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ISLAMABAD: Regulatory reforms and investments are needed to improve the climate resilience of telecom and data infrastructure in Pakistan, says the World Bank.

Official documents of the bank noted the 2022 monsoon floods have demonstrated vulnerabilities in the connectivity infrastructure in Pakistan. The seasonal recurrence of the monsoon presents a looming threat to the data and connectivity infrastructure. There is a need to improve the critical connectivity infrastructure and develop a framework for the telecom sector to improve its response in climate-induced disasters.

Despite the presence of relatively strong national ID and payment systems the lack of interoperability frameworks and mechanisms has limited the capacity of the government (as well as non-government actors) to exchange data securely and seamlessly.

Some key registries that could provide useful information to fine-tune targeting are also not yet available digitally. Investments would unlock the power of data not just to strengthen the response to crises, but also to develop better quality and more innovative, efficient, and resilient services.

The Bank further stated that federal and provincial government agencies have started limited offering of digital services. These services vary in the degree of maturity and lack key elements such as interoperability, security by design, single sign-on, systematic integration with the identity database of NADRA, limited integration between federal and provincial IT systems and the absence of verifiable credentials means that transactions with the government remain costly and time-consuming for individuals and businesses.

The currently siloed approach to the digitalization of services means that different provinces, despite offering similar services, are currently developing parallel IT systems instead of sharing resources to achieve economies of scale and transfer knowledge of successful digitalization.

A sustained whole-of-government approach is needed to support effective digitalization of public service delivery.

Rules mandating technology and vendor neutrality, ensuring interoperability and common standards for digital government systems and infrastructure, and establishing clear institutional responsibilities, mandates, accountability, and enforcement powers, need to be established.

This should include clear legal mandates to ensure that public services are provided in a consistent manner across government. Personal data should be collected in a transparent manner and only used for proportionate purposes to build trust and confidence.

Cybersecurity efforts should be mainstreamed to ensure that digital government systems and data are safeguarded through the lifecycle of all digital infrastructures.

The Bank further stated that a comprehensive stock-taking activity for mapping the complete inventory of all Registrations, Licenses, Certifications, and Other Permits (RLCOs) at all levels of government is required for undertaking reforms to enable the digital delivery of services to businesses.

The stock-take will enable finding the gaps and inconsistencies in the regulations for businesses and will enable the development of a roadmap for using information communication technologies to provide services to businesses more efficiently.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2023

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