Why Nepal needs Information Technology
Nepal is coming of age as an IT-savvy nation. Is this the secret to its progress?
The very mention of the Nepal is brings to the mind sites and images of an exotic far-off land. Its mountainous terrain, rich heritage and culture make it seem like the country is cut off from the modern world.
Nepal is a landlocked nation located in the Himalayas. Its northern borders are connected with China, while it has a common border with India in the east, west and south. The country is famous for having some of the world’s tallest mountain range. It contains more than 240 peaks over 20,000ft and the world’s highest peak (Mt Everest) is also located in Nepal. Other main attractions include the Buddhist pilgrimage site Lumbini, which is the birthplace of Buddha. There is strong evidence that suggests Lumbini turned into a pilgrimage site as early as the third century BC. Hinduism is the main religion of the country followed by Buddhism and the country has been mostly governed by a monarchy throughout its history.
In ancient times, Nepal was a part of several empires with origins in Indian mainland. In fact, the country has also experienced the colonial rule by the British Empire. The British annexed parts of Nepal (Sikkim and Terai) after the Treaty of Sugauli. The treaty itself took place after the Anglo Nepalese War in 1815-1816, which was initially more devastating for the British but eventually went in their favour after they committed more resources to their forces.
The country’s economy is mostly based on agriculture, followed by services and then other Industries. The former employs about 76 per cent of the workforce followed by 18 per cent and 6 per cent in the services and manufacturing industries, respectively. Like many other South Asian nations, due to political uncertainty (like the upheaval in monarchy and the civil war with the Maoist forces, etc.), Nepal’s economy too has had more than its fair share of issues. Despite having a major potential, the country lacks a modern infrastructure required to make its economy more dynamic and vibrant.
Sectors like manufacturing, tourism and services industries require more attention to optimise their full potential and provide the country with the necessary benefits reaped from using modern methods.
As mentioned earlier, information technology (IT) also happens one of the major areas where Nepal needs to make more efforts to create not just a strong economy but also a strong link to the rest of the world. Effective utilization of IT and its amalgamation into a country’s infrastructure definitely brings about major positive changes in its social, cultural and economical settings.
In Nepal there is rapid expansion in the use of IT in many sectors of the economy, particularly in public organizations. However this usually occurs with outside assistance. The IT scene in Nepal faces enormous difficulties from not having adequate infrastructure, planning and manpower to support it.
IT in the country’s public sector mostly comes as a part of numerous development projects from various donor agencies. Since these ventures have a specific set of objectives, deliverables and outcomes there is a question of sustaining these technologies after these projects come to completion. One of the major methods of sustenance appears to be projects extensions and renewals. Therefore, there is concern with reference to the lack of capability in sustaining these new technologies on internal resources. This also highlights a reliance on external resources over which the country has limited control; and the problem they face of having a lack of internal support system. Furthermore, some research studies show that the importation of technologies is operated in a very liberal manner, with not enough effort to learn and absorb them. In addition, the diffusion and commercialization of these technologies are practiced mostly on an ad hoc basis.
Moreover, Nepalese social practices and cultural values differ from those of the West. As a result, they are likely to impact Nepalese users’ attitudes towards computers. The country has a hierarchical system with factors such as family/clan affiliations, residence, age and gender, etc aspects to consider. Thus it’s not just the peoples’ computer literacy but also their preferences for adopting certain technologies that appear to be major deciding factors in adopting IT practices.
Moreover Nepal’s business practices centre more on a culture of meeting people, discussions and visits. The practice of internal communication via written content is mostly quite rare. Thus in-house communications (emails, etc) might have some problems in implementing initially. Also the jobs related to IT and computers require training and a large number of the population is computer illiterate. Therefore, the few people with computer literacy are in a better position to find jobs relatively quickly, and the employment market is currently far from being overwhelmed with IT specialists.
Despite being in initial stages, IT has helped Nepal in quite a few of its endeavors. A prime example is the population census of Nepal 1971 which took only a year to publish thanks to the adoption of computer technology. Prior to acquiring computer usage, the first ( manual) population survey of 1962 took nearly a decade to compile and publish. Furthermore like India, a few IT firms from Nepal are providing their services to international markets and are playing an integral role in connecting their country to the world’s IT stage. With the right policies, investment towards infrastructure and human resources, Nepal can build a strong IT sector. This will not only result in superior working environment and better product quality for Nepalese businesses but will also link them with international markets and improve the quality of life for their people. Dr. Omar Farooq Khan writes regularly on subjects of social and cultural interest.