PESHAWAR: The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Pakistan aims to improve governance through digital interventions and formally develop its growing Digital Transformation portfolio. To expand this agenda, UNDP met Mr. Arif Alvi, President of the Republic of Pakistan, to discuss future collaboration on Digital Transformation between the Government of Pakistan and UNDP.

Mr. Tariq Malik, Chief Technical Advisor on Digital Governance from UNDP’s Headquarters in New York is leading the mission to create the first formal and strategic portfolio on Digital Transformation, which will aim to drive the agenda with the Government of Pakistan. The meeting with the President served as an important step towards the aspired transformation, says a press release.

During the meeting, the need to digitalize the parliament for efficient management and decision making in the secretariat and standing committees was discussed extensively. It was agreed that incorporation of information technology (IT) in both the Houses of Parliament was necessary to ensure effective monitoring and control over legislative business. UNDP outlined its ongoing support to the Parliament via technical assistance on Business Continuity and conducting a Digital Readiness Assessment of the Parliament. Malik informed the President that UNDP is also supporting in developing a citizens’ engagement platform that can be used to understand citizens views on public policy and on upcoming bills in the parliament.

In wake of the pandemic, UNDP Pakistan has already been working towards digitalization to ensure continuation of interventions with greater efficiency and inclusion.  In the Digital Health space, UNDP has supported the Ministry of National Health Services, Regulation and Coordination in partnership with Sehat Kahani to set up 45 tele-ICUs across the country. This initiative aims to optimize quality clinical care by digitally connecting ICU Specialists with ICU Medical Physicians.

Apart from providing technical assistance to the Ministry to further the digital health agenda, UNDP is also supporting various government ministries and departments in digitizing their organizational processes, data and knowledge management, complaints mechanism, and monitoring and evaluation including support for digital courts. Additionally, UNDP is providing virtual trainings on advanced digital skills to young Pakistanis and connecting them to relevant platforms for job placements to economically empower the youth.

President Alvi started off the meeting by extending a warm welcome to UNDP for its support in accelerating the implementation of the Digital Pakistan initiative. “The People of Pakistan thank Antonio Guterres, Secretary General of United Nations, and Achim Steiner, UNDP Administrator, the UNDP Governance Team, especially Mr. Tariq Malik, for making Pakistan a priority country for their support in development of our digital transformation portfolio,” said the President.

UNDP Chief Technical Advisor for Digital Governance, Mr. Tariq Malik added: “Natural disasters or crises expose state fragility, but also present a valuable opportunity for change. The Covid-19 pandemic presents a creative moment, for all of us, to transform governance as well as strengthen the social contract between state and citizen through experimenting with innovative digital interventions. Pakistan shouldn’t waste this opportunity.”

Mr. Tariq Malik also thanked the President’s patronage and project sponsorship on e-Parliament and other digitalization initiatives supported by UNDP. After the success of this meeting, UNDP will be partnering with other government ministries and departments to offer new and innovative digital services.