A wide communication gap between the government and the public not only promotes consternation among common citizens, but also contributes to a growth in the trust deficit between the rulers and the ruled, never a positive indicator for democratic governments.
To achieve a proactive information disclosure and dissemination system, the government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has established a state-of-the-art Itla’a (information) Cell with an Automated Information and Reporting System (AIRS).
According to deputy director IT at the Directorate of Information & Public Relations (PRs), Zar Ali Khan, the Itla’a Cell is meant to develop a nexus between the government, the media and the people. “The basic goal is to record public perceptions from the print, electronic and social media and share them with the relevant departments and the government. This way the government is kept informed regarding the perception of the public on various matters,” he told Independent Project Reporting (IPR).
Technical staff at the Itla’a Cell record and feed reports from the media into AIRS. They are further segregated into positive and negative news regarding various departments and are forwarded to the departments concerned.
“This mechanism helps us ensure that timely response is received from the departments concerned, which is then forwarded to media outlets. This mechanism has strengthened the role of the media as a watchdog of the society,” Zar Ali said.
Zar Ali Khan stated further that previous to the establishment of the Itla’a Cell, the flow of information was one-sided, in which the version of the government was provided to the public. However, there was no mechanism to inform the government of the public’s grievances.
All government departments have now been provided access to AIRS software, which is updated on daily basis. According to data provided by the assistant Web administrator, Zahoor Muhammad, a total of 15,055 positive news and 4,579 negative reports have been submitted to various government departments.
“The positive news includes 8,068 reports from print media, 951 from electronic media and 6,036 reports from social media. The negative news includes 2,744 reports from newspapers, 644 from television and 1,191 from social media channels,” said Zahoor. He informed IPR that all government departments can see their performance as reflected by media outlets and take appropriate steps to address the grievances of the public.
“Positive news are also shared, which help to inform the departments and government regarding public appreciation of various initiatives. AIRS software can be accessed by all departments and keeps them updated regarding their daily perception in the print, electronic and social media,” Zahoor informed.
Zar Ali told IPR that news and reports that require immediate response are shared with the relevant authorities through social media apps such as WhatsApp. The updated mechanism has improved the services delivery of government as they are well informed through independent input from the Itla’a Cell, he added.
The software is also being used to calculate government perception and is a handy tool for the policy makers. Additionally, it maintains data and helps in record keeping that can be accessed anytime with great ease. Monitoring is carried out round-the-clock with minimum staff at the Itla’a Cell. Government officials have expressed hope that the installation of an updated media monitoring system will help in better services delivery and timely response to public grievances.
By Sahibzada Hassan Ali