Futuristic Governance: Unlocking Potential in Pakistan

E-governance leads to great transparency

Good governance is essential for the  national development of Pakistan.  Most of the social, political, economic, and strategic issues of Pakistan are embedded in the lack of good governance. Poor service delivery, ineffectiveness, and dysfunctional institutional frameworks are the glaring hallmarks of the governing system in Pakistan. According to the UNDP reports, Pakistan has been downgraded when it comes to service delivery and meeting the contemporaneous needs of the citizens. It is the need of the hour to rectify the issues in governance. Traditional solutions, where bureaucracy got preeminence, are obsolete. Federal and provincial governments must embrace change. E-governance is the only solution to ensure responsiveness, participation, and accountability in Pakistan.

Good governance and e-governance are inalienable. Government must utilize all the resources at its disposal to ensure that e-justice, e-democracy, e-administration become a reality in Pakistan. It will bring incessant change in the governance structure of Pakistan and bring the much needed improvement in governance

For the majority of the Pakistanis, good governance is a mere jargon. It is necessary to decipher what this concept aims and means. According to the United Nations Development Programme(UNDP), rule of law is the backbone of governance in a country. It is essential for accountability and provision of rights to the citizens. Secondly, accountability and transparency, while designing and implementing policies in an effective and efficient way, provide a shield against misuse of resources.

In a similar context, good governance remains a mere hollow slogan unless it is backed by equality and inclusiveness in the decision making. When judged on the aforementioned criterion, good governance is nothing but a nightmare for the government and people of Pakistan, as the majority of its people are deprived of all such practices. What they have to bear is traditional bureaucratic red-tapism. From a Union Council to the highest offices of the government, traditional models of governance have wreaked havoc with the lives of people.

It is the right time to incorporate information and communication technologies in governance. Once the agenda of digital transformation is implemented through e-governance, gigantic improvements will occur in the governance system of Pakistan.

E-governance has the potential to gradually introduce many reforms in the governance system. It will eventually lead to increased transparency in the decision making and policy implementation. As people will have greater access to information, which reduces the role of the bureaucracy. Moreover, e-governance can augment a new era in service delivery to the citizens. The systematic hiccups can be eradicated. It would  empower citizens to avail government services seamlessly and conveniently, without any human intervention. Interoperability and integration of the government records, services, data, and information would also be actualized.

Currently, governments at local, provincial, and federal levels have not synchronized the service delivery systems. These are operating in their silos, leaving the general public in utter confusion. Open access and inclusiveness are necessary outcomes of e-governance. It will gradually shun corrupt practices from government departments. According to Transparency International, Pakistan was ranked 133/180 in the Corruption Perception Index(CPI) in 2023. If and when the e-governance agenda is implemented, such pernicious issues would be sorted more effectively. E-governance has the solution to all potential service delivery issues faced by the people in Pakistan.

Contrary to this, successive governments have introduced certain e-governance reforms. Those institutions have improved the service delivery for millions of people. For instance, Pakistan Citizen’s Portal is the laudable example. It allows citizens to register online complaints, check the status of complaints and provide feedback. Yet, it has not achieved its desired aims because of policy hiatus and discontinuity of the reform process. Similarly, provincial governments have established government service portals in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.  Unfortunately, the service portals are not properly functional. Ostensibly, provincial and federal governments have realized that the future of governance lies in e-governance but they are reluctant to introduce the required reforms.

The dream of e-governance cannot see the dawn of actualization unless the underlying issues are resolved. The digital divide is the most horrendous among those problems. A significant proportion of the population is devoid of access to internet and allied digital services. According to Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (2024), the total internet penetration in Pakistan is a mere 28 percent of the population. Cyber security concerns also bar citizens and the government from moving to e-governance. According to the National Cyber Crime Response Centre (NR3C), Pakistan is extremely vulnerable to cyber crimes like phishing, ransomware, malware, and banking frauds. The issues of trust, interoperability, resistance to change, and limited digital literacy reduce the implementation of e-governance reforms.

Good governance and e-governance are inalienable. Government must utilize all the resources at its disposal to ensure that e-justice, e-democracy, e-administration become a reality in Pakistan. It will bring incessant change in the governance structure of Pakistan and bring the much needed improvement in governance.

Khaliq Dad Lak
Khaliq Dad Lak
The writer is a civil servant. He can be reached at [email protected]

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