Govt scraps strategically important IT project
ISLAMABAD: After spending Rs310.8 million of taxpayers, the federal government has decided to scrap a strategically important project to interconnect 57 federal ministries/divisions.
The project was aimed at providing basic IT infrastructure to all the federal divisions, ministries, and inter-connecting them through a secure data centre.
The Executive Committee of National Economic Council (ECNEC) in July 2004 approved the “Federal Government Data Center (FGDC) and Intranet” project.
And by March 2013, the government had spent Rs310.88 million out of Rs450.9 million the amount earmarked for the project.
In September 2007, the project cost was revised upward to Rs493 million and according to minutes of July 2 meeting of Central Development Working Party (CDWP) (an official forum for the approval of development projects) the World Bank was ready to provide soft loan for the project.
The basic purpose of FGDC was to improve the speed of communications within the government besides increasing the productivity of government functionaries and enabling them to efficiently provide services to citizens.
The project also includes installation of Local Area Network with the provision of basic infrastructure to 22 divisions of the federal government and setting up of a federal government Intranet for providing inter-connectivity between the 35 federal government divisions through a high speed metropolitan area network (MAN).
The Ministry of Information Technology and Telecommunication (MOIT) on November 20, 2013 decided to wind up the project.
A letter in this regard issued by the Pakistan Computer Bureau (PCB) stated: “in compliance with the decision taken by the minister for state for IT, PCB has stopped the revision of Federal Government Data Centre and Intranet PC-1 and is working on its closure.”
About a couple of months before the decision, IT Minister Anusha Rahman on September 19, signed an MoU with Etisalat-led PTCL according to which the telecom authority would now provide “data centre hosting facility.”
According to the MoU, the PTCL will preserve the official record of different ministries and other departments. Initially, PTCL has offered free trial for a period of 15 months after which it will charge the government for the services.
Kamran Ali, a spokesman for the IT ministry, told Dawn that as per the agreement, the PTCL would provide data hosting facility to the IT ministry.
He, however, assured that the IT ministry would not provide the documents related to the national security to the host company and these documents would be dealt in accordance with the set procedure.
According to the Planning Commission’s documents, “the establishment of FGDC is the core and crucial component of the project. Many other major projects of the IT ministry are dependent on the successful operation of the FGDC.”
The documents stated that the project exclusively dependent on the creation of data centre were: “E-Office at MOIT, E-Office Replication at all Federal Divisions, E-Enablement of Establishment Division, E-Services of ministry of interior, E-Services of ministry of Food and Agriculture, Economic Development Mapping in five districts and E-Services of ministry of health and population.”
The sources said the closing of FGDC project would put the future of above mentioned projects at stake and result in a massive downsizing in the MoIT.
According to the documents, for FGDC project, the National Telecommunication Commission (NTC) had laid 75 kilometre fiber optic in 2009.
Interestingly, instead of handing over the control of fiber optic to Pakistan Computer Bureau, the NTC started shifting its internet traffic on it “resultantly the interconnectivity of federal divisions could not be initiated.”
IT minister Ms Rahman could not be contacted for comments despite repeated attempts.
An official of the IT ministry, however, said that the FGDC project has been launched without having the requisite technological base.
He said: “there has been lack of proper deliberation at conceptualization and drafting stage of the PC-1 by the sponsors. Moreover, the Planning Commission did not consider many essential requirements at the time of the scrutiny of the project.”