While in-depth interviews are being carried out in Islamabad, Karachi and Lahore to determine the status of e-governance in Pakistan, Bytes for All researchers have also been monitoring and analyzing the Pakistani cyberspace for implementation of international e-governance benchmarks.

Mentioning that Pakistan lags behind in implementation of effective e-governance standards at the public or even the private sector despite initiatives would be akin to stating the obvious. However, it is important to determine some of the important areas that need to be considered by organizations when creating their digital facilitative representations over the internet.

Starting from the website representing the President of Pakistan, where his introductory statement contains bad punctuations reflecting complacence and lack of recognition of the medium’s importance, the issues grow graver upon delving into other components (such as interactivity) of important websites such as the Ministry of Information (MoIT) and the Electronic Government Directorate (EGT).

A study conducted at the London School of Economics and Political Science assessing e-government websites in UK benchmarked them against six basic components, namely, ‘Standard Elements’, ‘Interaction’, ‘Search Engine Registration’, ‘Design’, ‘Navigation’, and ‘Performance’.

The first website that was strategically chosen for this analysis was that of the Ministry of Information Technology. The results are shared below:

Standard Elements: Standard elements as classified by the aforementioned study include the E-Envoy (equivalent to the EGT in Pakistan) guidelines. These elements are composed of institutionalized items such as ‘‘about us’ links, publications, organisational structure, ‘contact us’ links, news, FAQs, glossaries, help and search functionalities”.

The website under analysis performs poorly in all of the above aspects except for the ‘about’, ‘contact’ and ‘organisational structure’ information. The news section contains links to recent updates but appears incomplete because of unplanned design.

Interaction: The benchmark standard defines interaction as “Interaction measured the speed of reply to email requests.”

The only mode of communication offered on the website is the email address of the ministry. Upon sending an email, the immediate reply was a mail bounce-back indicating delivery failure.

Search Engine Registration: This area determines whether the website appears at the “top of the listing in a search engine”.

Using Google search engine, B4A searched ‘Pakistan Ministry of Information Technology‘. The first website that appeared was that of the Ministry, hence full marks can be given to the website in this respect.

Design: The design aspect is determined through qualitative means with respect to “consistency, simplicity, appropriateness and conventionality of design elements”.

The website is very simple with little content and conventional design. Placement of the elements is not optimized. The formatting may be considered consistent for most of the website, however it is neither attractive, nor handicap friendly.

Navigation: Navigation includes elements of content consistency and quality, overall functionality, as well as simplicity and ease of navigation.

While the website is simple and easy to navigate, there are errors that confuse the user and reflect the overall quality of content. For instance, two tabs, placed next to each other, ‘Highlights’ and ‘News’ contain similar content, many of which could be placed interchangeably under one tab or the other.

Performance: This area considers “cross–browser compatibility, accessibility and speed of the site, site errors and warnings”.

The website was tested across three browsers; Google Chrome 14.0, Mozilla Firefox 5, and Microsoft Internet Explorer 9.0, and and its performance was deemed satisfactory in terms of compatibility, accessibility and speed of site.

Overall, considering all of the above quality benchmarks for e-governance in a quality website, the website does not represent the important organization as well as it should reflecting a lax approach, inaccessible to the masses that the ministry serves and devoid of important information for the citizens of Pakistan.

Among many other websites analysed, MoITT’s was the first, however we will continue to share useful updates and findings as our study progresses.