LAHORE: Pakistan may be one of the few countries that is sitting on a huge data mine, but it is not benefiting from it in terms of rationalization of development and resource mobilization.
We are indifferent to available data because the common man has no idea of ââthe revolution that data could bring in our lives and in our economy. The authentic information is a death knell for personal interests that benefit enormously from opaque paths. Even the elected officials are not interested in serving their constituencies using the preliminary data available from the National Database Registration Authority (NADRA).
NADRA collects information from applicants for Computerized National Identity Cards (CNICs) embedded in each individual’s data. The information you are looking for includes the literacy level (illiterate, enrolled, graduate or masters). It also includes information about the applicant’s occupation, whether they are a doctor, engineer, accountant, architect, teacher, or another occupation such as a plumber, hairdresser, or electrician. There is a column that asks whether the applicant is employed or not. In addition to the blood group, all diseases such as heart or kidney problems are looked for in the CNIC application. Physical disabilities such as deafness, dumbness, blindness or intellectual disabilities of the applicant are also recorded.
These data may not be 100 percent accurate as NADRA relied on the information provided by the applicant, but they certainly represent a general status of the population. On the basis of this data, during the period 2003-08, NADRA submitted records of each constituency of the National Assembly to the Assembly Secretariat so that the relevant National Assembly representative could identify the best strategy for the development of their area. For example, in constituencies where many people with intellectual disabilities live, they could have arranged the establishment of special schools. Dialysis centers could be set up in constituencies with a higher proportion of kidney dysfunction.
Another NADRA initiative was to electronically register all vehicles made in Pakistan. The agency demonstrated the need for this proposal by randomly checking 1,000 Pakistani cars on the streets of Islamabad. It turns out that a few dozen cars have the same engine / chassis number from the same manufacturers. The cars were registered in different provinces. Electronic chips would have eliminated this fraud. In addition, the chip could have been used to register the name of the owner and subsequent owners after each sale. The NADRA centers could collect the token taxes in each province and deposit it in their respective accounts.
This full transparency initiative has been put on hold after fierce opposition from interest groups. This would also eliminate the need to register smuggled vehicles (these vehicles are used by the most influential people).
For five years the state has tried to make the CNIC number the national tax number of every cardholder. The cardholders would then have to submit electronic tax returns every year using a simple form. Taxpayers would think twice before filing a non-taxable income return. Each commercial building could then be asked to clearly display its national tax number so that every citizen can check the tax amount paid by this commercial building from the FBR register of taxable persons.
The biometric records of all criminals have been recorded in the Punjab Police Database. This would have made it possible to issue a police certificate by checking the database in a few minutes. If someone has a criminal record, their case could be investigated further, but anyone else should be issued a certificate immediately. In practice, the police testimony can take anywhere from 24 hours to more than two weeks, depending on influence or ability to pay the rent. The recorded data will not be used as it will eliminate the graft.
It has been over a year since the government announced the electronic monitoring of manufacturing facilities in sectors suspected of undercutting production. It appears that the surveillance equipment has either not been installed or has been compromised by self-interest. As a result, there were no significant increases in sales in these sectors, which include cement, sugar and beverages. This state machine does not have the heart to promote transparency because it deprives them of a lucrative income.
It would not be possible to embark on a sustainable growth path without benefiting from authentic available data that is electronically available in the country. This would not be possible. The data available is a low-hanging fruit awaiting those who have the nerves of steel to face self-interest with an iron hand.