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Technology is transforming governance in Pakistan

Irum Touqeer's picture
Punjab Excise and Taxation Service Center
Punjab Excise and Taxation Service Center. Photo: World Bank

Technology is changing our world faster than ever before.

And Pakistan, home to more than 64 million internet users and 62 million people connected to mobile data, is no exception.

As they’ve become more digital-savvy, Pakistanis are now expecting better digital services from their government.

To meet these demands, the Government of Punjab has been working to modernize over the last decade.

As part of the government’s governance reforms, and learning from earlier pilot programs in education and health, the Punjab Public Management Reform Program (PPMRP) has aimed to transform citizens’ experience, improve access to administrative services, and boost public employee performance and the management of public resources.

Before that, Punjab authorities were facing several challenges in delivering public services. This, in turn, impacted social outcomes in the province: the health sector’ performance was affected by the absenteeism of vaccinators, resulting in a low immunization rate in Punjab (49% in 2014).

The education and agriculture departments faced similar absenteeism issues with teachers, students, and agriculture workers in the field.

Overall, citizens were dissatisfied with these public services.

Blog on Punjab Public Management Reform Program
Photo: World Bank

A more transparent access to public services

Under the Punjab Transparency and Right to Information Act 2013, the Government of Punjab has become more open and accountable through technology solutions.

Citizens now have easy access to information about institutions, policies, procedures, and investment projects available on the websites of 84 provincial public entities, including government administrative departments, attached bodies, hospitals, and universities.  

Citizens can also enquire about processes and procedures of selected services through a 24/7 Citizens’ Contact Center established in Lahore.

The number of inquiry and feedback calls increased from 50,000 calls received in 2013 to 2.9 million in 2018.  Province-wide, 161 citizens’ facilitation centers have been set up to provide selected services under one roof and closer to the citizens – promoting social accountability in Pakistan’s largest province.

PPMRP also helped expedite the online provision (application and processing) of other government services, such as registering a vehicle, paying for stamps, collecting agriculture subsidies, and applying for a government job and college admissions.

Smart management to improve staff performance

The PPMRP also developed smart management tools to help some government departments improve their staff performance and overall user experience.  

For example, smartphone applications and central dashboards helped track and analyze daily more efficiently the activities of hundreds of field workers in the health, agriculture and education departments.

Combined with users’ feedback, this data helped identify low performing areas and take remedial measures.

In the health field, E-VACCS has been instrumental in tackling absenteeism of field vaccinators by locating their daily activity routes (and activities), thereby enabling the management of Health Department to check whether children in remote areas had received their vaccinations.  

As a result, immunization coverage marked a rise from 49 percent in 2014 to 84 percent in 2017.

Similar tools have helped assess staff performance in schools and the agriculture sector and, when applicable, informed remedial actions for improvement.

Digitizing tax collection  

The PPMRP also supported technology solutions to collect taxes better, thus expanding the tax base and improving transparency.

For example, old manual cadasters of urban properties have been digitized and geo-mapped in all 36 districts of Punjab, adding more than 1 million new properties to the tax base.

This system helped issue digital tax invoices and provide an online tax calculator and online property title verification system. Citizens can also now access detailed information about transactions and when their payments are due.

As a result, the urban property tax receipts in Punjab have increased by 115 percent since 2013.

Together, these promising initiatives and reforms have changed the governance landscape in Punjab and brought government services a step closer to citizens. 

PPMRP’s key implementing agencies include Punjab Planning and Development Board; Punjab Excise, Taxation and Narcotics Control Department; Punjab Public Procurement Regulatory Authority; Punjab Information Technology Board, and Punjab Reform Management Program, while there were several beneficiary departments of the Government of Punjab (for details, see PPMRP). 

Comments

Submitted by Abdul Qadir Qamar on

Good one

Submitted by Asad Saleem on

No doubt. PITB has improved the complete working pattern of government sector. Citizen is more facilitated after these reforms.
But still there is room for improvement.

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