It is believed that IT is the most important factor for integrating the developing and developed countries. We cannot ignore the effect of World Wide Web in our daily life even in developing countries. The Internet is spreading into almost every part of the world and we face every day emergence of new application and technologies. This trend is transforming societies into e-societies, e-business, e-health care, e-government and so forth, have already been substantially developed in many developed countries.
ICT for Development in Nepal
Nepal’s information and communication technology (ICT) sector is seen as epitomizing the opportunity that globalization offers a low-income developing country. The success of Nepalese techno-entrepreneurs in past few years and the rapid growth of the Nepalese software and IT-enabled services industries, especially its export segment, have buoyed expectations of the potential for growth and human development that ICT holds out in this country.
ICT4D – Where does Nepal stand?
Nepal thought to be a developing country, still has not been able to make maximum use of Information and Communication Technology for Development (ICT4D). Well, everywhere I see is all those pens and papers with people to write/note it down. According to Central Bureau of Statistics (2010/2011), about only 43 percent of the households in Nepal have access to internet facility within the reach of 30 minutes. In urban areas access to these facilities is far better compared with the access in the rural areas. Nepal has its own critical scenario, where different parties (Governmental, Public, or Private) lacks use of ICT in different fields. Most renowned economic sectors in Nepal like tourism, agriculture, tax, banking, commerce, health-care, education, environment-management and transportation are using only least of ICT related facilities which has made it a non-effective and slow performance, boring-to-use-sectors.
But apart from that, awareness and education has made some changes, Nepalese youth and entrepreneurs are motivated towards IT and Web related services. As an example, a group of students and entrepreneurs in different cities of Nepal are organized to conduct several meet-ups once a month to talk about IT related stuffs, which have become an aid for students and entrepreneurs to conduct their own start-ups. (Source: Facebook Group Entrepreneurs for Nepal) Different IT-enabled services industries are established to give IT services in different private and self organized organizations. Software including Mobile and Web Application developed by Nepalese developers are now bought and used by many people worldwide. Youths involved in agriculture sector are now aware about e-agriculture and slowly making their move towards it. An example can be the involvement of people in websites like Agriculture In Nepal, National Tea and Coffee Development Board and some other.
Does Nepal and Nepalese bear that potential for ICT4D?
Potential and Possibilities of ICT4D in Nepal
In single line summary, ICT for Development in Nepal is in emerging status with heavy potentials and possibilities. From a Facebook Group (Entrepreneurs for Nepal) survey made by Ujwal Thapa on topic “What kind of business are you thinking of starting within a year?कस्तो खाले बिजिनेस खोल्ने ईच्छा छ तपाईलाई यो बर्ष भित्र?”, 245 people agreed to सुचना प्रविधि Information Technology (IT). This totally shows interest of youth on IT.
ICT applications can support sustainable development, in the fields of public administration, business, education and training, health, employment, environment, agriculture and science within the framework of national e-strategies. This would include actions within the following sectors:
- Implement e-government strategies focusing on applications aimed at innovating and promoting transparency in public administrations and democratic processes, improving efficiency and strengthening relations with citizens.
- Develop national e-government initiatives and services, at all levels, adapted to the needs of citizens and business, to achieve a more efficient allocation of resources and public goods.
- Support international cooperation initiatives in the field of e-government, in order to enhance transparency, accountability and efficiency at all levels of government.
- Ensure the systematic dissemination of information using ICTs on agriculture, animal husbandry, fisheries, forestry and food, in order to provide ready access to comprehensive, up-to-date and detailed knowledge and information, particularly in rural areas.
- Public-private partnerships should seek to maximize the use of ICTs as an instrument to improve production (quantity and quality).
- Governments, international organizations and the private sector, are encouraged to promote the benefits of international trade and the use of e-business, and promote the use of e-business.
- Through the adoption of an enabling environment, and based on widely available Internet access, governments should seek to stimulate private sector investment, foster new applications, content development and public/private partnerships.
- Government policies should favor assistance to, and growth of SMMEs, in the ICT industry, as well as their entry into e-business, to stimulate economic growth and job creation as an element of a strategy for poverty reduction through wealth creation
Everyone should have the necessary skills to benefit fully from the Information Society. Therefore capacity building and ICT literacy are essential. ICTs can contribute to achieving universal education worldwide, through delivery of education and training of teachers, and offering improved conditions for lifelong learning, encompassing people that are outside the formal education process, and improving professional skills.
- Develop domestic policies to ensure that ICTs are fully integrated in education and training at all levels, including in curriculum development, teacher training, institutional administration and management, and in support of the concept of lifelong learning.
- Develop and promote programs to eradicate illiteracy using ICTs at regional and national level.
- Promote e-literacy skills for all, for example by designing and offering courses for public administration, taking advantage of existing facilities such as libraries, multipurpose community centers, public access points and by establishing local ICT training centers with the cooperation of all stakeholders. Special attention should be paid to disadvantaged and vulnerable groups.
- Governments, in cooperation with other stakeholders, should create programs for capacity building with an emphasis on creating a critical mass of qualified and skilled ICT professionals and experts.
