform.
Two examples of good digital governance are Singapore, whose citizens gets three text messages each month to remind them to do things like returning library books or renewing their driver’s license or passport, and Ireland, where a rural street trader can get a license for a Christmas stall without leaving home.
Digital transformation in the context of better governance includes many meanings and complexities. In the end, it’s about simplicity and managing citizens’ experiences in the best possible way. It’s also about using real-time data to improve government performance.
The World Bank reports that multi-billion-dollar, credit-financed government projects over the last few years have failed to achieve the desired results. The issues appear to be related to poor project management, corruption, economic incompetence, lack of control or governance, or inability to visualize a holistic approach for selecting and deploying technology. If the government is committed and ready to move ahead in the right direction, then the path is simple and clear.
Government digitalization will help make the economy more connected and rich with opportunities. This digital transformation will take time, but it will help the country build a stronger ecosystem for the information and computer technology (ICT) sector, geared towards a more transparent, efficient, and citizen-centric Pakistan. To do so, the government needs to establish better control, greater visibility, and more effective compliance mechanisms.
System-driven controls through a unified platform for finance (e.g., budgeting, planning, capturing transactions); procurement, inventory, and assets; human resources; and project management will ensure funds are utilized efficiently. Deploying core functionalities across ministries and departments will provide real insights, and a dashboard for effective decision-making will lead to better governance. An effectively digitized compliance environment will increase track and traceability and transparent and compliant debt management.
To evaluate, analyze, allocate funds, or manage projects, insightful data should be the basis for Pakistan to act on its long-term goals. Without this shift, the nation will remain in a state of equilibrium and continue losing crucial time, effort, and taxpayer money. In fact, without any solid basis, we can’t act on any strategy.
It is also impossible to run strong systems in silos, not digitizing transactions at each point of service, and not using the valuable insights driven by the system. Having access to system-driven insights could bring necessary change to managing functions, like deciding when or whether to release funds for education, healthcare, infrastructure (e.g., roads, metro bus), or citizen-facing government services.
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