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Afghans applaud ease and efficiency of new online passport service

By Najibullah

To fight corruption and facilitate the process for obtaining a passport, the Afghan government March 12 launched an online system that gives Afghans an opportunity to apply for passports via the internet. This video shows the step by step process. [Ministry of Communications and Information Technology]

KABUL -- The ease and efficiency of the new online passport application programme has proven to be a success, citizens and government officials say.

As many as 200 individuals each day have been registering on the system since it was launched March 12, according to Gen. Sayyed Omar Saburi, the general director of the country's Directorate of Passports.

Residents of each province now can apply online, Saburi told Salaam Times.

"It is beneficial for everyone -- citizens, the government and the Directorate of Passports," he said. The process "is easy in the sense that Afghans can fill out this application online from the comfort of their home or an internet cafe, whenever they want".

A man poses for his passport picture in Kabul in an undated photo. [Central Passport Department/Facebook]

A man poses for his passport picture in Kabul in an undated photo. [Central Passport Department/Facebook]

"Once completed, they can come to the Directorate of Passports on the date that has been set for them by the system, so that we can collect their biometric data," he said.

Collecting the biometric data takes no more than 10 minutes, he added, and the applicant receives the passport the next day from the closest post office.

With the online application process, applicants need only to visit the Directorate of Passports once instead of taking the multiple trips that were previously required, Saburi said.

"It has also made the process much easier for the staff at the Directorate of Passports, since applicants have already filled out application forms and the staff need only to take their biometric data," he said. "In the offline application process, our staffs are responsible for filling out applications."

Ease of use

Mustafa Sherzad, an employee at the Ministry of Finance and a resident of Kabul, appreciates the ease and efficiency of the new system. He came to the passport agency to have his biometric data collected.

It is fortunate the process "has become electronic and I filled out the form online, which took 10 minutes", he told Salaam Times. "Then, we printed it out and paid the fee to the bank."

The system "has become much easier, and this is an achievement for the Interior Ministry and the Directorate of Passports," he added. "The process has become 90% easier than it was before."

"It is very convenient, and applicants can easily pass through within a day or two," Sherzad said.

Mirwais, another resident of Kabul who came to the agency to receive a passport, lauded the efficiency of the new process.

"We had applied for a passport online, and when we came here today, we noticed that fortunately there have been two changes in the application process," Mirwais told Salaam Times.

"The first change is that, instead of going to the passport directorate in the middle of the night, we now complete the application form online," he said. The other is error-free applications "since we now fill them out ourselves".

"Previously, the staff members of the passport directorate were the ones who filled out the forms," he said. "It wasted their time and sometimes led to mistakes."

Preventing corruption

The online application system helps fight corruption, emphasised Saburi, director of the passport agency.

"Completing forms online is a heavy blow to corrupt individuals because the system sets the time that passport applicants should go" to the directorate for the collection of biometric data, he said.

Online governmental processes can serve as an effective weapon in reducing administrative corruption, said Bari Salaam, chairman of the Independent Joint Anti-Corruption Monitoring and Evaluation Co-ordination Committee.

"Electronic governance is a ... fundamental tool in preventing corruption," he told Salaam Times, as it "decreases the number of interactions between civil servants and the public".

"However, this does not mean that corruption is completely eradicated with the advent of e-governance," Salaam said.

"It's important to launch measures such as those the government has recently launched," he said. "Electronic governance should be set forth as a major strategy across the government and should be implemented in all government departments."

Sayer Zaland, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology, foresees a bright future for electronic governance in simplifying processes.

"Over the next three years, we want all public service processes to be streamlined and simplified," Zaland told Salaam Times.

"The identification card system has already become electronic," he said, and the Government Resource Planning system "is being implemented in all government organisations, which simplifies the processes of government departments".

"We studied nearly 62 public service processes, of which 27 processes have been simplified," Zaland added.

Work is under way to improve parts of the country's traffic system such as lighting and maps, he said.

"It's going to become digitised and go online in order to simplify it for the public," Zaland said.

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