One of the usual and obvious outcomes of adopting IT in any public sector organization is the group of data — and announcing more IT systems into government departments will surely generate more data. But then designate complete meaningful for Stakeholders, this uncooked data needs to be processed, ultimately resulting in a culture of data-driven policymaking. Virtuous data can lead to good decisions, henceforward good governance. On the other hand, depraved / bad data leads to arbitrary decisions, hence bad governance.
IT adoption arises with the promise of speedy and shortened processes with little or no human interaction. For the government, this suggests that it can facilitate its citizens without discrimination or bias. For the people, this entails remote, paperless, and cashless transactions with the government and assures uniform and easy access to government facilities.
1. Work Ethics and Culture
The minute technology is make known into the government ecosystem, whether in the procedure of software solutions or digital infrastructure, the primary challenge is the cultural and social change encounter that ensues. The resistance to technology is not largely due to technophobia, it is due to the disruption of the status quo. Technology aims to add elements of transparency, visibility, and accountability for all stakeholders, which tends to have an immediate opposition from most of them. Therefore, this cultural and social change demands careful management from an organizational behavior.
2. Lack of Domain Knowledge
Incompetence and ineffectiveness are continuing at the level of execution. Departmental business rules have either become completely inappropriate, or do not exist in the first place. Domain knowledge is like a puzzle with pieces split between various functional units. Hence, for the intangible software, sign-offs on project deliverables will continuously be thought-provoking.
3. Frequent Leadership Changes
The role of department’s top leadership is utmost critical. They are obligatory to steer the complete digital transformation development to some logical conclusion, otherwise, it’s a waste of time and effort. Projects that do not display significant returns within a single tenure lean in the direction of to phase out and be lost in dividing line once the top management changes hands. This results in panic, impractical demands from the delivery team, and unnecessary urgency. This is where expectations need to be very sensibly accomplished.
4. Delays in Release of Funds
The procedure of funds approval and releases for government projects is quite tedious and long drawn. A government’s internal cash flow visibility at any specified point in time is an enormous challenge. Hence, payments do not have a definite timeframe. This has a big influence on the engagement, delivery, and morale of any party that works with the government and can be a major hindrance in engagement of premiere contractors and vendors.
5. No Separate Procurement Rules for Software
There are similarly maintenance and support challenges for the already delivered software systems and as per the government books, if something is delivered, it has to be either a tangible good or service. There is no separate delivery category for software. Hence, maintenance and support contracts for software are often treated the same way, but it is very unlikely that two software engineers would solve the same problem in a similar way. Even if they do, their algorithmic implementation is most likely to be different from each other. But there are best practices and coding standards that can be followed as part of a software company culture, which may or may not be followed in another company. Hence, maintenance and support contracts for software must be treated differently.
Ideally, the software engineer who developed it in the first place should be traced and given the contract. Otherwise, the company that was given the initial development contract should be engaged for maintenance and support as well. For this, perpetual budgetary expense would have to be allocated year after year. Otherwise, a continuously irritating buggy software is what the departmental staff will have to live with.
6. No National Policy on Data Governance
Data alliance even for the internal feeding of government departments is silent and an unexplained problem. For the justice sector, for instance, why can’t police share an authentic digital copy of a FIR to public prosecution and courts? Why can’t court orders be digitally shared with prisons, police, prosecution, probation, and petitioners or respondents? The fact of the matter is that we do not have a national policy on data governance that clearly states procedures for data storage, data backup, data anonymization, internal/external data sharing protocols, and data monetization. In the absence of one, there will always be unnecessary procedural delays, both in public policy formulation and service delivery to citizens.
7. Context-Driven Digital Payments Gateway
A context-driven digital payments gateway is a fundamental building block to digitally capture and document all economic activities, commerce, and trade, but identifying and understanding the context behind each payment is essential. Is it against an invoice or an agreement? Is it a partial or full payment? Is it a payment made for a service or delivery of goods? Ideally, all fines, fees, and taxes should only be accepted electronically, without any cash-handling.
Once established and made fully functional, this will provide a much-needed mechanism to evaluate the success of the government’s tax policy — whether it has resulted in an increase in revenue, or a decrease, in real terms. Similarly, e-payments at commodity markets will give reasonably reliable data on the demand for essential commodities, locality-wise, and around important events. Consequently, prices of these commodities could be regularized by ensuring a better balance between supply and demand.
8. Secure and Reliable Digital Access
Lastly, access to a secure, faster, and reliable communication network is a big challenge, especially in small cities, remote areas, farms, motorways, and highways. This is critically required for any serious digitization effort to take root in Pakistan. Unless we have equitable digital access across Pakistan, we will never have comprehensive, reliable, and timely information regarding on-ground situations, which is critically required for good decision-making at the top.
Continuing the Digital Transformation Journey
The necessity to take the succeeding step in the digital reformation of Pakistan cannot be stressed enough. Recent techniques of employing big data management, artificial intelligence, and effective human-computer interaction are the significant areas that will help fast-track the process of e-governance. As the fifth most populous country of the world, Pakistan is ripe to make the best use of technology for effective policymaking, governance, and service delivery.