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In a promising development, PM Imran Khan appears to have recognised the importance of digitalization of government processes. For a long time, experts have been advocating digitalization as a way forward to improve state governance, make transparent the conduct of state machinery in terms of man and material, timely track and identify gaps and lapses in the processes.
But, no government and its political leadership and bureaucracy ever attempted to implement it with a view to avoiding transparency and accountability.
Some 10 years back, a state of art 'Enterprise Resource Process (ERP) SAP system' was implemented in FBR. On account of it, the public experienced the benefit of ease in electronic filing of tax returns and having soft copies of their records on their computers rather than cumbersome filing of hard copies of the same in their dusty files. But, presumably the multiple benefits of SAP system have not been fully exploited by FBR.
This week, PM Imran Khan chaired a meeting on digitalization of the government processes with focus on how IT solutions could ensure efficiency, transparency, eliminating red-tapism and improving overall service delivery in line with the vision of the government. According to reports, the Prime Minister termed the digitalization of government processes critical for the efficiency and transparency in conduct of official businesses.
He said IT solution will help addressing some of the major issues that have hampered steady growth of economy in past.
"The digitalization will also create much needed synergies among the government organizations for ensuring friction-less service delivery and improving ease of doing business in the country," he was quoted as saying.
But, like always, implementation in Pakistan is the core issue and digitalization of government processes is all the more difficult and challenging for the PTI leadership to implement it to its full utility.
Some days back, PM Imran Khan blamed the bureaucracy for making the life of his eight-month-old administration difficult by being lethargic, by not signing the files and by being indecisive.
This reality can be addressed to a great extent by the digitalization of the government processes.
ERP solutions like SAP and similar for digitalization of processes guarantee seamless and holistic solutions from A to Z of the operations of the entity with virtually no chance of manipulation in the system, compulsive sign-offs of the authorised signatory by the management hierarchy and online monitoring of the file movements by all authorised management cadre. Any delay or discrepancy in the system can raise a red flag.
Digitalization promises a paperless office but in government offices this is not likely to happen soon. It's a question of mindset, trust in the system and ease of managing it. In a number of government entities that have some level of digitalization, the system's use is cosmetic and its management is restricted to IT manager, whereas the beurocrat still works and trust the good old files.
The multinational organizations, driven by transparency and accountability, excel in performance and delivery largely on account of the digitalization of the processes with inland and global connectivity and online monitoring of the performance. Many government and public sector enterprises have also embraced the digital systems in advanced and emerging markets - upgrading their performance and delivery mechanisms at par with those multinationals.
The good news is that Pakistan excels in possessing one of world's best IT-driven minds and talent enriched with innovation. This talent can be put to task by the government in achieving its vision of a digitalized Pakistan.
(The writer is the former President of Overseas Investors Chamber of Commerce and Industry)

Copyright Business Recorder, 2019