Local e-Government Platforms – A Building with no Residents
The revolution of Information and Communication Technologies has given their countless advantages to all spheres of a society. They not only have opened new ways to do business for enterprises but also invited the public sector organizations; to bridge gaps between citizens and Government.
The Internet which stands as a primary communication medium of today’s electronic age is surely the catalyst behind improving Government information and services framework, a phenomenon of e-Government.
In simple words e-Government is ‘use of information and communication technologies to encourage more capable cost effective Government functionaries, facilitate more handy service, allow greater access to information and make government more accountable to citizens’.
Broadly e-Government services could cater Government-to-Citizen (G2C), Government-to-Business (G2B), Government-to-Government (G2G) and Government-to-Employees (G2E) elements. The application for such services is not limited to National level as a matter of fact they have resulted to be more effective when presented on local / state / municipal levels.
The dissemination of e-government infrastructure down to state / provincial level brings a lot of benefit for users to have the information and the services that are relevant for them on the Internet. The benefits for local authorities are better services and money saving in developing their online e-Government portals by offering various online forms and services. The potential of ICTs thus is used to accomplish local community tasks more effectively and to achieve a new value of citizenship orientation.
The greatest benefits of local e-government for the individual town, city or community lie in the reducing avoidable dependency on administration, increase in service transparency and the improvement in access to public information and knowledge. While designing such on-line services, it must ensure that they are up to date, easy to understand and access and reflect the requirements of local community life.
The readers may like to know that following the steps of federal government portal (www.pakistan.gov.pk), each provincial government of the country has developed their exclusive government portal. As a matter of fact these provincial government portals are quite extensive and more improved if compared with federal government.
The million dollar question is what impact these portals are brining to the citizens of the respective province, are they offering some real services to the population, what is the missing link that requires necessary attention and most importantly what percentage of population visits these e-government portals as a matter of fact how much of inhabitants actually even know such portal exist.? Or they are acting as buildings with no residents.
The most populated province of the country has its e-government portal available at http://pportal.punjab.gov.pk/portal/. It is quite comprehensive hosting a large set of relevant and important information about Government of Punjab.
It offers a set of downloadable forms related with various public services in the province, though what if someday the user is able to fill the form online and submit its application through a single click (the true myth behind e-government). You can also submit your complaints against corresponding government department in respective district of Punjab.
It may also of interest to know that a special second level domain ‘gop’ (government of punjab) has been created under .pk (Pakistan’s country code top level domain), this is quite encouraging to bring unique identification of an Internet domain name for Punjab Government.
This ‘.gop.pk’ domain is in use for representing several provincial government departments and district government portals of punjab like www.kasur.gop.pk, www.khushab.gop.pk and www.ppb.gop.pk . However, there should be unification where all 36 districts government may represent their exclusive portals through .gop.pk domain. The Punjab portal requires a thorough check to repair the links which are not working (several were found while browsing it). Moreover, citizens may encourage utilizing this portal to retrieve required information with some good required enhancements.
The most educated province of the country has its e-government web portal available at http://www.khyberpakhtunkhwa.gov.pk/. The portal could be rated as the best of all other local e-government web resources as far its online facilitation for public services is concerned.
The ‘How Do I’ section is quite good for retrieving information about various public service procedures. The site requires some design improvements to make it easier to browse around. The service locators section is also fairly appealing by assisting the visitor to check details of hospitals, education institutes, parks, hotels, police stations, bus stands, etc. Though not in a full version of online e-government services but still the portal to a large extent covers the concept of brining citizens close to to government through online resources.
http://www.sindh.gov.pk/ is the URL for Sindh e-government portal. The portal is full of links to other provincial government departments but lacks some real offerings to the users when compared with Punjab and Khyber Patunkhwa portals. Some of the content requires some serious updating exercise with some redesigning as well. Interestingly the portal is providing up-to-date information on transfer postings of government officials being carried out; let’s hope for availability of more relevant information and service from a citizen point of view.
The e-government portal for the largest province of the country is available at http://www.balochistan.gov.pk. The portal is the lowest graded of all other provincial portals, there are certain pages showing ‘page will be available soon’ messages while online job apply facility is showing ‘No offer in this category’ message. The information available requires some adjustment in terms of its visibility on the portal.
The provincial government in the country has developed their exclusive e-government portals with logo statement like ‘gateway to all government services’ or ‘gateway to government’. In real manner these portal still require a lot to offer in order to be as true as their logo statements. However, the efforts should be appreciated as we do have constructed some blue print of a building. Need of the hour is to utilize these resources for the betterment of the community and reap the potential benefit not only for the citizens but for the public offices as well. Let’s keep the finger crossed!
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