The ICT wave in Nepal

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[note note_color=”#fff713″ text_color=”#0e0e11″ radius=”7″]This is an entry to the LOCUS 2015 Technology Blogging Competition.[/note]

 

It is astonishing to think that just 3 decades ago, text messaging (SMS) hadn’t been invented and even more painful to contemplate; there was no Internet. In only a generation, humans have turned into a timeline on a wall producing news feed for other humans to consume. Without a doubt, the field of ICT has made huge leaps and bound and developed into one of the most successful human endeavor. But what’s the view in reverse? In other words, what can ICT do for development?

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The Korean Example

South Korea went through huge post-war development after the 1960s in which it transformed from being one of the poorest countries in the world (with a GDP nearly equal to that of Ghana) to becoming the 12th largest economy of the world in 1995. [1]

This remarkable development was aided greatly by the policy of the government to focus on its science and technology capacity along with the ICT sector. In particular, the combination of Government focus on ICT for development and the large-scale privatization seen in the mid 90s led to such progress. And so, the country ranked 2nd in ICT Development Index (2013) [2], South Korea continues to be a great example for the potential of ICT in development.

The Highs: Telephone and Internet penetration

Economic growth of six countries in comparison
Economic growth of six countries in comparison

The government Telecommunication policy (2004) [3] acknowledged Telecommunication service as one of the prerequisite of development and created a favorable environment with increased private sector participation to make the service reliable and easily accessible. And so began the impressive telephone and (subsequently) Internet penetration growth rate.

The latest Nepal Telecommunication Authority (NTA) Management Information System (MIS) report says that telephone service penetration in Nepal has reached 97.65% of 26.49 million people [4]. The 12.88 percent growth obtained in one-year (the penetration was 84.77% in mid December, 2013) goes to show the impressive penetration growth rate.

The case of Internet penetration is also similar. Currently, it stands at 38.09% which isn’t much but what’s interesting and amazing is the above-par growth rate (there were less than 50 Internet users in Nepal in 1995).

On top of that, the cost is also going down. Competition between companies such as Nepal Telecom and Ncell has resulted in a significant lowering of the cost of communication. Similarly, in 1995, the cost of emailing was Rs 20 per kb. So, for a 20 kb email, the cost was Rs 400 which I’ve been told, in those days, could have gotten you 200 eggs; that is a lot of omelets.

All this progress has been made in a state of turmoil and uncertainty. So, the hopes are high for the extent to which ICT can be developed in times of prosperity.

The lows: Limited use of ICT

What Nepal has failed to do is to fully utilize the ICT resources available to it. This failure is on equal terms with the failure to develop the sector in the first place. Use of ICT in public service delivery is also low and despite Government commitments, the assimilation has been very slow. This is in part due to the political instability and in part due to the massiveness of the changes such an implementation would bring.

The private sector however, is starting to adopt modern information technologies. This has become a necessity rather that a novelty. Such is the demands of the market.

The in-betweens: The possibilities

In the short term, development through ICT can be focused on economic growth through export of software products. Experts believe that factors in favor of such an approach are the cheap labor and good proficiency of the English language of the Nepalese people.

In the long run, experts call for a comprehensive ICT policy and the promotion and development of the field as an industry with special focus on strengthening e-governance initiative. [5]

So, all this leaves us to believe that even though we stand on shaky grounds, there is a significant potential and growth possibility in the sector of ICT and ICT for development (ICT4D). The ICT wave, with all its highs and lows, is sure to bring about sweeping changes.

References:
1) http://www.brookings.edu/research/papers/2012/09/12-korean-technology-campbell
2) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ICT_Development_Index
3) http://www.moic.gov.np/policies-and-directives.php
4) http://www.myrepublica.com/portal/index.php?action=news_details&news_id=92254
5) http://www.myrepublica.com/portal/index.php?action=news_details&news_id=91142

[box title=”About the article” style=”noise” box_color=”#efef4d” title_color=”#6d37ec”]This article is submitted by Bijay Gurung as an entry to LOCUS 2015 Technical Blogging Competition. Please, help this article win the competition by sharing and providing your comments to it. You can read more LOCUS 2015 articles here.[/box]

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