The Nepalese Government has been fully aware of the potential of ICT from the beginning. However, in the 1990s the government could not realise the socio-economic benefits of ICT but since the dawn of new millennium numerous efforts are being made to harness the potential of ICT for democracy, political stability and socio-economic transformation. The Government has formulated a masterplan for the realisation of the e-Government now
Nepal e-Government masterplan Striding decisively
The ICT (Information and Communication Technology) revolution has stimulated transformational socio-economic shifts around the world with an ever-increasing reliance on ICT. The shift is a result of ICT’s unprecedented ability to process, store, and retrieve, duplicate and transmit information unconstrained by time, distance, and volume. There has been a profound impact of ICT on political, economical, social and cultural values. For example, email communications have jumped 32 times from 20 million email users worldwide in 1994 to 651 million in 2005. As such, this new human achievement suggests an era of true globalisation on a scale never witnessed before. Moreover, ICT comes with promises of new opportunities in liberating marginalised communities in developing countries. However, as of now ICT driven socio-economic development simply remains a potential requiring careful planning, if realistic outcomes are to be achieved. For a truly empowering undertaking, governments should be deeply committed to exploiting ICT’ for the benefits of its citizens.
ICT and Nepal Government
The Nepal Government has been fully aware of the potential of ICT from the start. In 1971, the first computer (IBM 1401) was introduced to the country for census purposes, followed by the establishment of the National Computer Centre (NCC) in 1974. Unfortunately, in 1996 the NCC was dissolved. Although the government could not realize the socio-economic benefits of ICT in the 1990s, since the dawn of the new millennium there have been numerous efforts to harness the potential of ICT for democracy, political stability and socio-economic transformation. For a while now, many have been trying to link the success of e-Commerce with the public administration. The concept of e-Government is the result of long-standing quest to find the missing link between the two sectors.
In April 2002, the Gartner Group made the startling announcement that “more than 60 percent of all e-government initiatives either fail or fall short of expected outcomes”. The pundits of the new public management were quick to put the blame on illiteracy, inadequate infrastructure, and government’s scarce financial resources. However, scholarly observations have revealed that governments are failing at the planning stage. Most of the time, plans start with an e-readiness assessment focused on government’s infrastructure, Internet access, and IT literacy, ignoring non-technology issues like policy, institutional inflexibility, and leadership. Planning for technology is generally the easiest part because the hardware and software involved is becoming more user-friendly, powerful, and reliable.
In Nepal, the High Level Commission for Information Technology (HLCIT) and the National Information Technology Centre (NITC) duly understand and acknowledge the importance of planning. HLCIT is an apex body formed under the chair of the Prime Minister to provide crucial strategic direction to formulate appropriate policy responses for the development of the ICT sector. NITC is currently the secretariat of HCLIT and was established in the year 2002 in line with IT Policy 2000, and was originally under the Ministry of Science and Technology (MOST). NITC’s main objectives are to build a knowledge-based society by supporting knowledge-based institutions and promote and develop ICT by making it accessible to the public. NITC is responsible for the implementation of any ICT-related initiatives in the government including e-Government.
National e-Government masterplan
HLCIT and NITC have jointly developed the National e-Government Master Plan (NEMP) with technical assistance from Korea IT Industry Promotion Agency (KIPA). The masterplan was completed as scheduled in July 2006. HLCIT requested Korean support because currently it ranks 5th on the “2005 Global e-Government Readiness Index” published by the United Nations. KIPA and HLCIT signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) in December 2005. In January 2006, an e-Government steering committee and working committee were formed to further the e-Government masterplan. The steering committee consisted of the joint secretaries of the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO), the Ministry of General Administration (MOGA), the Ministry of Information and Communication (MOIC), the Ministry of Environment, Science, and Technology (MOEST), the executive director of NITC, and full time member of HLCIT. The working committee consisted of ICT professionals from HLCIT, NITC, and MOIC and the e-Government advisor of NITC.
The steering committee’s role was to monitor progress and provide insights, and the working committee’s role was to provide KIPA with information and report on progress and problems to the steering committee on a bi-monthly basis. The e-Government masterplan development project officially started on 28th February 2006. The project was divided into three phases— “As is Analysis”, “Tobe- Model”, and “Establishment Plan”.
The “As Is Analysis” phase included analysis of policies related to ICT, its current state in Nepal, a requirement analysis, benchmarking, and ICT trends. For policy analysis, the shortcomings and strengths of IT Policy 2000 and Telecommunication Policy 2004 were studied. The analysis of ICT diffusion showed only 4% of the population had access to telephone services, with 87,000 lines in distribution. There are 38 Internet Service Providers (ISP) with 59 regional points and 240,000 Internet subscribers with a PC penetration rate of 6.2 per 1,000. Four universities and affiliated colleges offer ICT-related degrees, with over 4,000 students graduating annually.
