May 2007

MAKING A MOVE TOWARDS DIGITAL NEPAL

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This article unveils the present e-Governance initiatives in the country of Nepal. It explores all the efforts and technology resources that have been utilised so far to provide government services digitally. It also describes the recently launched e-Governance Master Plan, the road ahead, mission to be achieved, the role being played and to be played by the private sector and the civil society to make dreams come true.

e-Governance is the interaction between government and citizens by use of electronic technology that uplifts the quality of government services making the government more democratic. It redefines the relationship between Government and Government, Government and Citizens, Government and Business and Government and Civil Servants.

STAGES OF E-GOVERNANCE

To fully appreciate the status of e-Governance both nationally and internationally, it is important to consider the growth stages of the typical implementation of e-Governance initiatives. These growth stages can act as a yardstick or benchmark to determine who is lagging behind in the digital race. Important lessons could also be learned from other initiatives. Though people disagree about how deeply e-Governance has penetrated into government agencies, just about everybody agrees it is evolving in stages. The Gartner Group (2000) identified the following five stages:

Presence: This is just a step up from paper based administration and inaccessible databases Government agencies at the presence stage operate non-interactive web sites that contain basic organisational charts and background information about them.

Transmission: After a government agency has a presence on the web, it makes its site a channel for communication with its customers and suppliers. This can include enabling information  searches.

Transactions: An agency’s web site ceases to be a static page when an e-Commerce component is added, enabling citizens and businesses to conduct online transactions such as registering for permits or paying fines.

Transformation: As the agency adds infrastructure to conduct online transactions, it should transform internal processes rather than just automate them. Effective automation involves reengineering those processes using e-Government’s many constituent technologies.Transformation also grows out of web portals, which enable seamless service delivery from one spot, regardless of how many agencies are involved.

Shock: Shock is the result of the restructuring of national, provincial and local governments using the transformative power of electronic government. For example, when portals reveal the true number of agencies and programs involved in delivering the same or similar services, combination and extinction are likely to follow.

E-GOVERNANCE INITIATIVES IN NEPAL

Though Nepal began the move towards Information Technology during the 1970s, Nepal is just in the first (Information) phase of e-Governance. It has been limited to the existence of websites of many central government authorities and the download of some forms. It is challenging but not unassailable to bring the country to the transformation phase of e-Governance. Projects that have been successful in other parts of the world, for instance, Computerised Administration of Registration Department (CARD), can be transformed contemporarily and implemented here.

While the benefits of e-Government are growing, there remains a need for a better understanding and assessment of the impact and role of e-Government. Because of the tremendous resources required in implementing e-Government, sharing of knowledge and experience will help Nepal to reduce costs and avoid mistakes.

The International Data Corp study (August 21, 2003, IDC) reveals that the annual spending by Asia-Pacific governments on the electronic delivery of services is projected to reach $1.48 billion in 2007 A.D. Asian governments are increasing e-Government investments because they feel a pressure to compete with other governments, and they have seen past investments provide real benefits. Importantly, e-Government initiative can also be a determining factor when foreign investors look for investment within Asia. The leading “e-Governments” in this region are Australia, Singapore and Hong Kong.

Nepal Government Portal

The official website of the government of Nepal is http://www.nepalgov.gov.np. It has been developed as a gateway to all the government bodies and agencies, including diplomatic missions and development partners – with pertinent links. This is a bilingual website—users can switch between two languages, viz. English and Nepali. It contains various links—Nepal Government directory, development, business, travel, economy and finance, art, culture and society, and education, etc. The portal is governed by National Information Technology Center (www.nitc.gov.np), a government body under the Ministry of Environment, Science and Technology, Nepal.

Government Agencies have their Websites

Nepal Government now has websites that provide the public with relevant government/ministerial information and some allow download of publications, policies and plans.

e-Administration in Police: This official website of Nepal Police (www.nepalpolice.gov.np) contains information about the character certificate issued by the police to the public. Forms can be downloaded from this website for character certificate and other documents issued by the Nepal Police. It is expected that very soon citizens able to apply online for such documents.

e-Administration in Army: (www.rna.mil.np) This official website of the Nepal Army that contains information, news and press releases of Nepal Army. It also contains updated information on vacancies, medals and flags, ranks and welfare activities.

