Daily Times Editorial 7 December 2019

Towards digital government

Durable economic stability is impossible to achieve without curbing corruption, as the modern world white crimes are hard to detect without the efficient use of technology. Realising the significance of information communication technology, Prime Minister Imran Khan has spearheaded a massive plan to digitise the government to fight corruption and facilitate the public, besides stepping towards open government. At a ceremony to mark the Digital Pakistan initiative, he said that after having stabilised the economy, the government would digitise the government functioning by offering proactive government services to ease out public difficulties besides bringing transparency.
The Digital Pakistan is a fine concept by the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf government, but it would be worthwhile to mention the services of the Punjab Information Technology Board under Dr Umar Saif to digitise government matters. It was, in fact, the efficient use of android technology from 2012-16 that defeated dengue virus and ghost schools.
Furthering the digital steps, the Khan government has rightly set the course towards digital ambitions for both the government and private sectors. Under the plan, multiple initiatives have already been kicked off, while several others have been identified to be executed in the coming months. The most promising thing is that the government is open to involve anyone who can take the digital agenda further, and the inclusion of Tania Aidrus, a former Google employee, to the government team vouches for the fact.
In fact, it is Tania Aidrus who is spearheading the ambitious digital dreams. She was the star speaker at the ceremony where she unveiled the five strategic pillars of the programme: access and connectivity, digital infrastructure, digital skilling and literacy, e-government, and innovation and entrepreneurship. She is confident about the success of the digital scheme as her message to sceptics was: it is not the question if we will succeed or not, or but how quickly we will reach the goal post. She may face bureaucratic and financial challenges, and it is the duty of the government to facilitate her to achieve the objectives. The stage is set for digital literacy and connectivity as the easy availability of smartphone has already revolutionised connectivity and whistleblowing. It is time to break bureaucratic hurdles for digital payments and automation of government matters such as tax payments, access to information and democrisation of society. Aidrus needs to build a good team, and people like Umar Saif and several others who leapfrogged hurdles to establish digital context in government affairs should be taken onboard.


Extreme weather patterns and Pakistan


Climate change is a reality, an ugly and deadly one if put into the context of deaths occurred due to extreme weather calamities in Pakistan and all over the world. According to the Geremenwatch 2020 report, more than 526,000 people have died all over the world, and losses of $3.3 trillion were incurred from 1998 to 2018 in 11,500 climate change related factors. Pakistan suffered 9,989 deaths and economic losses of $3.8 billion due to more than 300 extreme weather events in the period. The report put Pakistan on fifth on the Global Climate Risk Index 2020, the list of nations most affected by climate change. The ranking shows Pakistan downgrading in terms of environmental security as the 2018 report had put Pakistan as the eighth most vulnerable country. Things are going from bad to the worse, as the UNEP Adaptation Gap Report of 2016 predicts “increasing impacts and resulting increases in global adaptation costs by 2030 or 2050 that will likely be much higher than currently expected: two-to-three times higher than current global estimates by 2030, and potentially four-to-five times higher by 2050.” The toll can be slowed down if the Paris Agreement is implemented, and enhanced mitigation actions towards limiting global temperature increase are taken.
The report notes that though developed countries are feeling the heat of the climate change and extreme weather, it is the developing countries that are at the immediate receiving end. As per the report, the ten countries most hit by natural calamities are Puerto Rico, Myanmar, Haiti, the Philippines, Pakistan, Vietnam, Bangladesh, Thailand, Nepal and Dominica. The developing countries may not be able to weather the extreme weather; coordinated efforts are needed to help them take measures for green climate. Side by side, the developed countries must limit their activities that are hurting the environment the most, and increase financing to achieve the goal of lowering global warming.
Pakistan’s geographic location and weak environment related laws make it more vulnerable to climate change and make it “prone to extreme weather events, in particular, heavy rainfalls.” Some areas of Pakistan, however, experience draught, another sign of climate change. In recent years, Pakistan has taken significant environmental friendly steps; initiating mass tree plantation drive, switching over to green automobile (electric vehicles), releasing grants for industry to fight air pollution, and introduction of Euro four oil are a few worthwhile measures towards a Green and Clean Pakistan. The government needs to keep tracking the execution of its promises to mitigate the damage inflicted by changing weather patterns.

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