Today, technology has surely permeated every part of our lives. Be it ordering food, a ride, shopping or even submitting a university assignment, everything is powered or aided directly or indirectly by modern technology. This conversion to a digitalised world, aided in part by the pandemic, is no more a choice; it is essential for economic progress and integration with the rest of the world.
In this regard, the hesitation of Pakistani government departments to go the digital route is baffling. The existing standard operating procedures (SOPs) are inefficient, and suck time, money and already meagre resources dry.
In this context, the government’s way of promoting sustainable power generation through alternative energy resources by removing 17 per cent general sales tax (GST) is an interesting case study. I discovered through Google maps that though the government appears to be encouraging businesses and households to shift to solar energy, its own establishments, such as the passport office, Nadra centre and the driving licence office, have ample roof space to install solar panels – remain connected to the conventional power grid. This reflects the hesitancy by government departments and machinery to themselves take steps that they want the people to take.
Not doing so contributes to our traditional bureaucratic inefficiency, meaning long queues, manual filling up of bank challans, waiting for token numbers, which are all processes that are time-consuming and prone to human mistakes. For example, in these departments, the authorities can easily make use of Point of Sale machines so that the customers may not have to wait in long queues.
The argument that automation and digitalisation reduce employment opportunities and that a developing country like Pakistan does not have enough digital literacy to make things work do not hold much water. By investing in people and equipping them with the right set of skills, such issues can be overcome without much of a hassle. Our perspective about technology needs as much of an overhaul as our governance systems.