Pakistan is a country where red-tapism, bureaucratic delays and corruption are rampant. The system of governance and service delivery in the country is also poor and easy access of common man to state institutions is next to impossible. However, the emergence of the concept of e-governance and its successful implementation in many parts of the world brings to light the need of introducing this phenomenon in Pakistan as well because with an efficient use of e-governance, the provision of government services to the masses at their doorstep can be made possible. This is the only way to rid the nation of the outdated governance patterns of the British colonists which, unfortunately, are still prevalent in our country.
With the advent of Information Communication Technologies (ICT), the application of IT tools for delivering government services, exchange of information, business transactions, integration of various stand-alone systems and services between government-to-customer (G2C), government-to-business (G2B), government-to-government (G2G) as well as back office processes and interactions within the entire government framework becoming imperative for economic progress in today’s world. Moreover, governments, across the globe, nowadays are adopting ICT tools and working practices to remain responsive to citizens’ needs. Owing to increasing use of ICT tools, making all government services accessible to the common man in his locality, through common service delivery outlets, and ensuring efficiency, transparency and reliability of such services at affordable costs have achieved greater importance. And, providing all this is the core of e-governance which involves access to government information and services 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, in a way that is focused on the needs of the citizens.
E-governance relies heavily on the effective use of Internet and other emerging technologies to receive and deliver information and services easily, quickly, efficiently and inexpensively. E-governance helps simplify processes and makes access to government information easier. The other anticipated benefits of e-governance include efficiency in services, improvement in service delivery, standardization of services, better accessibility of services, and more transparency and accountability. It is convenient and cost-effective for the government also in terms of data storage and access to the stored data. The government benefits from reduced duplication of work. In addition, the processes of data collection, analysis and audit are simplified, and become less tedious.
Benefits of E-Governance
The benefits of e-governance are as follows:
Technology makes communication speedier. Internet, phones, cell phones have reduced the time taken in normal communication.
2. Cost Reduction
Most of the government expenditure is appropriated toward the cost of stationery. Paper-based communication needs lots of stationary, printers, computers, etc. which calls for continuous heavy expenditure. Internet and phones make communication cheaper saving valuable money for the government.
3. Cost Reduction
Use of IT makes governing process transparent. All the information of the government would be made available on the internet. The citizens can see the information whenever they want to. But this is only possible when every piece of information of the government is uploaded on the internet and is available for the public to peruse.
Once the governing process is made transparent, the government is automatically made accountable. Accountability is answerability of the government to the people and people to the government. It is the answerability for the deeds of the government, point-to -point linked to the deeds of the citizens. An accountable government is a responsible government and vice-versa.
5. Trust Building
The most important aspect of e-governance is that it develops trust between citizen and the state. In Pakistan there still prevails a huge trust deficit between the citizens and the state which can be bridged through e-governance.
6. Vox Populi Gets Heard
By using ICT tools, citizens of the state may give their feedback, and raise objections, on certain policies freely without fear by sitting in their homes. It increases responsiveness of the citizen thereby incorporating them into their governance mechanism.
E-Governance in Pakistan
E-government is a relatively new concept in Pakistan. The dawn of new millennium bought the inception of Information Technology Policy called the IT Policy and Action Plan 2000, formally launched on August 18, 2000. This was the first time when Government of Pakistan embraced the importance of Technology as an important resource to the economy. Technology was attributed as an important tool for sustainable development.
Comparison with Developing Countries
Pakistan is working well on e-governance but still it lags behind its neighbours like India and China. In both these countries abundant information is available online about the different government functions and services. Users can register online and enjoy more services. Although the province of Punjab has made great strides in this realm, yet as a country Pakistan still needs a lot to do in order to make the most of the e-governance for the greater interest of the masses.
What to Do?
- A major chunk of Pakistan’s population (nearly 40%) is illiterate. These people generally belong to poor class and do not know how to use the IT-related services. Hence, the government should motivate citizens and give them maximum information about e-initiatives.
- E-governance suits not to big cities or urban cities only; the services should be equally distributed in the country from federal level to provincial and local levels. Limited availability of the internet in rural areas is an impediment which must be removed at the earliest.
- Political stability and administration reforms are a must for the widespread e-governance initiatives.
- Immediate reforms should be introduced to increase the literacy rate and IT skills in the country.
- All the government officials and officers should be trained in IT as the government employees lack sufficient IT knowledge and are not well versed in its use.
The above discussion can be summed up by concluding that the people of Pakistan have high hopes that an efficient e-governance system will be soon in place. Pakistan is a developing nation and with increased commercialization, there is an immediate need to increase its e-service platform to wider masses and classes.