- Work on removing the gender barriers to ICT education and training and promoting equal training opportunities in ICT-related fields for women and girls. Early intervention programs in science and technology should target young girls with the aim of increasing the number of women in ICT careers. Promote the exchange of best practices on the integration of gender perspectives in ICT education.
- Empower local communities, especially those in rural and under-served areas, in ICT use and promote the production of useful and socially meaningful content for the benefit of all.
- Launch education and training programs, where possible using information networks of traditional nomadic and indigenous peoples, which provide opportunities to fully participate in the Information Society.
- Design specific training programs in the use of ICTs in order to meet the educational needs of information professionals, such as farmers, teachers archivists, librarians, museum professionals, scientists, journalists, postal workers and other relevant professional groups.
- Develop distance learning, training and other forms of education and training as part of capacity building programs.
- Conduct Volunteering, in harmony with national policies and local cultures, this can be a valuable asset for raising human capacity to make productive use of ICT tools and build a more inclusive Information Society. Activate volunteer programs to provide capacity building on ICT for development.
- Design programs to train users to develop self-learning and self-development capacities.
- Promote collaborative efforts of governments, planners, health professionals, and other agencies along with the participation of international organizations for creating a reliable, timely, high quality and affordable health care and health information systems and for promoting continuous medical training, education, and research through the use of ICTs, while respecting and protecting citizens’ right to privacy.
- Facilitate access to the world’s medical knowledge and locally-relevant content resources for strengthening public health research and prevention programs and promoting women’s and men’s health, such as content on sexual and reproductive health and sexually transmitted infections, and for diseases that attract full attention of the world including HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis.
- Alert, monitor and control the spread of communicable diseases, through the improvement of common information systems.
- Promote the development of international standards for the exchange of health data, taking due account of privacy concerns.
- Encourage the adoption of ICTs to improve and extend health care and health information systems to remote and under-served areas and vulnerable populations, recognizing women’s roles as health providers in their families and communities.
- Strengthen and expand ICT-based initiatives for providing medical and humanitarian assistance in disasters and emergencies.
- Encourage the development of best practices for e-workers and e-employers built, at the national level, on principles of fairness and gender equality, respecting all relevant international norms.
- Promote new ways of organizing work and business with the aim of raising productivity, growth and well-being through investment in ICTs and human resources.
- Promote teleworking to allow citizens to live in their societies and work anywhere, and to increase employment opportunities for women, and for those with disabilities. In promoting teleworking, special attention should be given to strategies promoting job creation and the retention of the skilled working force. This will definitely solve the problem of brain-drain in Nepal.
- Promote early intervention programs in science and technology that should target young girls to increase the number of women in ICT carriers.
- Governments, in cooperation with other stakeholders are encouraged to use and promote ICTs as an instrument for environmental protection and the sustainable use of natural resources.
- Government, civil society and the private sector are encouraged to initiate actions and implement projects and programs for sustainable production and consumption and the environmentally safe disposal and recycling of discarded hardware and components used in ICTs.
- Establish monitoring systems, using ICTs, to forecast and monitor the impact of natural and man-made disasters.
- Promote affordable and reliable high-speed Internet connection for all universities and research institutions to support their critical role in information and knowledge production, education and training, and to support the establishment of partnerships, cooperation and networking between these institutions.
- Promote electronic publishing, differential pricing and open access initiatives to make scientific information affordable and accessible in all countries on an equitable basis.
- Promote the long-term systematic and efficient collection, dissemination and preservation of essential scientific digital data, for example, population and meteorological data in all countries.
- Promote principles and metadata standards to facilitate cooperation and effective use of collected scientific information and data as appropriate to conduct scientific research.
Future Plans and Strategies
To meet future needs, universities in Nepal have to increase the diversity and capacity of computer educational programs to train the needed. The governments should increase accessibility to the international market by the Nepalese firms. As a result, one can expect developments in this field in two ways: First, the tendency of the firms to use domestic and international software markets, and second, to place this know-how at the service of domestic data networks and to earn revenues from abroad. The following should act as proposed strategies to improve and develop the use of IT:
- Develop and promulgate details of national strategies and plans for attraction and transformation IT in the country;
- Investing more in telecommunication infrastructure; Boosting productivity in administrative support;
- Train specialist principles to develop IT teaching;
- Improving educational system (selection process, student placement and evaluation, availability of resources);
- Introduce principals to the use of IT and help them develop a supporting society school culture;
- Develop a vision for education of using IT based on lifelong learning;
- Increasing training seminars to introduce families to the use of IT;
- To investigate and explore national indexes of ICT development in the country;
- Encouraging foreign investment: the higher foreign currency content , the less technology gap;
- To bridge the IT gap of all the related organizations and user groups from industries & social institutes should liaise in development activities and supporting projects;
- Harmonization of regulatory practices among trading partners for an effective liberalization;
- Promotion of factors advancing resource sharing;
- Prevention of redundant activities and duplication of efforts;
- Determination of national information standards;
There are many issues to be considered. The government should invest in the infrastructure development, by providing the necessary resources and training to the population.