Rohan Responds Rapidly to Nepal

Posted on December 13, 2004  /  2 Comments

Rapid Response Unit:
14 December 2004

LIRNEasia made a short, but productive call on Nepal’s High-Level Commission for Information Technology (HLCIT) last week, to advise on jump-starting its e government and reform processes. The visit came within less than ten days of a request for Rapid Response assistance by Mr. Sharad Chandra Shah, HLCIT’s Vice Chairman.

In his three day visit, executive director Rohan Samarajiva conducted two key sessions, with HLCIT and decision making level representatives of government, private sector and civil society.

The first was a seminar, concerned with how Nepal can rapidly implement e-government initiatives, drawing on experience from Sri Lanka. Samarajiva discussed with the participants different approaches that Nepal could take and what would be most suitable for Nepal, whilst stressing the importance of strategic communication to support the entire process [see presentation slides ]. This sparked off an active discussion, resulting in HLCIT expressing its satisfaction at the fruitful outcome of the meeting, and that it would reconvene the group on a monthly basis to keep the implementation going. In attendance were over 20 senior officials including 13 at secretary level (including Secretary, Office of the Prime Minister and Secretary, Defense), the Managing Director of Nepal Telecom Co (incumbent) and the President of the private operators’ association.

The second was a strategy/brainstorming session with two members of the high-level commission and several other members of the HLCIT, to discuss the feasibility of an integrated ICT strategy similar to eSri Lanka in Nepal. More controversial and divisive issues such as interconnection and ensuring cost-based and non-discriminatory access to the backbone of NTC were discussed, with what appeared to be some of the first open airings of divergent views on the continuation of the de facto monopoly.

HLCIT will follow-up this program with a report on the efficacy of the visit and any actions resulting from it in a month’s time.

Samarajiva also spoke on the importance of ICTs for higher education and research at the roundtable discussion between GoN representatives and the Academic Advisory Council of the Asian Institute of Technology, which was holding its meetings in Kathmandu.

Nepal is in the process of developing and implementing IT-enabled products and services, to enable e-government. This will include computerized government accounting systems, citizen records, driving licenses, passports, etc. Whilst building relationships between the public and private sector, Nepal aims to ultimately improve the efficiency and accountability of government and enable better access to government services for its people.

HLCIT was set up just over one year ago, to provide ‘crucial strategic direction’ and assist in the formulation of policy for the development of Nepal’s ICT sector, as well as to harness these technologies to meet key developmental challenges such as reforming governance and catalyzing economic growth for poverty reduction. Nepal currently has one of the lowest number of Internet users in the Asia-Pacific region, with an estimated Internet penetration rate of 0.3 users per 100 inhabitants and had a per capita income of USD 240 in 2003.

Presentation slides


  1. As we all know democracy is under serious threat in this country. Lots of people feel that elected governments have completely underperformed over the twelve year democratic history. Of course the Moaists are taking advantage of the situation.

    Nepal is a difficult country to move around; remember it’s in the Himalayan range! Eighty percent of the people live in rural mountainous areas sometimes taking days to get to a government office to attend to their needs. First to get a form, then back again with the filled form [less than 50 percent are literate], then perhaps months for any action. So to them, Government seems so far away; both physically and in terms of what they can get from “these people who we have elected”. It is not surprising that people loose faith in a system that does not seem to be of any use to them. Note that Nepal’s per capita income is only USD 250, and that too with a huge donor component.

    The Nepal Government should welcome an e-Gov initiative like the one Rohan seem to be suggesting. A well designed e-Gov program could rekindle the faith in Government if it can help people actually avail themselves of government services in a meaningful way. Incorporating an e-Gov project with the ongoing rural telecoms project in the Eastern Development Region may produce results that could surpass expectations.

    Nepal needs to think out of the box to extricate itself from the difficult situation it is in.

    15 December 2004, Katmandu

  2. Maybe we should just start by giving the King SimCity to help him plan for the ruination of the country?! :-)