Why Nepal needs In­for­ma­tion Tech­nol­ogy

Nepal is com­ing of age as an IT-savvy na­tion. Is this the se­cret to its progress?

Southasia - - CONTENTS - By Dr Omar Fa­rooq Khan

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.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Pakistan

© PressReader. All rights reserved.