Rapid Response Unit:
14 December 2004
LIRNEasia made a short, but productive call on Nepals 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, HLCITs 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 months 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 Nepals 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.