Centre for Technology in Governance
Working under the vision of Dr. Umar Saif and managed by Mr. Ali Gibran, the Center for Technology (CTG) and Governance at ITU is an applied research center lead by a world-class team of researchers, academics and developers. CTG’s goal is to come up with innovative ICT solutions to enhance public services and solve pressing governance issues through better management techniques, policies, and technologies.
The CTG research team and its public and private collaborators work to integrate computer science education and ICT research to foster multidisciplinary innovation and entrepreneurship to strategically transform the workings of state, local, and federal agencies. The results generated by each project add to a growing knowledge base designed to support the work of both government professionals and academic researchers.
CTG’s cutting-edge innovations boost productivity and coordination, improve the quality of monitoring and evaluation, increase transparency and deliver better services to citizens and businesses at radically reduced costs. At the moment, besides research and development, CTG is currently engaged in the implementation of a several project, including the GIZ funded Polly project and the World Bank funded Open Government Initiative, Governance Incubation Workspace and development of Government Open Data kit.
In November 2013, the Punjab Transparency and Right to Information (RTI) Ordinance was passed, making mandatory the public disclosure of government information. In order to help citizens benefit fully from this legislation, the Center for Technology and Governance (CTG) at ITU is working on the Open Data Initiative (ODI) project. A developer team working under Mr. Burhan Rasool has envisioned the ODI to be centred around the development of a technology platform where citizens can easily access declassified government data.
This project aims to increase citizens’ awareness of and participation in governance and, in the long term, through the inculcation of the values of transparency, participation and collaboration between the governing and the governed and create more empowered and responsible citizens alongside more accountable and effective governments.
In more specific terms, the ODI is working with government agencies to establish a functional system through which quality information can be made available to the public on a web platform in easy-to-use and interactive open formats which allow citizens to search, aggregate, compare and view data in any way they wish. This unprecedented accessibility and transparency of information can lead to the creation of an effective system of government responsibility and accountability.
Another vital component of the ODI is to actively involve citizens in governance through the crowd-sourcing of data, i.e. citizens can monitor and provide feedback on government projects through different mediums- such as SMS services, mobile applications, web-portals and geo-tagging of project site photographs- thus creating a channel of reliable two-way communication between the government and its people. The availability of reliable and good quality government data through this project will also be of immense benefit to people from many different fields; including journalists, researchers, policy-makers and academics.
DataPlug (formerly known as Government Open Data Kit) is a project ambitious in its scope and immense in its utility. It is being funded by the World Bank and UKAID while its development is being carried out in collaboration with Punjab Information Technology Board. . The idea behind the DataPlug is to develop and consolidate an open data kit for efficient smart phone managed government. It is a free, open-source and customizable set of ICT tools which will allow government departments to build specialized applications that can be used on a mobile device for data gathering. In its more advanced renditions, the DataPlug will allow any entity (government or otherwise) to gather any kind of data (text, images, metadata, location information etc.) from any source (e.g. a government field worker, an automated water level gauge, a solar panel etc.).
DataPlug is divided into two parts; the data console and the smart phone applications. The DataPlug platform will assist the field staff via Android phones applications equipped with features like geo-tagging, scam proofing, plotting on Google Maps made functional by using wireless services like Edge and GPRS. The android applications will be connected to the back-end data console and shall allow data reporting on-the-go and in real time. The applications will also include a consolidated dashboard to view collected data and activities and will be flexible enough to allow for the collection of several types of data by allowing the creation of multiple cross-linked forms on a single platform.
In the long term, this project hopes to bring about an improved monitoring & evaluation (M&E) system through data collection and analysis in public sector of the Punjab and thus facilitate capacity building initiatives for M & E, allowing for data-driven decisions to be made.
The Punjab-wide mobile Data Collection and Monitoring and Evaluation framework of DataPlug aims to ultimately contribute to better governance by ensuring that the user-friendly, functional and effective platform is executed with integrity. DataPlug is also going to be methodologically comprehensive and will contribute to the nurturing of a development orientation.
DataPlug aims to solve the problem by not developing a single solution, but by creating an ecosystem of self-help type tools that will allow government departments to themselves modify technological tools to suit their own needs.
Polly is one of the most exciting projects happening at the CTG. This project is a collaboration between the Information Technology University (ITU), the Punjab Information Technology Board (PITB), Pakistan Vocational Training Center (PVTC) and Prof. Roni Rosenfeld, a Computer Science Professor at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) in Pittsburgh USA and is expected to empower millions in the marginalized sections of the society. The ubiquity of cellular phone networks and the widespread use of their services in Pakistan provides for an excellent technological infrastructure which can be used to provide innovative solutions to increase employment opportunities for the illiterate, low literate and semi literates. To this end, Polly; a phone-based, voice-only game which also allows users to engage in a simple automated dialogue about their employment and training needs and wishes in a language of their choice, was launched full scale in Pakistan in May 2012. It soon spread virally among 165,000 people and successfully engaged nearly 34,000 of them in browsing and sharing job and training opportunities.
Having tested Polly’s ability and ensured that users develop a high degree of comfort in using this technology, CTG is currently working on an eighteen month project to upgrade Polly into a fully automated, always-on, up-to-the-minute, integrated telephony/web portal that will serve as an efficient and easily accessible platform for employment, skill development and vocational training opportunities for the poor and illiterate, as well as a recruitment, initial assessment and enrolment of seekers of these opportunities. Through this system, the project intends to enfranchise marginalized and vulnerable people for whom such opportunities are inaccessible through traditional modes of hiring and skill-training. Apart from aiming to connect an estimated figure of 50,000 people to relevant employment/training opportunities in the next 18 months, the project will also provide 3300 marginalized people free vouchers for skills training programmes at PVTC Vocational Training Institutes.
Responding to the dire need for technological interventions and the implementation of innovative solutions in the public sphere for improvement in governance, CTG has designed the Government Innovation Workspace (GIW) project. The objective of GIW is to provide a platform to optimize the participation of all stakeholders during the development cycle of the intervention.
GIW is founded on the guiding principle of building and enhancing the capacity of the public sector by transferring technology from research and industry to the government through collaboration. GIW focuses on adapting and demonstrating new, advanced capabilities to enhance existing public systems resulting in important technology transfer opportunities. The continuing adaptation of emerging enabling technologies ensures not only that critical national systems expertise is sustained but also that additional innovations can be transitioned to the services and government sector as rapidly as possible.
The GIW – incubator workshop and the field visits are based on the principle of sharing of ideas and feedback on the prototypes between different stakeholders. This is a key initiative to bridge the gap between the field users and the developers. The feedback that CTG has collected from these initiatives through discussion and field visit has been very detailed and valuable and it will help set the future direction of research and development at CTG.
This project has been initiated and field visits for research are conducted regularly to provide interaction between the technologists and the field workers for improvement in design of
the product. In this regard a workshop demonstrating the first prototype was also held
where representatives from 30 districts were present.