The Government of Pakistan has taken numerous initiatives over the last few years to adapt to and integrate digital advancements into the public sector. However, despite the improving scores in technological adaptability, Pakistan has been worsening in terms of global rankings for the best-in-class digital services.
This was revealed by an analysis report on Pakistan’s low ranking in the 2020 UN e-Government Development Index (EGDI), titled ‘Transforming Digital Government in Pakistan’. The report highlighted that Pakistan is at a juncture that necessitates the addressal of certain fundamental challenges to its infrastructure and human resources and the development of a futuristic vision to prepare for the next phase of societal evolution.
Considering the index in concern, the EGDI measures states three factors:
- Online Service Index (OSI)
- Human Capital Index (HCI)
- Telecommunications Infrastructure Index (TII)
Among the 193 countries surveyed in the 2020 report, Pakistan ranked 153rd, which is a decline from the previous ranking in 2018. Going deeper into the rankings now, while Pakistani’s OSI ranking showed that the service provisions have continued according to global trends, the HCI and TII scores became the causes for Pakistan’s decline in ranks.
The detailed causes for the worsening scores indicate that the country’s citizens have had poor experiences with the government’s services. This means two things: one, online services are improving in the country but they are not being improved at the governmental level; and two, citizens have limited opportunities to interact with the government.
Pakistan needs a strong telecommunication infrastructure at the state level that supports the country’s connectivity needs. It also needs skilled labor that is adept at operating complex technology and is capable of innovation in the rapidly developing digital space.
Finally, governmental support is imperative in terms of inclusive policy-making and efficient service provision along with the ease of doing business.
The report identified the following six impediments to the government achieving these three objectives:
- Fragmented and disintegrated approach to resolving technology challenges
- Lack of enabling telecom infrastructure and low affordability
- Digital skills gap
- Cybersecurity, data privacy, and lack of trust
- Lack of service design maturity
- Limited citizen partnership
The solutions proposed by the analysis report include the recommendation of starting with a national digital government strategy that is aligned with the broader national development and digital agenda. This should be furthered by an action plan that details the implementation roadmap for the digital strategy.
Another notable suggestion is the development and continuous enhancement of comprehensive cybersecurity and data protection laws to ensure the smooth functioning of digital space. It was recommended that a comprehensive forward-looking national citizen participation strategy that aims at enhancing citizen engagement in the running of the country may be developed.
The revision of telecom policies to make them more inclusive, the forging of public-private partnerships, and the provision of public access facilities should be the center point for the government in order to align Pakistan’s digital development with the rest of the world, according to the report.