Ravan Services–A Breath of Fresh Air in Afghan Bureaucracy

Mirwais Alizai, a young man of 36 years, is the founder and CEO of Grand Technology Resources (GTR) Company. Dressed in a European-style suit, Mr. Alizai enters the office on a mission designed to ease the growing pains of the nation’s nascent bureaucracy, smiles, and raises his hand in a gesture meant to encourage his team to begin their work with a dutiful approach that reflects commitment, determination and a sense of responsibility.  His entrepreneurial vision comprehends expanding information and communications technology operations in Afghanistan, Malaysia, the UAE, and South Korea.  The founder and owner of GTR assumes all the roles of manager, practitioner and team leader — yet unlike so many of the imperious bureaucrats we encounter in government, he projects a gentle and friendly persona.  Having grown to adulthood both inside and outside of Afghanistan, Mr. Alizai cultivates a new vision of providing modern services, not so much as a herald of privatization, but rather as a new breed of young leader advocating the fruits of developing managerial skills with a concomitant devotion and commitment to fixing the daunting problems facing the construction of an efficient governmental bureaucracy, dedicated to serving the Afghan public, at this critical juncture in our history.

It is almost tragicomic that the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan must pass a bill in order to approve the implementation of e-governance in its bureaucracy.  E-governance is a widely accepted practice that has been implemented all over the world, yet, perhaps overburdened with an irrational commitment to doing things in an outdated “Afghan” way, our nation is one of the few still reticent to embrace it.  A serious lobbying effort may be required to induce Afghan officials, from ministers to their deputies and down through directorates, that Afghanistan has a need to quickly reform its bureaucratic system in order to provide the Afghan public with responsive and efficient governmental services.

In Afghanistan, where messages are often delivered by handwritten letters, communication lines are antiquated—practices common in the era of the Mughal Empire or the Kandahar Empire of Ahmad Shah Abdali still persist—and are inordinately time-consuming.  Communication by such channels compromises confidentiality and security, especially when a letter may require tens of signatures for approval, even for such insignificant tasks as purchasing a bundle of pens for government office use.  That acquiring a few pens for official usage may take several weeks to accomplish underlines the fact that there is little appreciation for the value of bureaucratic time, for the efficiencies of modern strategies designed to serve the public interest, nor for proper systems of procurement and auditing within government institutions.

In sharp contrast, when someone who has a familiarity with international standards enters either the main or a local office of Ravan Services, he gains the sense that he might well be in Dubai or some other nation in the developed world.  Notably, the Ravan Services GTR office is widely known as “mini Dubai,” a terminology that indicates Afghans are open to welcoming positive changes in their daily lives that derive from the cultivation of responsive officials and the use of modern technologies.  The enthusiastic young men seated at their counters, dressed in suits and ties as though they were in fact in Dubai, greet and counsel their customers in a friendly, ethical, and professional way, although they may have to deal with more than a thousand customers on any given day.  Thus their customers, accustomed to the much different picture of the Afghan government’s bureaucratic processes, derive a sense of relief and are left with real feelings of satisfaction after enjoying their interactions with the young, well-trained employees at Ravan Services Centers.

The mission of Ravan Services “GTR” is to service the public, in close coordination with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the IRA, through the issuance of evidentiary instruments such as National Identity Cards, Marriage Certificates, Birth Certificates, Car Licenses, Educational or Judicial records, and other important documents.

That Afghanistan over the past 15 years should have unnecessarily expended millions and millions of dollars of government funds at the central, provincial and local levels, struggling with outdated practices and grindingly inefficient bureaucracies, is a national disgrace.  We have an urgent and impelling need to explore all vehicles for modernizing and digitalizing our obsolete systems in order to address the real concerns of the Afghan people and deliver in a respectful manner the “best practice” services our public so richly deserves.

The deplorable ineffectiveness of Afghanistan’s governmental institutions as reflected in growing levels of corruption, investor insecurity and unnecessary barriers to private enterprise, along with the lack of professional behavioral standards, adds nothing but insult to the injuries the people of Afghanistan have had to endure.  A reform strategy to address the serious problems of the people vis à vis several institutional pillars of the nation, such as the judiciary, the civil service, civil society, and other major Afghan government institutions, as well as the incubation of private enterprises, is long overdue.  Professional e-governance, in particular, offers a potential solution to the challenges of trimming expenses and reducing government outlays on wasteful and outdated official bureaucratic systems.

The article originally appeared on The Afghanistan Times.

The Afghan Tribune | The Afghanistan Times | Published: July 26, 2017, 04:35 PM

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