Government mulls separate ministry for ICT sector

Kathmandu, September 6

If things go as per the government’s plan, there will be a single ministry to deal with information and communication technology (ICT) sector. Nepal Telecommunications Authority (NTA) has prepared and approved a draft of a policy that has envisaged the formation of Ministry of Information and Communication Technology.

The proposed policy, also known as integrated ‘National ICT Policy 2015’ was endorsed by the NTA board meeting recently and forwarded to the Ministry of Information and Communications (MoIC). The policy mainly targets to end the prolonged dispute between the Ministry of Science, Technology and Environment (MoSTE) and MoIC regarding which ministry is to lead information technology and develop the sector in a speedy manner.

In a recent programme, Minister for Information and Communications Minendra Rijal said that the policy was in its final stage and would be sent to the Cabinet for approval soon.

“After incorporating suggestions from stakeholders, we approved the policy and sent it to MoIC,” said Achyuta Nanda Mishra, assistant spokesperson of NTA.

He said that the policy, which is an integrated one, has envisioned of increasing use of ICT for development in multiple areas including in health, agriculture, tourism and education.

With the increased role and significance of ICT industry and services (including telecom services) and value addition in ICT including from digital content and service industry, the contribution of the sector is expected to rise to at least 7.5 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP) by 2020, according to the draft policy. So far, the government has no official record on how much the sector has been contributing to the GDP.

From skilled human resources development to promotion of small and medium enterprises and e-commerce, using ICT in agriculture to tourism development, and cloud computing to security in the use of ICT, the policy has talked of making use of ICT in a number of areas. Even though the policy is an integrated one and requires the involvement of multiple ministries, the MoIC is mulling over submitting the policy to the Cabinet without seeking additional feedback from other ministries.

In a bid to make a single ministry responsible for ICT, the IT component which is currently under MoSTE will be brought under MoIC to restructure it as the Ministry of Information and Communication Technology (MoICT). According to Ananda Raj Khanal, director of NTA, a proposal regarding the single ministry for ICT has already been sent to the Cabinet. “We are hopeful that the decision to this effect will be taken soon before the approval of the ICT policy,” he said.

About two years ago too, a proposal to bring the entire ICT sector under the MoIC had been proposed in the Cabinet. However, the plan had failed due to a dispute between MoSTE and MoIC, and the Ministry of Energy also demanding to bring the Alternative Energy Promotion Centre of MoSTE under its jurisdiction, a source said. Last year, the Development Committee of the Legislature Parliament had also instructed the government to solve the confusion by clearly separating the jurisdiction of MoSTE and MoIC.

As per the draft policy which was floated earlier for consultation, MoICT will be formed within 2016 and NTA will also be restructured as the Nepal Communication Authority.

However, government officials doubt that even if the ICT policy is endorsed by the Cabinet, it will be hard to put the policy into practice because of the changes required in a number of laws and the possibility of non-cooperation from other ministries.

Mobile penetration close to 100pc

KATHMANDU: The latest Management Information System (MIS) report of Nepal Telecommunications Authority (NTA) shows that the country’s mobile service penetration rate is close to 100 per cent. The authority said that with total subscription standing at 26.07 million, the penetration reached 98.43 per cent by mid-May. Of the total mobile subscribers, 24.82 million are GSM mobile users while 1.25 million are users of the CDMA mobile service being provided solely by Nepal Telecom.

In GSM, Ncell is leading the market with highest subscriber base of 12.72 million followed by 10.78 million of NT. Similarly, another GSM mobile service provider, Smart Telecom, has 1.31 million subscribers. With huge contribution of mobile subscription, the country’s total telephone penetration rate has touched 104.68 per cent. And, data penetration has reached 43.17 per cent with total internet subscription reaching 11.43 million. NT is leading the market in data service with over 55 per cent market share.