May 29, 2020, Kathmandu
Nepal is abundant in natural resources and multidimensional cultural heritages. Despite these enticing features, Nepal has not been able to tap into its potential growth due to prolonged political uncertainty, trade disruptions, and natural disasters. Nepal made substantial progress with the adoption of a new Constitution in 2015, with the election of a stable government. The new government’s priorities are centered on the development and targeted initiatives to attain developing nation status and middle-income country status by 2022 and 2030, respectively.
Although ITU ranked Nepal 140th out of 176 countries in its ICT Development Index (IDI) for 2017, Nepal has enjoyed incredible success in Information and Communication Technology (ICT) comparable to its neighbors. To succeed in the vision of “Prosperous Nepal, Happy Nepali,” ICT will harness its growth potential by leveraging disruptive technologies and driving socioeconomic growth.
A brief overview of ICT:
ICT is the heart of human life and social development. ICT can be categorized into four major types; Broadcasting, Telecommunication, the Internet, and Computing and Information Technology.
Nepal Television and Radio Nepal provide about 72% and 83.0 of countrywide coverage. According to GSMA, mobile connectivity in Nepal stood at 134% of the population, which is higher than the South Asia regional average. In 2017, GSMA ranked Nepal 137th out of 167 countries in the mobile connectivity index. Like many other Asian countries, the mobile services industry in Nepal has recorded remarkable growth in the past four to five years, with the penetration rate rising at 6%–9% rate annually.
According to Economic Survey 18-19, Internet penetration in Nepal stood at 58.59%. By January 2020, there were 10 million social media users. There are more than 50,000 registered websites in Nepal, including 40,000 commercial websites. Nepal’s IT space has about 500 companies, with most of them focused on IT-enabled services (ITES) and business process outsourcing(BPO).
To flourish e-governance, the Nepal Government has established a Government Integrated Data Centre. IT-infrastructure needed for National e-Payment Gateway has already been prepared. Construction of Data Recovery Center in Hetauda has been completed to keep the information intact from the potential loss due to natural calamities and emergencies.
There are strong linkages between ICT and GDP growth. According to a World Bank report, every 10% increase in penetration of broadband to have an impact of 1.21% on high-income economies and 1.38% on low- and middle-income economies. Proper implementation of ICT would propel socio-economic growth in Nepal by addressing crucial challenges while unlocking the growth potential in various social and economic sectors like agriculture, education, tourism, urban infrastructure, health, energy, finance, and disaster management.
Smart irrigation project, digitization of land records, e-Haat Bazar are some of the services that ICT can contribute to the development of agriculture. Smart classrooms, online learning platforms, biometric attendance systems, and mobile learning centers in rural areas can bring massive reform in our traditional education system. Electronic visas augmented, and virtual reality tours, electronic tour guides, tourist tracking systems, online information regarding tourism and websites, and mobile apps can expand the scope of tourism globally. Urban infrastructures such as smart building, intelligent waste management, public transport management, municipality mobile application, etc. could lead to a creative and prosperous Nepal. Electronic health records, mobile health units, centralized telemedicine centers would help in gaining better health care. Smart grid projects, smart metering can improve our energy system go digital. National payment gateway, information management system, mobile wallet system can lead to financial reform. ICT plays a significant role in disaster prevention, mitigation response, and recovery. The use of Drone for security monitoring and delivery of emergency equipment can help in easing disaster. ICT has a consistently positive impact on job creation. The opportunities exist in infrastructure development, equipment manufacturing, distribution, maintenance, and also in the event of websites, mobile apps, information systems, etc.
The successful use of ICT in these various sectors will require a high degree of emphasis on implementation. The Government of Nepal needs to focus on the following priority areas to create an enabling environment: Technology and Infrastructure development, entrepreneurship/PPP so that private organizations would involve in every sector, talent, and skills development so that country will get the skilled technical workforce to implement the efficient use of ICT. Encourage private sector participation, improve professional education, facilitate the event of a robust financial ecosystem, encourage foreign direct investment in priority areas, making public servants digitally-ready will be essential. Emerging business models and disruptive technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), robotics, the Internet of things (IoT) and over the top (OTT) are transforming the way work is done. These emerging technologies are allowing governments and enterprises globally to unlock the potential to achieve exponential growth.
Government Policy and Private Sector Involvement:
Several policies and regulatory frameworks governing the ICT sector provide a necessary foundation for the technology-friendly Nepal. The National ICT Policy, introduced in 2015, seeks to enhance the vision of transforming Nepali society into knowledge and information-based society by harnessing rapid advances in the ICT sector. Similarly, the National Broadband Policy announced in 2016 puts forth a framework for stimulating broadband access and availability across the country. Along with the national broadcasting act and regulation, radio act and radio communication license regulation are critical frames for the development of the ICT sectors.
There could be a need to revisit investment and trade policies to secure large scale private sector participation in various sectors within the digital economy, such as (e-commerce, sharing economy, and IT-enabled services). Similarly, it will be essential to carry out a broad-based policy gap analysis to ensure that the ICT sector is grounded on sound policy frameworks. It is necessary to incorporate the use of emerging technology in regulation to get the best out of the ICT. The ICT sector must be assessed and evaluated regularly with a public and private partner for endorsing automation and digitalization and suggest improvements if necessary.
Elec. Er. Yogesh Aryal
Department of Information and Broadcasting
Ministry of Communication and Information Technology