KATHMANDU, August 15
The government has come up with a plan to spend Rs 1.48 billion from the Rural Telecommunication Development Fund (RTDF) in the current fiscal. It will be utilised to implement four projects related to development of information and communication technology (ICT).
The amount to be spent is a little more than 14 per cent of the total fund, which stood at Rs 10.22 billion as of mid-March this year. Plans to utilise the RTDF has come at a time when the government for long has been facing criticism for not being able to use it for the development of the telecom sector and keeping such a big resource idle. The fund was established 17 years ago, as per the provision of the Telecommunication Act 1997.
A study earlier had found that only 2.6 per cent of the RTDF has been spent by the government till date. Annual plans and programmes of Nepal Telecommunications Authority (NTA), which include the projects to be funded by RTDF in the current fiscal year, have recently been given the go-ahead by the Ministry of Information and Communications (MoIC). As per the telecom law, licensees of NTA have to contribute two per cent of their annual income to the fund.
NTA will utilise the resource from RTDF to implement four projects — the much-talked-about District Optical Fibre Network Programme, broadband infrastructure development in 14 earthquake-affected districts, establishment of one model e-village development committee in each of the 75 districts, and extension of internet service to 500 rural community schools and colleges.
Since the last six years, the authority has been targeting to connect all district headquarters of the country. However, this plan has remained confined only in paper due to legal complications and procedural delays. “We have kept the optical fibre network project in high priority and plan to start work within the current fiscal year,” said Achyuta Nanda Mishra, assistant spokesperson for NTA. The optical fibre project has been allocated Rs one billion for the current fiscal year.
For the plan to develop broadband infrastructure in settlements to be reconstructed in the 14 earthquake affected districts, NTA has an approved budget of Rs 330 million. Likewise, Rs 75 million will be spent to develop 75 model e-village development committees — one in each district — in coordination with the Ministry of Federal Affairs and Local Development. Meanwhile, Rs 75 million will be utilised to take internet service to 500 rural community schools and colleges. The e-village development committees and extension of internet to educational institutions are being implemented as components of ‘Connect a School, Connect a Community’ project.
Last year, the Development Committee of the Legislature-Parliament had also directed the government to speed up work of connecting all districts with fibre cable network. As per NTA’s plan, it will sign an agreement during the third trimester of the current fiscal year to commence work on extension of fibre network. The project will avoid duplication on laying fibre to bring districts within the fibre network by establishing the fibre network only in districts that have not been connected by fibre of telecom companies and Nepal Electricity Authority.
A version of this article appears in print on August 16, 2015 of The Himalayan Times.