After an eventful set of experiences researching and analyzing  Pakistani websites of various genres for their quality against international benchmarks, we headed towards the official nerve center of of Pakistani telecommunication – the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority. After all, PTA is one of the more active organizations in Pakistan, often making headlines relating to cyberspace content monitoring, plus its website is an award winner under the ‘Government Websites’ category from Pakistan Web Awards 2010.

As expected, our desired website scored full marks as Google search results brought it at the topmost position when we searched for ‘Pakistan Telecommunication Authority‘.

It was pleasing to note that the PTA website accommodates three different user preferences; standard, mobile, and Urdu – an accessibility feature which is not present in most government websites. We selected the ‘standard’ path for our study.

The PTA website follows a conventional and familiar design style which is easy to navigate with well spaced standard elements. Adequate information ranging from legislation and consumer support to lists of achievements, licensing information and FAQs are available to visitors. The website appears updated with recent news, and performs well across all popular browsers.

Adding to the positives is an additional accessibility feature that allows users to adjust the website’s font size as per their legibility requirements – something that could be beneficial to people with certain handicaps. While not consistently present throughout the website, some pages offered a feature where users could have the page read out to them. Pleasantly, it worked perfectly.

Happy with the overall results, we decided to wrap up this rather positive experience by attempting to use the ‘complaints’ form. Of late, our PTCL EVO and EVO Cloud services had been performing rather poorly with extremely slow speeds, and it was about time we had registered some customer feedback with PTA so that appropriate action could be taken. We expected that it would be an easy process. Here’s how it went.

The complaints page was easily accessible with the button well placed at the home page’s top right corner. There were several options available for interacting with PTA which included: direct contact links to different ISPs (also available on ISP websites), contact addresses to Consumer Protection Directorate/PTA Zonal Offices, a downloadable complaint form (PDF), and the “highly recommended” online form.

Since it was “highly recommended”, we felt that it was our duty to follow the recommendation and clicked the link. We quickly selecting the appropriate options from a set of drop down boxes which helped narrow down our complaint’s nature. We came across a serious issue when we weren’t able to find PTCL in the list of ISPs against which PTA allowed users to file a complaint. It was immensely frustrating and we were unable to identify the reason for this. Could it be an inadvertent mistake, missing out Pakistan’s largest ISP? No, unacceptable.

A more natural response from any consumer after this experience would be this: apparently, PTA does not care about resolving issues pertaining to PTCL’s inefficiency! Surely, PTA does not want to create such an image of itself in the minds of people, hence appropriate action is required on most urgent basis.

No government excels in isolation. The purpose of PTA’s existence is not just regulation of cyberspace, but also the development of a government-citizen infrastructure over the internet where effective, efficient and transparent flow of information between the citizens and the government can be ensured leading to mass welfare. If transparency and clarity of communication from the official tiers is insufficient and improper, the response from citizens would result in overall mistrust which is highly undesirable.