President Arif Alvi has asked all stakeholders to complete the digitisation of parliamentary operations by January 2023. This came at a meeting of the President’s Initiative for Cyber Efficient Parliament (PICEP) earlier this week. The process was undertaken in November last year, and was initially supposed to be completed by June 2021. The president must be credited for the initiative, which will hopefully be followed through to completion. The project will allow the state to expand into e-governance and achieve greater transparency and accessibility, as has been the aim by governments worldwide.
As per Minister for Information Technology and Telecom Syed Aminul Haque, the process will allow both houses to present motions through a computerised system. The PICEP will serve to make our legislation process more democratic by enabling remote voting on legislations even if parliamentarians are not physically present in the parliament house. Undoubtedly, our parliamentarians are notorious for ratifying legislation by their respective parties on days when their fellow party members are in the majority. Another obvious advantage would be for the government to become more accessible to citizens. With 64% of its population below the age of 30, the move is bound to create a more informed citizenry as the youth is more likely to access parliamentary proceedings online. Moreover, while the current Senate and National Assembly websites have been regularly updated, PICEP may fill in the gaps such as providing attendance and voting records of parliamentarians, translations of proceedings into regional languages, and accessibility for persons with disabilities.
However, it must be noted that governments worldwide have opted to incorporate e-governance slowly to minimise the threat this poses to cyber-security. With hacking and cyber-risks growing more sophisticated by the day, our information ministry must ensure that not only is the digitisation secure, but that it has relevant experts on board to deal with any malfunctions and cyberattacks, like the Estonian cyberattack of 2005, and that parliamentarians are also well-trained to use the latest technology.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 26th, 2021.
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