Online Bidding: (Public Procurement Portal www.bolpatra.com.np) This bilingual site contains free purchase advertisements for government, organisations, councils and other authorities. It also has catalogues of businessmen, contractors, industrialists and service providers. It has already been handed over to the government through High Level Commission for Information Technology (HLCIT) on March 1, 2006.

IT Park : The establishment of National IT Park (area 1.28 million sq.ft. or 12 hectares or 234 ropanies) in Banepa, Kavre (30 km east from Kathmandu) has been completed with investment of over 210 million NPR.

IT City: The government of Nepal envisions the development of Banepa as the IT City of Nepal. IT City Development Board has been formed, chaired by the Vice Chairman of HLCIT. Borders have so far been defined, act has been formulated. Master plan yet to be ready (as of March 2006).

Computerised System for Distribution of Citizenship Certificates: The government has commenced the distri-bution of citizenship certificates to the public by the use of computerised systems. This has currently been under implementation in some local governing bodies like the District Administration offices in Myagdi and Kavre districts of Nepal. The government, however, plans to make it nationwide in the days to come.

The advantage is that it is easy to get a duplicate (Legal) copy in case of the loss of original one (without the recommendation from village development committee, because the database containing the record of previously distributed citizenship certificates will be in the DAO’s computer). It is managed by the Citizenship Management and Monitoring Committee coordinated by District Administration Office at Myagdi, Nepal. The funds for this task were generated from the District Development Committee Office and Village Development Committees.

Distribution of Driving Licenses by Computerised System: All the tasks related to the issuance of driving licenses are being computerised by the government in Bagmati Zonal Transport Management Office, Kathmandu.

The advantages include easy to get a duplicate copy in case of the loss of the original, faster renewal and type addition or removal. Once the records are kept on computers, it is expected to refrain authorities and public from the difficulties of the traditional manual system, e.g. delay in service, wrong renewal dates, unclear driving license type, mistaken names, etc.

Computerisation of Account and Financial Information: With coordination from the HLCIT, Nepal, the Account Software will be made available to the government authority free of cost and this software will be able to handle Annual financial details, foreign resources details, deposits, expenses, etc.

Document Management System for Government Offices: For the effective management of documents in government offices, the government is launching document management system. The memos, registration and dispatch, and record files will be computerised. By the use of computer networks, concerned officials will be able to view the memos and dispatch and registration will be done through computers.

Community Information Centers : Around 200 Community Information Centers (CICs) have been established in various parts of the country by various development partners, with or without the involvement of the government. The government envisions the establishment of 1500 CICs by the end of the tenth plan (2002-2007). A Model CIC in developed at Dhulikhel, Nepal. Three people are employed in a Community Information Center named Community Corps Dhulikhel that began on April 2005. It has raised the attention of housewives. It has six computers, fax, phone and a printer. Internet is availed free of cost by Asia Online. Various materials were donated by Information Technology Forum Nepal. It plans to train 100 people for basic computing.

www.chitwan.com: Hosted from Belgium, this website contains information on agriculture, tourism, sports and local events of Chitwan, a beautiful district of Nepal, that lies south of the Chure mountain range and is famous for its biodiversity and agricultural productivity.

Business Incubation Centers: Business Incubation Centers are set up in Nepal at Tripureshwor and Banepa with grants from InfoDev and World Bank.

Localisation: Local language computing and localisation initiatives have commenced so far. Few examples include: Development of Windows XP with Nepali language, Interface Pack Development of Nepalinux—Linux in Nepali language

Awareness and Capacity Building: Various workshops and trainings are being organised to create awareness regarding e-Governance with the help of various donors and agencies like Asian Development Bank Institute, the Colombo Plan Staff College for Technical Education, Korea IT Promotion Agency, Korea Agency for Digital Opportunity and Promotion (KADO), United Nation University/International Institute of Software Technology, Macao, etc.

