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eGovernment: SECP’s eServices greatly help business entities

During most part of the last decade, the SECP enjoyed a very good reputation for innovative and productive use of information technology at national and international levels. The untiring efforts of top class IT professionals working for the SECP resulted not only in development of top-of-the-line information systems for it, but also secured several prominent distinctions over the years, including the Sword of Cyber Defense, top 5 website ranking, first RAC installation, first SOA-based implementation and most recently won Laureate Gold Medal on envisaging and developing eServices for the SECP by International Data Group, the world’s leading technology media, events and research company, which honours visionary applications of IT in promoting positive social, economic and educational change after being evaluated among more than 1,000 nominations from across the world. In order to build and create IT infrastructure and environment the SECP had been following international quality standards as well as world class information security best practices and therefore it also became the first public sector entity to accomplish ISO 9001:2008 quality certification in 2006 and the first regulator in Pakistan to achieve ISO 27001:2005 information security certification for its implementations in the design, development and implementation of IT solutions and services for the SECP.

According to the World Bank Report on ease of doing business in countries across the world, the ranking of Pakistan vis-a-vis ease of starting business was 89 before the launch of eServices. eServices was a first concrete and well-thought-out step towards corporate digitalization and egovernance. After the launch of eServices, the rating improved and Pakistan ranked 68 in the ease of starting a business category and also attracted the award of Laureate Gold Medal by International Data Group (IDG) in Washington, DC in 2011. This award although not considered a big event inside the SECP was celebrated by everyone in the industry that had even the remotest link with eServices.

Owing to this unique position attained by the SECP, it was requested by various organisations, including PIFRA, PIDAT, SCO, BISP, ZTBL, Ministry of Industries, Sindh on the order of honourable Chief Justice SHC, and Establishment Division etc to provide them technical advice and help in formulating their IT strategies and action plans. Information technology is clearly seen now within the SECP not as a support department but as a business partner and “force multiplier”, helping the SECP achieve its own strategic goals in a cost-effective and efficient fashion. One step forward, the SECP extends its support in collaboration with other organisation to provide IT services in the form of one-stop shop portal. OSS is the result of collaboration among the SECP, FBR, EOBI, MOF, ERU, and the World Bank. OSS is a single point of access for electronic services and information offered by OSS parties. It reduces hassle for the business entities from going to all the public authorities separately, providing the same information again and again. During various interactions with other government and autonomous public sector organisations Transformation and Knowledge Management Department (TKMD) has realised that although these organisations are at different levels of automating their processes with respect to each other, the very goal of serving the public in a more efficient and effective manner through various e-initiatives is common. Moreover, some of the e-initiatives cannot even be offered for the benefits of the general public as well as other tax payers of this country unless there is a meaningful co-ordination and collaboration among all the government functionaries. In other words the ultimate dream of achieving a meaningful egovernment is impossible without there being an enterprise plan for integration among the government entities. The following is a basic blueprint of one such integration plan through an eBusiness portal for government. The number of participating government entities has been kept at a bare minimum for simplicity reasons and developing a basic understanding of the model, but it can include all government organisations that wish to participate in the national e-governance programme.

EBUSINESS PORTAL: ENTERPRISE PLAN As explained above, there is a need to develop a comprehensive national level enterprise plan of integration among all government organisations to fulfil the ultimate goal of e-governance. The services can be offered to various users, including the citizens of Pakistan through Pakistan eBusiness portal. Since, the most recent step towards this goal has already been taken in terms of establishment of virtual one-stop shop (VOSS). It makes sense to use this as an example to further elaborate this rather complex concept. To provide one-stop clearance platform for registration of businesses, the idea of one-stop shop can be elaborated further and more government bodies, eg NADRA and State Bank of Pakistan can be added to provide end-to-end business processes management seamlessly. eBusiness Portal can provide all business and investment related regulatory services across the SECP, FBR, NADRA , SBP, EOBI and other government bodies on a single access point. The eBusiness Portal will create all-time facility for services and will also offer joined-up services where a single application submitted by applicant for a number of approvals, clearances, permissions and registrations will be routed automatically across multiple parties in a logical manner. It is envisaged that the services offered on eBusiness will eventually cover the entire life cycle of a business starting from its establishment, through its ongoing operations to even its possible closure.

The eBusiness portal will cover of the following components of business processes: 

INFORMATION GATHERING AND VALIDATION In order to capture all the information required by OSS parties for starting/running/closing a business in Pakistan, master forms can be designed for simplicity and handling, eliminating the need of filing same information with different authorities.

For clarity reasons the information held by master forms has been arranged in groups. Data verification services may be deployed where possible, for posting good quality data to all the relevant organisations. For example, directors’ personal information and family tree can be obtained and validated by fetching information from NADRA and tax defaulters status can be checked beforehand from FBR through ID card number.

SINGLE SIGN-ON eBusiness Portal should have capability for the users to logon once and be able to access all appropriate services in business registration authorisations created for the business user.

