Commentary | Digital transformation: Where does Nepal stand?

“Although the Digital Nepal Framework the government launched was expected to bring reliable change in the digital realm, noticeable achievements are still awaited.”

Photo: Pixabay

Narayan Prasad Ghimire

  • Read Time 4 min.

Three news to begin with: On Saturday, Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal said in Chitwan that he would work for good governance and development every day; the same day, Home Ministry said it would implement suggestions from a group of IT experts to address people’s complaints on distribution of passport and national ID card; and on December 23, Nepal Rastra Bank Governor Maha Prasad Adhikari inaugurated a digital financial literacy in Khalanga, district headquarters of Darchula in the far-west Nepal.

The digital revolution and transformation have become defining features at present, but we Nepalis are bound to stand in line for hours to receive public services. Similarly, good governance is always the catchphrase of every government the country gets. However, the examples mentioned above show that we’re crawling in terms of adopting the digital transformation.

The serpentine lines of service seekers are common not only at the gate of the Passport Department but also other offices such as the Department of Transport Management and government hospitals. When do the service seekers get benefited with digital services? Why are we lagging behind? Even though we have several governments in the country–753 local governments, seven provincial governments and one federal government–why has the ‘governance’ not improved? These are serious questions to be addressed now.

Digital transformation is the change in the way we perform work with the utmost use of information technology. It not only ensures smooth and prompt service delivery but also helps create additional value of products and propels business. We can reap benefits from digital transformation only when it is expanded to other sectors beyond IT service and businesses. So, it is necessary to understand whether Nepal has been ready and capable to undergo the digital transformation. The determination of the stage we are standing in terms of digital transformation may help identify the hindrances on the headway.

Augment digitalization 

Digitization and digitalization are essentials to the digital transformation. Digitization is largely focused on creation of digital data while enriching the data ecosystem related to digitalization. For this, utmost use of information technology is imperative. Once we identify elements and measure the resources required for digitalization, it shows our digital readiness. Human resources must be equipped with skills and knowledge to take ahead the digital ecosystem. 

The creation and processing of data and ensuring its value paves the way for expanding digital service and business. Quality of the data we are creating and how wisely the data are used–for the welfare of people, to make service prompt and smooth, to foster business and exercise freedoms and build an equitable society–bears significance. Together with this, who and how data is controlled is an equally significant issue of digital transformation and governance. 

Retain IT experts

Although Nepal’s bureaucracy and political leaderships are too traditional and process-oriented, the young generation of IT experts produced from Nepali universities are also globally competitive. But, there is a huge gap in our system and university products. Young and energetic IT experts are moving abroad for higher education and work. Why  are we not paying any heed to this? It is a serious issue. 

Brain drain is an appalling aspect of Nepal’s human resources management. Once we become able to retain the IT products, giving them opportunities within home to work, it would obviously contribute to Nepal’s digital transformation. It is also the time to address IT smart young generation’s apathy toward the government system.

In order to revamp bureaucratic nature and service, the government should capitalize on the IT smart young generation and bring changes in the day-to-day works. Mere slogan of ‘digital government’ and ‘e-governance’ won’t be enough. Major drivers of change must be attracted by our system.

Listen to the experts 

In this regard, Member Secretary of the E-Governance Commission, Dipesh Bista, points out the need of an ‘e-governance blueprint’ in Nepal, which, he claims, would pave a way for an integrated system of data. Once the data generated from various levels–local, province and federal governments, and different public offices–are integrated, it would guarantee uniformity and avoid duplication of data collection and management.

To ensure favorable laws for digital transformation, Member Secretary Bista suggested legal change so that ‘interoperability’ will be achieved. The data collected from one public office should be usable and implementable to other offices. It largely reduces duplicity and wipes out hassles and saves time, he said.

Regarding the hassles the service-seekers face standing in line for hours, Bista says two things can be done about it: Improving the current system by setting up branches and additional facilities and reengineering the whole government system. The latter is a long term solution for which the E-Governance Commission was working on an e-governance blueprint.

Digital governance

Good governance and development are long cherished dreams in Nepal. Some argue that we have achieved a lot of changes. They are right. But are all changes the development? Is the pace of development in Nepal as per people’s expectation and the promises leaderships made? 

We have no option but to adopt digital governance for good governance, and good governance is one of the pillars of development. 

It is time to review the initiatives Nepal has made so far for digital transformation. Identification of gaps in policy and practices and necessary reform in legal, institutional, procedural and practical levels are a must to transform the country digitally. 

Although the Digital Nepal Framework the government launched was expected to bring reliable change in the digital realm, noticeable achievements are still awaited.