Punjab targets data sciences to improve governance

LAHORE: Big data collection is seemingly becoming the next target of the Punjab government in a bid to improve overall governance in the province.

In that regard, the Punjab Information Technology University (ITU) launched a consortium on Thursday for the development of applied data science and artificial intelligence industry.

“The consortium is a demonstration of commitment to embracing the emerging data-driven technologies as a key enabler in prosperity of the nation as well as creating a regional hub for data science and artificial intelligence advancement,” said a statement.

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“Once established, it will help in improving the overall economic structure and can help in expanding the tax base.”

“We are sitting on a large database which will now be automated for improving the overall governance model and day-to-day transparency issues of the provincial government,” said ITU Vice Chancellor Dr Umar Saif while speaking at the inaugural ceremony.

“The government of Punjab gave Rs57 billion in subsidy through fertiliser companies in the last fiscal year, but by applying data science techniques, this year the subsidy has been reduced to just Rs1.5 billion with 15% fertiliser intake recorded.”

Similarly, in e-stamping, the government has managed to earn an extra Rs10 billion and the Punjab Revenue Authority’s restaurant invoice management system has brought tax receipts of Rs1.8 billion.

All such results were data-driven which almost eliminated the loopholes, thereby bringing efficiency and transparency, Saif remarked.

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“Now with the help of the consortium, we aim to further improve the governance model, transparency and private sector to help the overall economy.” ITU will collaborate with world-class practitioners in data science and artificial intelligence and create innovative solutions through machine learning.

The Alan Turing Institute, the national centre for data science and artificial intelligence in the United Kingdom, has supported the scoping phase of the consortium and will continue to share advice as the association develops.

The UK has benefitted from applying data science methods extensively over the decades in health, finance, law and order, etc.

Shakil Ahmad Khan, representing The Alan Turing Institute, described data as electricity for the modern economy. 

Published in The Express Tribune, July 6th, 2018.

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