LEGISLATURE, POLICIES AND PLANS

Though not ample, quite a few amount of policies and plans have been implemented in regulating the ICT sector in Nepal, viz. :

IT policy 2000
Telecommunication policy 2004
Electronic Transaction Act 2004
Electronic Transaction Act 2006
Biotechnology Policy, 2006

IT Policy 2000: This was the first IT Policy in the country. It was promulgated with a vision—”To place Nepal on the Global Map of Information Technology within the next five years”, and with the following objectives:

To make information technology accessible to the general public and increase employment through this means.
To build a knowledge-based society.
To establish knowledge-based industries.

IT Policy 2004: This policy was drafted with a new vision—”By the year 2015, Nepal will have transformed itself into a knowledge-based society by becoming fully capable of harnessing information and communication technologies and through this means, achieving the goals of good governance, poverty reduction and social and economic development”, considering the dynamism of the IT sector and continuous socioeconomic change.

Electronic Transaction Act 2004, Nepal (Accepted as the First Cyber Law of Nepal): Electronic Transaction Act (ETA)was expedient to make legal provisions for authentication and regulating for the recognition, trueship, integrity and reliability of creation, production, processing, storage, communication and dissemination system of electronic records by making reliable and secured to the transactions carried out by means of electronic data interchange and other means of electronic communications, and to make provisions for controlling of unauthorised use or illegally change in any electronic record.

Provisions in the ETA 2004

The ETA had made the following provisions in it for the first time in the history of Nepal

Provisions relating to Electronic Record and Digital Signature
Provisions relating to Attribution, Acknowledgement and Dispatch of Electronic Records
Provisions relating to Controller and Certifying Authority
Provisions relating to Digital Signature and Certificates
Functions, Duties and Rights of Subscriber
Electronic Record and Government use of Digital Signature
Provisions relating to Network Service Providers
Offence relating To Computer
Provisions relating to Cyber Tribunal
Provisions relating to Cyber Regulations Appellate Tribunal

Biotechnology Policy, 2063 (2006 A.D.): The policy envisions to increase production and productivity by means of research and development of biotechnology as well as transfer of technology, and to improve the living standard of Nepali people. It is a potential milestone towards the development of ICT in the country and the advancement towards e-Nepal. Some of its provisions include: Scholarships for master and Ph.D in science and technology shall be made available in biotechnology and bioinformatics; promotion of entrepreneurship in the related field; and establishment of bio-villages.

e-Governance Master Plan

The e-Governance Master Plan was prepared by the e-Government master plan project as per the MoU between Korea IT Industry Promotion Agency (KIPA) and Nepal’s HLCIT (High Level Commission for Information Technology). The two countries created its own Task Force Team (TFTs) to jointly carry out the project. The Nepali team provides support in identifying the ICT status of Nepal and takes charge of seeking cooperation from the Nepali government and the people. The Korean team analyses the advanced countries’ cases and technical trends based  on its study on the ICT status, and by doing so, provide technologies required by Nepal to establish the e-Government.

It is believed that through this e-Government master plan and based on studies on successful and failed cases of leading countries, the TFT is able to generate the most adequate e-Government model for the Nepali government and help it jump up to the higher level of e-Government.

Vision and Mission: e-Government Vision is ‘The Value Networking Nepal’ through

Citizen-centered service,
Transparent service,
Networked government, and
Knowledge based society

e-Government mission statement is — “By realising a transparent government and providing value added quality services through ICT, improve the quality of life for all the people without any discrimination among regions or races and realise socio-economic development.”

Future Image: e-Nepal

The future image of Nepal’s e-Government, when the defined vision and mission for e-Government are achieved, is a government that provides administrative services to its people through various channels and, by doing so improves the convenience of the people, a government that provides integrated and transparent administrative services for companies so that companies can have greater competitiveness, and within the government, link all the agencies and departments through network to enhance efficiency in the process. Through this, the Nepali government would realise a knowledge-based society.

