Peshawar:  A new app that connects citizens to public departments for resolution of complaints has helped the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa administration settle thousands of disputes through the KP Citizen’s Portal, according to the portal’s website.

Of the 33,300 citizens that registered with the portal by November 22, 2016, through downloading its smart app, 18,000 reached out to public departments by lodging complaints. The website says authorities were able to resolve 14,700, or 81 per cent, of complaints.

Compared to the portal’s official report released last month, the website figures show a rising trend in citizen participation in public affairs through the e-governance portal.

Adil Raza, Programme Coordinator for the KP Citizen Portal that was launched in 2015, said complaints across the province were increasing from multiple reasons.

“Now the public is aware of the portal’s app and its positive impact in changing the way public sector departments work,” Raza told News Lens.

Muhammad Azam, a resident of Lower Dir, had filed a complaint through the app about fixing the issue of teacher-truancy in his village’s primary school.

He said the issue was fixed within 10 days of filing the complaint. “I got a message saying the relevant teacher had been warned to join the school immediately, asking me to reply in Yes or No if the issue had been fixed.”

Kashif Ali, who runs an IT institute by the name of NetHome in Peshawar, said to improve access of KP Citizen Portal , it can be linked with cellular network companies as as internet connectivity is not available in remote parts of the province.

He said citizens who did not have access to internet could simply file complaints through SMS from their mobile phones and the data could be processed by the administration of the web portal for further action.

Official documents explaining the aims and objectives of the project say “the strategic objective of e-Governance is to support and simplify governance for government, citizens and businesses.”

“Information and Communication Technology (ICT) can connect all three parties and support processes and activities,” says the Portal’s official brochure. Among its other objectives are “to make government administration more transparent, speedy and accountable.”

The protal’s app, says its website, enables the government to communicate directly with the citizens to make routine and emergency announcements. The app also features a public-polling facility to know concerns and preferences of the citizens in real-time.

The app has associated web dashboards for Deputy Commissioner, Commissioner and the Chief Secretary office, says the information shared on the portal’s website. Deputy Commissioners of all Districts are responsible for managing their citizens, complaints and officers. They can add as many District Officers as needed. Currently the complaint management feature is accessible to over 900 offices across the province.

According to district breakdown of the complaints, available in the annual report of the Portal, the highest number of complaints was received from Peshawar: 3919, of which 2143 were resolved. In terms of frequency of complaints, this is followed by Abbotabad with 797 complaints, Swabi with 577 complaints, Banu with 558 complaints, and Kohat with 533 complaints.

Adil Raza said when the project was kicked off last year, there was no mechanism to check whether public complaints had been resolved.  “Now complainants get a message asking them if their complaints have been addressed.”

Usman Ali, who manages the Smart App data in the Dir district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, said that after the local government elections, the number of complaints was increasing which reflected public interest in fixing issues within the public departments.

“We keep monitoring complaints against deputy commissioners, police and other public departments to respond to genuine complaints,” Ali told News Lens.

However, Muhammad Imran, a student of the University of Peshawar, said not everyone knew of the facility, especially people in the remote districts.

People who were not literate could not manage to file complaints through a smart app, nor were they aware of the service, he said.

“An awareness campaign about the facility should be initiated for citizens so that they can benefit from the app by having a say in the way they are governed,” he told News Lens.

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