On 8th May 2021, TechPana organized a webinar on “Effective and impactful utilization of RTDF.” I was the sole external speaker. I based my comments on the work that I co-authored with Gayani Hurulle in 2019: Metrics to improve universal-service fund disbursements, Digital Policy, Regulation and Governance, 21(2): 102-114.
Impactful utilization required a focus on outcomes: did it achieve the good that was sought to be achieved by the legislation? In general, that would require demand-side studies to see if people had been brought out of poverty, whether employment had been created, etc..
But before one gets to outcomes, it’s necessary to have outputs. If the fund has not resulted in the rollout of networks or whatever it was supposed to support, there is not much point in looking for evidence of outcomes, good or bad.
The necessary condition for outputs is the disbursement of money. The sufficient condition is that the money should have been disbursed in a manner that serves to advance the objectives of the Act. But if the necessary condition has not been satisfied, there is not much point in investigating the completion of the sufficient conditions.
It is with this in mind that we proposed that the disbursement efficacy of the funds should be examined, over time and comparatively. Nepal has improved its gross disbursement rate from 2.6% to 14.5%. This has limited diagnostic value because we are not looking at what happens year on year, where responsibility can be assigned to specific individuals. I hope that the Nepal Telecom Authority will provide the necessary data so that the calculations can be done and performance can be improved.