Lecturer, Defence Authority College of Business,
Karachi, atif.hassan@dacb.edu.pk
July 06 - 12, 2009

Pakistan is heading towards automation as government departments and ministries have started adopting computerized systems for processing different everyday jobs. An e-government department with the name of 'Electronic Government Directorate (EGD) has been set up to facilitate automation. This department aims at to make all government departments online; all ministries now have their websites online. The government has also set a target to train 16,000 employees for making them computer-savvy in coming months.

E-government suggests diverse e-services for the public so that they can interact with the government in way that is more effective. It is significant to understand the expectations of the society before installing the e-services. This can be useful for developing suitable e-governance system. E-government has been employed by developed as well as developing countries to accelerate processes, deliver a higher level of service to citizens and businesses, increase transparency and accountability, while lowering costs.

Additionally, in developing countries it has been recognized as an enabler to catapult governments in to the 21st century while leapfrogging multiple generations of technology. It is in this light that the government of Pakistan has established the E-Government Directorate under the Ministry of IT.

IT Parks in metropolitan cities like Islamabad, Lahore and Karachi serve as platforms for buying and selling of IT services. All this is not only helping the promotion of IT in an effective manner but is also contributing towards the economic growth of Pakistan.

In October 2002, EGD was established in pursuance to a decision of the federal cabinet as a cell within the Ministry of Information Technology after converting the former Information Technology Commission. In April 2005, the 'E-Government Strategy & 5 Years' Plan' document prepared by EGD was approved by the National E-Government Council (NEGC) and then later in June 2005 the same was endorsed by the federal cabinet.

From paying taxes online to keeping track of judicial affairs, filing online applications and forms to e-voting, the potential for e-government services to radically change the way citizens interact with the government has grown in congruence with the evolution of technology. E-government is considered a means for achieving good governance, by increasing the access of citizens and businesses to public services in an easy and cost effective manner. The EGD defines e-services as the, 'usage of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) to support processes within the government as well as for the delivery of services to its consumers, including other organizations, citizens as well as businesses'.

Activities such as e-ticketing, online tax filing facilities, the presence of the largest and the technologically advanced National Database of the Pakistani Citizens in the form of National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) offering a broad range of e-services to Pakistani people and similar e-government projects are indeed praiseworthy. However, if the establishment is truly inclined towards expanding circle of recipients of its various e-government projects, then the social and cultural hurdles obstructing the efficient use of technology need to be tackled.

Pakistan's e-government initiative has provisions for training and upgrading the IT skills of the government officials. These have to be matched with an IT literacy drive, not only for the urban dwellers but for the rural areas as well.

An important aspect of the e-government initiative is to make an enhanced connection between the people and the government. It entails using electronic means for all interaction between people and government agencies, including availing services from the government, understanding the status of work in progress and accessing the results of the process. This does not mean that e-government will be a magical remedy to corruption, red tape, bureaucratic inefficiency and ineffectiveness, favoritism, lack of accountability and transparency. However, despite the impressive online presence of the local governments of various cities, replete with e-mail addresses of different officials, the lack of interaction by these government functionaries with public cast a shadow of doubt on the viability and the motive of publishing their electronic contacts.

The e-government initiative has been undertaken by the government of Pakistan to improve efficiency, quality, and transparency in functioning of the government and serve as training ground for the thousands of IT professionals being trained in the country. Implementation of these projects would also provide an opportunity for local IT companies to gain experience in domestic projects before they are able to vie for projects in the export markets. The developed world is moving towards a paperless economy and for countries like Pakistan, it is imperative to develop an efficient electronic commerce infrastructure to be able to participate dynamically in the global economy.