BOLSTERING IT FOR CITY DISTRICT AFFAIRS MANAGEMENT

TARIQ AHMED SAEEDI (tariqsaeedi@hotmail.com)  
Dec 08 - 21, 2008

Since its birth governing system of Pakistan has been highly dependent over the workmanship of men and files and despite convenient and timesaving substitute given by the electronic revolution to expedite manual works slow or uninspiring efforts have been taken to minimize the dependence level. The reasons are many ranging from lack of technical savvy workforce which could adapt to information technology enabled environment to laggardness which hindered the thrust to become upgradeable with the changing demands of society.

There is no official record available which can present accurate percentage of utilization of latest telecom and IT technologies in running government affairs, it can safely presume by observing the clerical procedures in various government departments that there are numerous activities still dealt with age-old, tedious approaches. Federal government has started several projects to promote information technology at federal and provincial levels but all-out efforts are missing to bolster blessing of technology for the betterment of society and economy. The sluggish admissibility of government workforce to new technologies has been one of the prime causes behind low progress of electronic age in governing system. At district levels, the situation is not entirely dissimilar.

However, city district government Karachi under the leadership of former Sindh IT minister and present City Nazim Mustapha Kamal is focused to promote information technology in all 16 departments of the district government, 18 towns, and 178 union councils, said Syed Mumtaz-ul-Haque Executive District Officer Information Technology, CDGK. City Nazim is giving special attention to technological advancement in government workings and to enhance IT usage in district departmental affairs.

His department is computerizing records of various departments, he said while talking to PAGE. The volume of data is huge, but he says "through IT cells in district governed departments it is consistently gathering data on computers". IT cells are linked with the main computer in IT department which also undertakes online process and computerization of land record of daily transactions known as current affairs of primarily three schemes including North Nazimabad, North Karachi, and Gulistan-e-Jauhar out of total 22 in Karachi. From allotment, possession, transfer, to mutation orders are all processed through computers, he says.

Heading district office IT since two years, Mumtaz-ul-Haq believed that the pace of technological advancement in district governing system is satisfactory. He said, "IT is being extensively harnessed to provide maximum public amenities and to redress civic problems". "Within Civic Centre 700 plug and points are ready to give internet access to officials in various departments. They are provided with fibre optics connection", underscored Mumtaz. Running personal information system, the department maintains pay rolls and information of 27,000 to 28,000 employees directly employed by city government Karachi.

The advent of electronic age has opened a new window to the world. On one hand fast development in telecommunication has shortened global distance and computerization has encapsulated tons of information in microchip on the other. "Since we realize the essentiality of IT in governance and facilitation of citizens, we conduct training workshops for capacity building of our officials to make them aware of technology and upgrade them technically in accordance with contemporaneous developments. All towns are interconnected and exchange updates with master computers in IT head office", he said.

'Our motto is to serve people and to this account we have installed 50 close circuit cameras on two main corridors in the city. The purpose is to monitor ongoing activities. Command control system is also keeping surveillance on traffic movement through these video cameras'. The project has been awarded ISO 9001.

When asked about availability of resources for IT infrastructure deployment, he answered human resource was a constraint but financially the IT projects were safe.

Information technology group of offices receive daily 300 to 400 complaints and suggestions of citizens about civic problems and issues from within Pakistan and outside the country because of the convenient recording mechanism via telephone and website. "IT department has 50-seats call centre to collect citizen queries which can be posted through universal access number 1339 while city government website has a Performa to gather feedbacks/complaints about the various departments including KW&SB working under the district government", he explained. The call agents afterwards forward these responses to departments for resolution. The easy-to-post mechanism requires complainer just to submit names of his/her town, union council, and any landmark of the area in order for us to resolve the issue.

Talking about the future plans, he said induction of IT and IT enabled services to perform works in various departments in CDGK would be a prime objective. "Each employee should be taking assistance of computer to execute his or her job. Every person should be efficient, dedicatedly involved in improving quality of working", he added. Recognition of incumbent duties has utmost importance in giving quality performance as well. "We will keep working to upgrade customer facilitation services," he said.

The future plans include construction of multi storied IT Tower having 10,000-seats call centers, parking space for 2500 cars, commercial offices, auditorium with 3,000 heads capacity, conference halls, restaurants, etc.; computerization of district governed hospitals, revenue land records, remaining schemes of land management; establishment of IT cells in all departments and state of the art data warehouse.

It is however difficult to predict how long it would take to scramble manual data interned in pile of files since decades, "I surmise upon the determined seriousness of city government IT department in computerization of records that computer assistance in affairs would substantially be expanded", he concluded.