On 13th October, 2005 a briefing was given to some focal/relevant officers in the government about its e-government initiative, and its strategy and 5 year plan. A plan that envisioned a government enabled by IT, with its core applications running out of one federal data center, much like its done in most first world countries. Subsequently, a tender was floated by the government, and everyone whose anyone (read IBM and HP, and their partners) jumped into the fray to win the multi-million dollar contract.
Now building Data center isn’t a trivial task. Building a data center that’s supposed to house ministries’ information, applications and serve citizens by moving their processes online (imagine…you could get your NIC card renewed over the net, or get your tax return over the web…cool eh?) is not only colossal, but requires alot of change management, especially since alot of the lower level government staff who you meet at your local government office have never used a computer. Ive personally seen computers switched off and being used as desks at some agencies.
So guess what happened? to cut a long story short, HP came in with one of their partners and a Malaysian company, IBM was bidding directly and also through a partner , Infotech who partnered with a Singaporean company. Eventually the project faltered due to internal issues between government agencies, and as of yet, step 2 of the plan, ie the data center, the basic building block, nearly one year on from the briefing, is still in limbo.
So much for the effort made by the vendors, and the one 5 year plan that could have brought about a revolution. A federal data center could have literally transformed federal government agencies into high performance, viable bodies with proper accounting and audit procedures. Isn’t it strange for a government that stresses that IT is Pakistan’s savior, it itself doesn’t yet have a strong IT infrastructure to manage and provide its most basic services to its citizens? Hats off to the e-government folks, your government agency is the most progressive of all. I hope you guys get your Federal Data center, it will help us all in the long run.