The results of a Computer Association of Nepal (CAN) October 2005 survey regarding the ICT w o r k f o r c e showed that 66% have a p e r m a n e n t job, and 44% have ICT-related qualifications. Women constitute only 18% of the potential workforce .
The results imply that to penetrate in the ICT industry, it is imperative to devise a systematic approach in setting up ICT policies focused on execution and to establish ICT diffusion plan focused on provision of low cost PCs and ICT education. Besides, there is also a need to build infrastructure, in terms of an IP broadband access network and access points using WLL (wireless loop) and wired lines.
The results of the survey regarding the Informatisation status of the central government indicate that presently several government agencies are operating database driven applications running on medium sized servers. The majority of government agencies are using Microsoft (MS) Windows operating systems and MS Office due to accessibility of pirated software. A few agencies have developed their own customised applications focused on e-Administration, e.g. Budget Management Systems (BMS) by the Ministry of Finance (MOF), Integrated Voters Registration Systems (IVRS) and District Voter Registration Systems (DVRS) by the Election Commission (EC), Document Management System by HLCIT, and One Stop Government Portal by NITC. This indicates there is a need to share computerization plans among the government offices in order to prevent overlapping. Twenty-four high-ranking bureaucrats (HRB) comprising secretaries, joint secretaries, under secretaries and 18 ICT Focal Points (FP) of different ministries and commissions were interviewed to map the requirement analysis. The results indicate that 60% percent of HRB and 83% of ICT focal points acknowledged the lack of ICT professionals as the foremost obstacle for e-Government transformation. Thus, securing a skilled workforce will be key to successful implementation. There is a need for the recruitment of ICT-literate civil servants and the provision of basic training programs for civil servants. Further, there has to be top-level commitment from government for effective execution.
To establish the “To-Be-Model”, more than 100 students, adults, ICT experts, and ICT-literate citizens from rural areas were surveyed. The survey focused on the urban perimeter due to the low ICT literacy of semi-urban and rural areas. The survey results indicate that 91% percent used PCs at home; 31% use PCs for Internet searches; 30% use PCs for educational purposes; and 70% use dial up connections to access the Internet. In terms of frequently used administrative services, 33 % said resident registration and 15% said real estate. For administrative purposes, 89% visited government offices, of which 41% felt that the slow execution of the government processes needed to be improved, 31% thought customer satisfaction was unsatisfactory, and 25% thought the complicated workflow needed to be simplified. When asked which administrative services most needed computerisation, 45% talked of National ID, 13% customer services, and 12% tax services. Finally, regarding what projects were needed to realise e-Government in Nepal 30% prioritised expansion of telecommunications infrastructure and 30% prioritised expansion of ICT education.
Ten mid-size businesses were also surveyed — 25% felt that relaxation of government regulations was the most important factor for the development of economy; 30% had over 100 PCs and 30% had between 50-100 PCs; 55% used dial-up and 27% percent used wireless for Internet access. For the most frequently used services, 55% responded that they used tax services; 47% said they visited government offices for services; 40% felt that slow work execution needed improvement; 40% felt the complicated workflow needed improvement; and 50% responded that providing administrative services through the Internet and expanding services through the Internet were the top two priority projects for e-Government transformation.
Forty-three civil servants were selected randomly and interviewed — 30% had used PCs for 5-10 years; 28% had used PCs for more than 10 years; 37% responded that they spent 3-5 hours daily on the Internet; 56% said that they used dial-up access; 40% wanted to take up programming; 21% wanted to learn how to better use the Internet; 56% responded that interdepartmental work was the most important factor for improving administrative services; 51% felt that National ID system would prove most useful in terms administrative services for citizens and businesses; and 73% responded that no regulations or policies on computerisation existed in their respective departments. In terms of developing Nepalese economy through e-Government, administrative service informatisation was prioritised by 31%, improving the civil service 27%, and improving administrative efficiency by 24%.
In order to ensure that the e-Government masterplan technology is current, ICT trends were analysed. The results of the ICT trend analysis are divided into five categories — Planning, Application Support, Security, Communication and Network, and Systems Management. Planning includes standards and techniques for blueprints and action plans with technologies such as Enterprise Architecture and Business Process Reengineering. Application Support includes standards, tools, and technology to support integration of information and applications such as Groupware, Enterprise Portal and Knowledge Management. Security includes technology and protocol for integrity and authorisation and technologies such as Virtual Private Network, Intrusion Prevention System. Communication and Network include technologies such as Optical Cross Connection, Multi Service Provisioning Protocol, Metro Ethernet, and WIMAX. Finally, Systems Management includes technology for managing ICT assets such as H/W, N/W and DBMS technologies such as Internet Data Centre and Disaster Recovery.