The eBusiness portal will also render services based on user management. For the ease of corporate entities, this eBuisness portal user will be passed on to all subject authorities, so that the same user can be used to avail himself of subsequent services through single-sign-on implementation. It will be of benefit for users to have one user account that can be used for all government digital services offered by OSS parties (SECPEOBISBPFBRNADARA), regardless of the services being used, or authority being contacted.

PAYMENTS The adoption of eServices by the corporate sector is quite speedy and as of today almost 60% of the new registration with the SECP is through eServices. However, the process of electronic payments is not yet smooth in the absence of a payment gateway in the country. This is an important step necessary for fast adoption of ecommerce and e-government initiatives in the country. All the payments in business registration should ideally be handled through electronically. It should include online payment methods. In the absence of online payment gateways, other feasible options of secured payment system can be implemented. Banks issue credit cards and cards are processed using their own gateways. An automated clearing service facility is the preferred option.

As suggested in the 2014 Draft E-Procurement strategy and Roadmap by International Governance Solutions, a central pooling account can also be set up at the State Bank of Pakistan to electronically handle the registration/filling fee receipts. The SBP can be required to integrate its e-Payments solutions with the OSS-eBusiness system.

There should be provision for corporations/business entities to transact such payments through a set of banking methods specified such as: 

— Credit/debit card validated through service provider gateway

— Internet banking validated through data transfer

— Online funds transfer (EFT) validated through banking network

— Bank challans validated through data transfer

ePayment system should be designed in a way that enables applicants to pay directly from the bank they have their accounts and no need to open an account with a particular bank. Other modes may also be considered provided that payment acknowledgement, reconciliation and verifications within reasonable period of time can be met without manual intervention.

A prerequisite for electronic payments should be interoperability and integration between the financial systems (oracle ERP in case of SECP and SBP) and the OSS-eBusiness system. Henceforward, an ePayment gateway will add value by allowing all payments to be collected at one point and then apportioned, split and routed to the respective heads of account of OSS parties.

DIGITAL SIGNATURE, AUTHORIZATION AND AUTHENTICATION The SECP has been making use of PKI since 2008 and eServices being offered require affixing electronic signature on all electronic transactions. The legal framework already exists for acceptance and use of electronic signatures in the country under the 2002 Electronic Transaction Act. There is a need to establish a National Certification Authority (CA) for issuance of digital signatures to all citizens. The role of National CA can even be assigned to NADRA so that while issuing the ID cards to Pakistani citizens an option of obtaining digital certificates may be given without any additional requirement of verification. The SECP can also become a stakeholder by acting as a registration authority for issuance of digital signatures to companies, eg Class 3 digital certificates etc.

BUSINESS PROCESS DESIGNING AND SIMULATION A process is never absolute and thus requires modifications and enhancements from time to time. A process designing tool may be used for management visibility to bring in ease in modification required in future and to better accommodate government regulation changes and technology changes using business process management.

SYSTEM INTEGRATION SERVICES It is intended to have an integrated framework which covers information connectivity and process integration that includes executing process design, workflow automation, application integration, reporting on various KPI, and process/business rule handling.

The eBusiness portal should support real-time integration with the existing processes of the parties and in future, the other government agencies and utility companies. The integration framework needs to support integration with backend applications. It is required these applications provide business data access through web-service/SOA and enterprise service bus standards for ease of integration with the business process management platform.

BUSINESS RULE MANAGEMENT eBusiness Portal workflow may require the use of some business rules (laws, rules and regulations of each business entity). Every eBusiness system integrated with eBusiness Portal will use the same rule for processing the same logic from rule repository, single source of truth for every business decision. For example, assigning process activities according to user groups or company kind and sector, Information required based on the representative type and fee calculations based on company paid-up capital and company type for online/offline submissions.

BUSINESS MONITORING In eBusiness Portal, monitor provides comprehensive business activity monitoring to help improve business agility. It will provide activity rendered dashboards, warnings and alerts to provide approximately real-time visibility into business operations, transactions and processes for better business decisions. Also, it helps identify evolving business opportunities, trends and issues through statistical analysis of current and historical data, eg, the overall completion rate for various process activities for SECP/FBR/EOBI/SBP/NADRA and workload and performance for government officers in the certain role.

HELP DESK, TRAINING AND AWARENESS In order to make the most of eBusiness Portal, there is a need to establish a help desk that should facilitate users through all business processes available on eBusiness Portal. In addition, training and capacity enhancement is necessary for staff members responsible for providing business users support, technical people in terms of the recommended ICT infrastructure, data entry facilitators’ operators at facilitation centers and general public awareness.

(Arshad Javed Minhas is the executive director/HOD of the Transformation and Knowledge Management Department and Uzma Khan is joint director in the same department)

Arshad Javed Minhas and Uzma Khan, "eGovernment: SECP’s eServices greatly help business entities," Business recorder. 2015-01-11.
Keywords: Social sciences , Social issues , Social needs , Social development , E services , IT professionals , Information technology , Cyber defense , Security business , Ebusiness portal , Pakistan