The next Big Thing: Digital Punjab

Pakistan is a developing country and faces many challenges such as historic rivalry with India, large IMF, World Bank, Asian Development Bank debt, and many others. Not to forget political instability, unemployment, illiteracy, lack of technical training. According to the digital evolution index 2017, Pakistan is a watch-out state which means a state who faces severe challenges in digitalization. In 2019 Prime Minister Imran khan developed a framework of digital Pakistan to transform the country into a digital state. The purpose of digitalization is to avoid corruption, to ensure the accountability process, to increase sustainability and growth in trade. It also helps in creating an attractive environment for diaspora and international companies. This will enhance sectoral partnerships of government and private sector. Although all political parties make policies practical manifestation is not done in a true spirit. Despite all these problems, Pakistan strives to develop and flourish in the technological sector. Prime Minister Imran Khan on December 5, 2019, launched the Digital Pakistan Vision, a comprehensive plan which will not only help the country in competing in the digital market globally but also create jobs and ease for the people of Pakistan. The Digital Pakistan program operates directly under the Prime Minister Office. The major pillars of Digital Pakistan are:

  • Connectivity and availability of the internet to the people of Pakistan that is the fundamental right of people.
  • Promote the use of technology in education, health, agriculture, and other key socio-economic sectors.
  • Ensuring women and girls have equal access to ICTs will help reduce inequalities and support gender equality and providing training to all segments of society.
  • Make Pakistan an attractive destination for investment as well as creating jobs for the people of Pakistan especially youth.
  • E-governance that digitizes intra-government operations and processes towards a paperless environment and developing a digital infrastructure along with proper usage of digital technology.

 

The wind of change has begun in Pakistan. Change is the only constant. To overcome barriers, the states adopt digitalization to pursue their social, economic, strategic, political, foreign objectives. Along with superpowers the developing countries are also trying to adopt digitalization to achieve and strengthen their socio-economic fabric. So, Pakistan is right on track and moving towards digitalization. Speaking of Punjab, the largest province of Pakistan in terms of population is contributing to the national economy with more than $173 Billion (GDP, 2017). In this regard, dynamic steps have been taken under the leadership of CM Usman Buzdar, for the digitalization of Punjab.

Punjab Information technology board (PITB) with the assistance of the Ministry of information and telecommunication launched different programs. PITB, School Education Dept. & PMIU collaborated for a dynamic online education program for school children during the lockdown in 2020 known as “Taleem Ghar.” It is providing course lectures on science and mathematics from grades 1-10. Moreover, the e-Transfer app launched for facilitating around 375,000 teachers in 50,000 public schools and transferring of 45,000 teachers across Punjab. Digitization of transfer procedure allows teachers to apply for transfer from one school to another via mobile phone and track their application. 15 different taxes/levies in 6 departments have been digitized allowing citizens to pay these taxes from their smartphones and Rs. 4.75 billion in revenue collected.

Mobile Video Conferencing Solution for Punjab Govt is launched for business continuity in the wake of the Covid-19 outbreak. A centralized Human Resource Management System (HRMS) launched for all departments in Punjab to maintain accurate, digitized profiles, skillset, postings, and performance records of its employees. E-Filing & Office Automation System (e-FOAS) is established for transparency and a paperless environment.

CM Punjab also launched an e-Challan Payment System for online payment of fines for traffic violations. Pakistan is the second youngest in the South Asian region after Afghanistan and the total population of 68 percent are below the age of 30, 32 percent are between the ages of 15-29 years. Imran khan’s government supports youth empowerment programs. In this regard, Usman Dar as Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Youth Affairs created the National Youth Development Framework (NYDF). For empowering the youth of Punjab, Chief Minister Punjab’s e-Rozgaar Training Program is launched in collaboration with Youth Affairs, Sports, Archaeology and Tourism (YASAT) Department. It aims to train unemployed youth in digital freelancing and soft skills to enable them to earn a sustainable monthly income.

Five centers are dedicated to females only including Lahore College for Women University and overall engagement of women has increased by 54%.

Hotels and salons that pay their taxes through debit cards and credit cards will be given tax relief of 11% (5% instead of 16%). For economic activities and digitalization, more than 75 new branches of Punjab Banks are functional and generate a profit of $14.0 Billion. More than 28 commercial banks have been given access to land records digitally.

The Pakistan Citizen Portal was established in the direction of PM Imran Khan to create a robust link between the government and the people of Pakistan. The portal had enabled the citizens to highlight their issues and seek intervention at the highest level for their resolution. More than 34,584 complaints have been registered on the portal for Punjab from which 31,231 have been sent to the relevant departments of Punjab.

To Deal with the health sector during the covid-19 situation, the digitalization process became faster and the National Security Council (NSC) established the National Command Authority (NCA). They used the Test, Trace, and Quarantine (TTQ) strategies to restrain the vicious spread of Covid-19. TTQ is aimed at identifying disease spread, focused clusters/hotspots to enable targeted lockdowns, and need-driven resource optimization at all levels. So through TTQ strategy Pakistan successfully traces hotspots and under section 144(6) of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1898, which grants the provincial government the authority to issue orders in the public interest to impose a ban on certain activities to prevent “danger to human life, health or safety” applied smart lockdown.

So, the federal government strategy is fully implemented by the Punjab government but there is a loophole. Policies, applications, forums were established but a lack of IT knowledge still exists in masses. The only thing that is going to fast track our progress towards said goals is providing enough training to the people of Pakistan. Without practical training, all these plans will remain just the plans. Since technology is nothing without the knowledge of how to use it, Pakistan is on the right track and what we need is proper implementation as well as constant attention by the Government of Pakistan.

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