ICT for good governance

Akanshya Shah:

In recent years, Information and Communication Technology (ICT) has been playing a crucial role for the advancement of this globalised world and is sure to take strides of significance in the times to come. Third World countries have been urged to resort to the use of IT for its government’s policies, be it poverty alleviation or creation of a just society. Experts at home and abroad have identified a knowledge-based society and transformation of lacklustre bureaucracy to a vibrant one through the use of IT is a key challenge to us.

With the view to facilitate the role of ICT in the overall development of developing countries like Nepal, a three-day interaction on Information and Communication Technology for Partnership Building was concluded on March 30 at the behest of South Asia Partnership (SAP)-Nepal, SAP-International and Bellanet Asia in Kathmandu. The resource person from Nepal, India, Bangladesh, Malaysia, brainstormed for three days over issues of critical concerns affecting IT sector’s growth in Nepal. The main themes, around which the deliberation took place, were e-governance, open content and online networking.

It was argued that by empowering the government and its citizens, including the government employees, weaker sections, women, people living in far flung areas and the businesses with government and its agencies using IT tools, e-governance could assist in making the dream of good governance possible. “With the process of re-engineering with the help of ICT, good governance automatically comes in and results in a well-informed government independent from any unofficial power centres and provide services to its citizens through different channels viz., internet, Kiosks, self-help groups and the government offices,” said Mr Umashankar, IAS officer from Tamil Nadu, India, on the first day of the programme. It was highlighted that the much-needed absolute transparency and accountability in developing countries like Nepal can thus be achieved if e-governance would be incorporated in public sector.

The world of open content licensing, a paradigm that is rapidly emerging as an important alternative to the existing model of copyright, was identified to have great benefits for a large number of people, especially musicians, designers, artists, students, authors or consumers. And with Nepal’s entry to the World Trade Organisation in April 2003, the importance of copyright laws for this country was brought to the fore. Nepal is in the process of developing Copyright Act in compliance to WIPRO. Mr Lawrence Liang, a legal researcher at Alternative Law Forum based in Banglore, India said during the programme “if no proactive steps are taken immediately, the developing countries can face great difficulties in assimilating information, and though copyright is not a universal concept and protects the interest of the West, we have no choice but to comply with it.”

However, given the socio-political circumstances facing the country, the participants from various districts of Nepal were doubtful at the idea of ICT immediately reaching the rural areas of Nepal. Though some tele-centres, online libraries, etc., are already functioning in remote corners of Nepal, electricity crisis, telephone line shortage, etc. possess great challenges for Nepal. Nevertheless, online networking, they said, has great potential to help the country in its poverty alleviation goal. With all the given difficulties, the interaction programme still served as a great platform for a cross-sectoral group to exchange experiences and prepare a work plan to reach to the rural poor of Nepal, which is as rightly opined by Mr T. P. Gyawali, The executive director of SAP-Nepal “a good beginning.”