Finally, much hyped Digital Imitative of PTI Government has been launched by PM Imran Khan. A senior ex Google executive Tania Aidrus has been tasked to head the implementation of Digital Vision. She while realizing the tough task ahead explained her approach based on five pillars to execute the vision.

PTI has been talking about its Digital policy as a game changer for youth and the country during the election campaign. As per PTI official document, the purpose of the policy is to transform Pakistan into knowledge economy and uplift society by enabling 1 million high paying jobs for youth.

The motivation of this policy stems from the realization that many global competitions have done wonders by following the ICT path. “Indian IT exports stand at $126B, Philippines at $26B while Pakistan has less than $2B”. It goes at length to explain that in absence of job opportunities in formal sector, an oversized number of workforce joined freelancing platforms facing its own set of problems. Startups have also been exposed to very difficult business environment in Pakistan in which generating revenues or sustainability has been impossible beyond incubation stage.

Here ends the wishful thinking and starts the complex job to steer ahead with an actionable plan to realize the potential so much talked about in public and private discourse. Digitalization has two very distinct service delivery areas; E governance and E commerce. In the latest Information Economy Report, The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) estimates that total value of global e commerce transactions, both domestic and cross borders, was USD 25 trillion in 2015, up from 56% from USD 16 trillion in 2013.

How did it happen and what were the key success factors for the winners of Global E commerce arena? World Trade Report 2018 of WTO explains that with the rise of internet, technological innovations have significantly reduced trade costs and transform the way we communicate, consume, produce and trade. However, the technological advances are not a guarantee to greater or of stable trade growth or economic integration. In fact, over the past two centuries, it has been the ability to manage technology driven structural changes that have largely determined whether global trade integration has progressed or regressed.

The key word dividing the front runners in global e commerce and laggards is “the ability to manage technology driven structural changes”. Despite all hypes and fancy plans, record of our successive governments in the past has by and large been dismal and disappointing.

Punjab government embarked upon an ambitious project of computerizing land record since over a decade ago. Despite World bank assistance, the traditional patwari culture and vast powers of district administration in collusion with vested interest real estate groups has kept the dream of one touch land record copies and transfers away in most part of Punjab.

PM Imran Khan launched Citizens portal to automate the complaints received and redress. Despite poster project of PM himself, inefficiencies crept in the project. A visibly disturbed PM had to publically snub those responsible for slow down and inefficiency. This speaks volumes about the real problem; prevailing culture of callousness.

ICT is very helpful to transform the e government for the benefits of masses. But this can only happen when government processes and structures are responsive, transparent and merit driven. Recent hype and love for developing Apps as a means of transforming the otherwise rotten administrative structure and irresponsive public servants approach may prove mere delusion unless backed by efficient administrative response handling.

Recently launched App by Government of Punjab offers a platform to report the corruption. But is the difficulty of reporting a corruption incident a major barrier to discourage the wide spread menace of corruption? we have institutions like Anti Corruption in all provinces which have gradually been redundant and made irrelevant due to variety of self serving reasons of governing and political elite. Merely “an Anti-Corruptions App in Punjab would create wonders” may sound a rare music to the ears but reality check would soon determine its fate.

Reforming the current obsolete and elite centric public administration structure is what required as the need of the time. But institutional reforms at federal and provincial level have yet to take shape. Federal and provincial governments are still struggling to tame the bureaucracy in same old fashion; posting and transfers as main leverage to solicit favors or penalize.

E Governance can make life of people easy and simple and E commerce can prosper the economy. But, the success of both boils down to a simple assertion; a capable, responsive, transparent and merit driven governance at federal and provinces. Easy saying than doing; so far PTI Government is struggling to prove this point with little success. Nevertheless, Good luck to Digital Vision and its Chairperson Tania Aidrus.