Goals and Strategies

Detailed goals in establishing the e-government in Nepal are defined as the following:

G2C: Provide customer-tailored services
G2B: Provide transparent and prompt services
G2G: Networked and knowledge based government
Infrastructure: Favourable ICT infrastructure and legal framework

Expected Benefits by 2011

On-line processing of administrative procedure
Knowledge based government
Real time, no-visit administration of service
Continuous service oriented process reform and systematic informatisation
Drastic reduction of paper work
Online processing of international trading, logistics and enterprise undertaking/operating service

RECOMMENDATIONS

It is usually tough for human beings to remember web URLs of many government organisations. Government websites will be of less or no use if citizens are not able to locate government websites. Therefore, One Stop Government Portal will prove beneficial in the long run. The portal will act as a gateway for retrieving government information. Hence development of such a portal to provide necessary links to other authorities and bodies is essential.

What needs to be done by the government?

Certain percent of budget needs to be allocated for ICT development.
Encourage bilateral and multilateral as well as national and international investments and assistance.
Encourage private sector participation.
Provide connectivity choices and widen and improve the highway that leads to the IT Park.
Involve an autonomous body for the administration and management of IT Park and IT City.
Encourage and provide research and development oppor-tunities for scholars, researchers and scientists in the field of information technology and computer science.
Introduce and encourage student exchange programmes with foreign countries to make students familiar to the recent developments in other countries.
Establish and promote research and Ph.D. grants to students and scholars in the field of Information Technology.
Monitor and evaluate the implementation of the policies and plans formulated by the government.

CONCLUSION

e-Governance solutions are complex and expensive solutions that would need to be built brick by brick over a period of time, involving multiple solution providers.

The early life of e-Governance initiatives has already seen a shift in understanding, from the view that increasing access to services by putting them on the web was all that was needed, to a more sophisticated notion of a transformed public realm. ICTs of course only enable this transformation, they do not create it and hence the social and political norms in any area will determine the outcome of the `e-Governance’ systems.

Nepal is now starting to see change in governmental institutions: a greater emphasis on `partnership working,’ both with citizens, businesses and third sector organisations; decentralisation and changes in working processes; more knowledge intensive and personalised services and in some cases, greater openness and transparency of political processes. All of these trends have a long way to go and many could be stopped in their tracks, by issues of uneven access to technology or content which alienates or patronises users.

We need to develop far more sophisticated systems for capturing and measuring the impact of e-Governance, so that we can judge its success in other than just crude, `availability’ terms. And we need to be able to judge the real impact on citizens, not just changes in production or distribution of public services.

Above all, e-Governance needs to be seen as part of governance, not as an add-on. Decisions about technology – from use of open source to the treatment of personal data – are more and more in the political realm and this is to be welcomed. Because only when we can drop the `e’ and return to talking about governance, can e-Governance be said to have succeeded. 

Website: http://www.nepalgov.gov.np
Started: Nepal began IT initiatives during 1970
First IT policy promulgated: Year 2000
Current Status: e-Government Master Plan prepared to provide
e-Government model for Nepal government.

PWD Delhi Tunes Itself to Information Age

The Public Works Department (PWD, http://www.pwd.delhigovt.nic.in), Delhi executes an annual work load of approx INR 1000 crore. Its various works viz construction of Hospitals/Courts/Colleges/Schools/Jails/ Fire Stations etc. and Road Infrastructure such as Flyovers/Bridges/Pedestrian Subways/Foot over Bridges including road works of widening/strengthening/resurfacing /refurbishing etc. are now monitored through a ‘Web Based Works Information System’.

Field officers executing these projects all over Delhi feed the information, regarding the status of work, including visual information in the form of latest site photos, from their respective offices; automatically compiled reports in different formats such as ‘Brief Report’ (for a given group of works e.g. Hospitals, Flyovers etc.), ‘Complete Status Report’, ‘Milestones Report’, ‘Photo Gallery’ in respect of any given work are seen by senior officers, bureaucrats and political masters for the monitoring purposes.

This system, by almost doing away with the paper reports, has indeed brought PWD Delhi in tune with the times and expectations thereof, especially in the wake of Delhi to host Commonwealth Games 2010.

S. Jethwani (sjethwani_11@hotmail.com), Director (Works), PWD Delhi

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