Pakistan Ranks Much Lower Than India in E-Governance

Pakistan has been ranked 150th out of 193 countries in the UN’s E-Government Development Index (EGDI) 2022, compared to India and Bangladesh which are ranked 105th and 111th respectively.

Pakistan has taken multiple initiatives towards e-government, however, the government’s adoption of technology is much lower compared to peer economies, according to a study published by the State Bank of Pakistan in its quarterly report.

These include the development of an e-office to help government ministries become efficient and paperless, and the launch of a citizen portal that allows the public to register complaints and provide feedback on government performance.

Similarly, to foster education via distance learning in the time of Covid-19, the Ministry of Federal Education introduced e-Taleem, a distance learning platform in collaboration with various organizations.

Although the country fares relatively better in the UN’s e-Participation index helped in part by the citizen’s portal, it has substantial room for improvement in terms of the overall maturity of government’s ICT usage across four key areas: core government services, public service delivery, digital citizen engagement, and government as tech enabler.

Soft information complements these findings. For instance, while e-office and digitization of government records have been rolled out, their implementation and usage are not widespread.

Given that the public sector’s usage of ICT has a positive spillover on digital absorption by citizens, federal and provincial governments need to scale up their ICT usage in all facets of governance, where efforts need to be made to reduce the digital divide to ensure that e-government does not create disparities.

In addition, the country’s public procurement rules, which currently favor established and large IT firms, need to be revised to promote the domestic IT industry typically comprising small and young firms.

The federal and provincial governments constituted various organizations such as for promoting e-government and IT within the public sector but their performance needs to be improved by far level. These organizations included Punjab IT Board, National IT Board, and KP IT Board, etc.

Alternate Way Forward

While relaxing public procurement regulations for small and less established IT firms is a difficult proposition because of the risks of nepotism, poor quality of public services, and ineffective utilization of public funds, there is an increasing realization that public procurement can be a useful mechanism to incentivize local firms. This helps domestic IT firms to grow and eventually become capable to compete in international markets,

For instance, Singapore’s government encourages local ICT firms to develop solutions for different government bodies and promotes successful firms through government-to-government partnerships. Some of the largest Singaporean IT exporting firms have grown through such initiatives. Sri Lanka’s ICT Agency also helps the development of local ICT firms by promoting joint ventures between foreign and local firms and giving such JVs higher points in public procurement criteria.

Similar initiatives may be considered in Pakistan where one solution could be to mandate or incentivize IT contractors to subcontract a certain percentage of work to small domestic IT service firms that do not currently meet public procurement criteria on their own.

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