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Pakistan can further embrace benefits of Punjab’s ‘mobile governance’ [Global Times]
[January 28, 2014]

Pakistan can further embrace benefits of Punjab’s ‘mobile governance’ [Global Times]

(Global Times Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Illustration: Liu Rui/GT Pakistan's biggest province Punjab will soon expand "mobile governance" in a bid to provide quality services for its nearly 100 million inhabitants. Thousands of smartphones will be bought and specialized applications developed for this cause. The idea is to have centralized digital data sharing and services monitoring systems functioning via smart apps in various public departments.Thanks to the widespread penetration of cellular phone networks, the government will have to do very little to establish a parallel and smarter system of governance. Approximately 60 percent of the local population enjoys access to mobile networking and the World Wide Web. It's really encouraging to see the authorities moving from harshly criticizing the youth for "wasting" their time on mobile phones to actually unlocking this huge market for a positive cause.The need for an inclusive approach to servicing was felt badly when health department officials struggled with the outbreak of the deadly dengue virus. It was then that the idea of taking advantage of the millions of mobile phones in the public domain was put forward. Now, anyone with a smartphone and an authorized application can just take a picture of an affected area and upload it to the main server. The application marks the affected neighborhood on the digital map of the area and is only labeled "OK" when related officials go there and upload a cleansed picture of the neighborhood. Public offices, especially at the lower level of administration in Pakistan, are notorious for bribery. It is encouraging to see that the app developers have tried to find a genuine solution for this social evil as well. Some mobile applications are designed to curb this menace very smartly with digital time tagging in public offices. It actually promotes a culture of accountability and responsibility, which is lacking at the moment. This concept is very new, and has created some wonders at lower levels of public administration. However, the scenario is already different from the past. Previously, a big chunk of the funds would go into the administration and training for new ideas. But in this case, it is not. Almost every official and common man with a smartphone knows how to use it. To make things even simpler, local experts have designed apps in the national Urdu language.There is no shortage of app developers either. Software development is one of the fastest growing fields in Pakistan. Locally made software packages are cheaply available for implementation in small and large organizations. Also, the increasing use of Android smartphones, tablets and Apple iPads has given a great boost to the mobile app development industry. The World Bank is one of the main sponsors of this multi-million dollar "mobile governance" project. Punjab's Information Technology Board claims to have impressed the World Bank enough to invest in it, with good results from projects in seven departments including education, health and the police department. World Bank loans normally come with high interest rates, strict conditions and put a burden on the national economy. Pakistan had to pay 1.52 trillion rupee ($14 billion) to retire public debt and payment of interest on borrowing during last year. This amount is 42.3 percent of the national budget. These figures are an eye-opener and make it easy to understand why social services are of such bad quality in this country with a population of 180 million people.If the concept is good enough, it should be available for all four provinces. Discrimination would naturally spread if Punjab, the biggest province and a hub of power in Pakistan, keeps the idea exclusively for itself. The authorities must make sure to gain enough from this project and make it a life changer for the people of Pakistan.The author is a Pakistan correspondent for Asia Calling TV Network & Deutsche Welle Germany. (c) 2014 Global Times. All rights reserved. Provided by, an company

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