After policy analysis, e-readiness assessment, ICT trend analysis, benchmarking studies, and requirement analysis of the Critical Customer Requirements (CCR) for e-Government transformation are identified. Twenty-one CCRs were identified through selecting the prerequisites to establishing e-Government in Nepal. The strategy is divided into four main categories — Citizen-centred services, transparent services, networked government, and building infrastructure. Citizen-Centred services provide online government services and diversification of civil service channels. Transparent services comprise opening administrative information, and providing one-stop government administration services.Networked government includes computerisation of government and administration processes. Building infrastructure relates to improving laws and regulations for e-Government, and construction of advanced ICT infrastructure.
To formulate an e-Government vision and mission, a one-day workshop brought together civil servants, academics, private sector representatives, and civil society. The vision statement was utilised as a guide for implementing strategies while the mission is utilised as a guide for formulating strategies. The vision is to “Build a competitive democratic country by establishing citizen centred, transparent and networked government through utilization of advanced ICT”.
The goals of the administrative services for e-Government are divided into 4 categories — Government-to-Citizen (G2C), Government-to-Business (G2B), Government- to-Government (G2G), and Infrastructure. G2C deals with the relationship between government and citizens. G2B consists of electronic interactions between government agencies and private businesses. G2G refers to the relationship between governmental organisations at national, regional and local level. Online communication and cooperation allows government agencies and departments to share databases, resources, and pool skills, and capabilities enhancing the efficiency and affectivity of processes. Achieving infrastructure involves preparing the foundations needed for e-Government and to provide advanced administration services.
Status of e-Government in Nepal
According to the five promotion stages specified by the UN and the American Society of Public Administration (UNASPA, 2002), Nepal is currently at stage 1. This means government websites have been created to provide basic information in a static manner. The e-Government roadmap states that by the end of 2011 Nepal will have reached at stage 3. To move from the second stage to the third stage, there should be two-way transactions, access to services through various channels, knowledge-based administrative processes, and pan-governmental collaborative network for knowledge sharing. The top twenty priority projects were selected with an evaluation method recommended by KIPA. The projects were assigned points according to the two evaluation indicators, Importance and Feasibility. According to the Importance factor, the top 20 priority projects were selected and classified under G2C, G2B, G2G, or infrastructure.
G2C projects include National ID, a Government Representative Portal, a Passport Registration System, e-health, e-election, e-vehicle registration, e-driver’s license, e-petition, and e-agriculture. G2B projects include Recruitment and Employment Information System, e-customs, e-procurement, e-patents, e-tourism, and e-commerce. G2G projects include e-tax, an Immigration Management System, e-education, e-land, a Management Information Systems, and e-authentication. Infrastructure projects include public key infrastructure, a Government Integrated Data Centre, and enterprise architecture. The projects will be implemented in two phases — first phase (2007-8) and second phase (2009-11). In the first phase, projects having direct impact on the citizens and infrastructure projects that are the bedrock of successful e-Government transformation would be implemented. Therefore, the first phase would focus on the Government Representative Portal, National ID, Enterprise Architecture, Government Integrated Data Centre, Public Key Infrastructure, ICT organisation, the establishment of basic Acts, national unified code system development, and the expansion of ICT infrastructure.
Without a legal framework, electronic transformation cannot be successful. Therefore, three main legal frameworks are recommended. They are as follows: Laws on National Informatisation Promotion; Laws on ICT Industry Promotion; and Laws on ICT Infrastructure Construction. Laws on National Informatisation Promotion should include Law on Informatisation promotion; Law on e- Government Creation; and Law on Disclosing Administrative Information. Laws on ICT Industry Promotion necessitates including Law to Promote the Software Industry; Law to Promote Online Digital Contents Industry; Law on e-Transaction; Law on Automation of Trading; and Law on Intellectual Property Rights. Laws on ICT Infrastructure Construction needs to include Law to Narrow the Informatisation Gap to bridge the digital divide and promote access to the rural areas of Nepal); Law on Protection of Personal Information; Law on e-Signature (for legalization of online e-signatures such as fingerprints, scanned signatures, and legal seals); Law on Protection of Telecommunication Secrecy; and Law on ICT Network Usage Promotion and Information Protection.
Bench marking studies from the USA, Korea and India have suggested that there needs to be a powerful committee under the head of government to foresee implementation of the e-Government masterplan. The e-Government masterplan has recommended the formation of an e-Government steering committee directly under the Prime Minister of Nepal. The steering committee would be extremely powerful as it controls the funding and architecture, defines, writes and maintains the standards and priorities for development and controls the users of data. The steering committee also needs to input ideas from different ministries, organisations and citizens. The steering committee would be responsible for reviewing the overall e-Government masterplan.
The results of “As is Analysis” identify Human Resource Development (HRD) as the most essential element for successful implementation of the e-Government masterplan. To achieve human resource development, Nepal should introduce an ICT-related curriculum for secondary education, expand provision of e learning, provide ICT training for bureaucrats, introduce an Informatisation Village, and improve computer literacy.