ICT policies await strict implementation for development

Narayan Prasad Ghimire, DHULIKHEL: In November 2015, Ministry of Information and Communications issued a circular, informing that it was renamed as the Ministry of Information and Communications Technology and urged all concerned to mention it accordingly. But hardly 20 days had passed the Ministry was named again what it was earlier. 

The IT Park established in 2005 in Banepa, Kavrepalanchowk, was left unused almost for ten years. It came into operation partially in 2016.
Similarly, the IT Policy the government formulated first time in the country in 2000 was revised only in 2010 by then High Level Commission for Information Technology.
These three examples finely indicate how the ICT issues are dealt, and how the related policy and infrastructures are left ignored in Nepal. It signals how wavering commitment the government has on such important issue, which needs to be linked to the sustainable development, as ICT is taken as an important catalyst to achieving SDGs.
The stakeholders representing various sectors including academia, law, media, research, technology, security bodies, and government agencies came up with the views pointing out the need of rigorous implementation of the policies on the ICT and broadband.
Former Vice-Chairman of High Level Information Technology Commission, Manohar Kumar Bhattarai, said ICT is a driver of innovation in business, government and society.
Pointing out the flaws of ICT policy making in Nepal, he said, “It is unfortunate that the concerned people become as vague as possible while formulating policy, which has direct bearing on its implementation.”
Lack of comprehensive plan of action, undue priority to supply side with gross indifference to demand side in policy formulation, incompatibility among related agencies and cross–cutting nature of the ICT itself have badly hindered the effective implementation of the policies related to ICT and broadband, he asserted.
He suggests programmatic intervention, promotion of innovation, and development of knowledge economy for enhancement of broadband internet and the ICT expansion. Bhattarai worried that broadband master plan was stuck in the ministry.
One of the participants, Head of ICT Education Department at Sanothimi Campus, Bhaktpur, Reg Bahadur Bhandari, observes, “There are so many policies on ICT, but there are few master plans to implement these policies. Lack of specific research centres on ICT is another factor behind slack monitoring of the implementation of ICT policies and documents. The incongruity between academy and ICT industries is equally hindering the development and implementation of ICT. ”
According to him, government egregiously ignores the international best practices on ICT implementation.
However, making presentation on ‘ICTs in Disaster Risk Reduction and Management’, senior official of Nepal Police, Dr Rajiv Subba, shared that Nepal Police utilized social media actively during the major disaster -2015 earthquake. He praised the vibrant use of ICT and social media by the Nepali youths. “Internet is a disruptive technology, which should be used for change,” Dr Subba suggests. He admitted that ICT sector was waiting due attention.
Similarly, senior Director at Nepal Telecommunications Authority, Anand Raj Khanal, said broadband could be leveraged to graduate country from the least developed status to the developing on by 2022. Arguing that NTA’s primary role is the infrastructure development in terms of expansion of broadband, Director Khanal expressed doubt whether the contracts NTA had with Nepal Telecoms and other companies would be completed on time to ensure broadband access to people. According to him, contracts were signed this April and May to ensure broadband internet access for 11 quake-hit districts.
He too admitted, “We’re smart in policy formulation but weak at implementation. Development process is not an isolated event, however.”
The programme organized jointly by LIRNEasia, Internet Society Nepal Chapter and Centre for Law and Technology, stressed timely reform and strict monitoring of policies, congruity among implementing agencies, engagement of wider stakeholders, vibrant demand side, ICT not merely for promotion of ICT, but for the change in administration and governance. RSS

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