ISLAMABAD: In what turned out to be a moment of embarrassment for several cabinet members, particularly the minister for information technology, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Monday refused to inaugurate the dashboard prepared to monitor flood relief assistance for being deficient.

“Is it a dashboard or a joke,” an unhappy Shehbaz Sharif asked at the inauguration ceremony, saying that it was not up to international standards.

Since the dashboard was designed by the Ministry of Information Technology, the PM’s annoyance left the officials concerned red-faced, especially minister Syed Aminul Haq.

The IT minister tried to pacify PM Shehbaz, saying he could inaugurate the dashboard because his ministry will certainly upgrade it according to the PM’s desires. “We will try to modify this [dashboard] and make it better. I request you to inaugurate it today and we will make it better,” he said.

Asks for information to be updated in ‘real time’; allows only provisional launch of project

The IT minister then went to the stage to have a word with the official briefing the ceremony.

However, the prime minister kept on pointing out deficiencies in the dashboard. “It lacks in many ways. It is deficient to our requirement. It is a static thing,” he elaborated.

The PM later tried to compensate the minister, who hails from an allied party, Muttahida Qaumi Movement, saying: “Minister Sahib no doubt…efforts have been made to prepare the dashboard, but it is a stationary sort of thing. The dashboard is not the one which the nation, I and you desired for.”

Earlier at the start of the function, the PM asked an IT ministry official to show data of Sindh and said why the dashboard was so slow. “It should run fast.”

When the PM asked how much cash has been distributed among flood victims, the official replied that Rs38 billion have been given away so far. To this, the prime minister said: “But the dashboard does not show it in real time. You have shown the figure which people in the relevant quarters have provided to you.”

IT experts agreed with the PM that the dashboard lacked many features.

The prime minister then asked the secretary that the dashboard should be something the nation could be proud of and one that could be presented internationally.

The unexpected rejection also stunned federal ministers Ahsan Iqbal, Marriyum Aurangzeb and Tariq Bashir Cheema, who were present on the occasion.

At one point, Ahsan Iqbal tried to placate the premier by reasoning that information on the portal could not be displayed in real time because it was dependent on the data to be provided by the provincial disaster management authorities.

However, PM Shehbaz interjected, saying: “But sir […] you will find out who is providing the information and who is not […] at best, this can be called a static dashboard”.

Mr Sharif said that a lagging portal would not reflect the losses suffered as well as the government’s efforts to mitigate their fallout.

The premier said that with upcoming international conventions and moots on the horizon, he wanted the dashboard to be of certain standard and in line with modern expectations.

He suggested that the project could be “provisionally” launched today but would officially be launched next Monday after incorporating his suggestions in it.

PM Shehbaz told the ministers to take all the help they needed but develop a “world class” dashboard.

Published in Dawn, October 4th, 2022

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