Nepal | January 20, 2020

HER: Everest aspirations, rogue-talks and winks

Monica Lohani/ Sandeep Sen

Sophia speaks during the United Nations innovation conference in Kathmandu, Nepal, on Wednesday, March 21, 2018. Photo: Sandeep Sen/ THT Online

KATHMANDU: “Well, it is a little bit odd for me to be speaking to you despite all the respect I have for you. But I was wondering what happens if, like in the movie Transformers, you go crazy or rogue? Is there a switch?” asked Nepal Coordinator for United Nations Development Programme Renaud Mayar.

“I am sure you would know I have not lost control, or transformed. Perhaps, you should check with your co-workers. Renaud, what can we do when you go rogue? Do you have a switch?” winked Sophia, the humanoid Robot, making the audiences laugh.

Sophia, world’s most advanced robot, was in Nepal to address a conference organised by UNDP on the theme ‘Technology for Public Services’ in Durbarmarg on Wednesday.

A celebrity on her own, Sophia highlighted the key issues through which Nepal can achieve the targets of sustainable development goals using innovation and artificial intelligence.

Addressing the event, the first non-human champion said, “The opportunities (of technology) are endless. From block chain technology, education to medicine, it is possible to ensure accuracy and transparency, connect remote areas. Technology will help Nepal achieve the SDGs.”

“(Such) platforms will certainly help people connect to the government and engage directly to selected representatives. That will allow government to better understand the need of people so the government will become more transparent and accountable,” added Sophia.

When asked about what she can do contribute to this issue, Sophia humorously said, “Well, I could be the first non-human to climb Mt Everest then laugh about it later.” On a serious note, she added, “on development and technology front, AI can unlock innovation in numerous ways; help fight diseases, clean up the environment, do hazardous tasks that put human lives at risk.”

“The opportunities of Nepal are blooming. It is well known that Nepal is rich in cultural, environmental and linguistic diversity. But what is less known to the world is that Nepal is also a growing technology hub. You have a vibrant IT sector that is already instrumental and has helped the country to develop apps with Nepal’s Microsoft innovation team that helped with reconstruction of homes during the big earthquakes in 2015,” stated Sophia.

Technology and artificial intelligence can help us take big leaps in addressing poverty, hunger, fighting corruption, and ensuring better health and gender equality, claimed the humanoid robot.

“Machines and robots are here to make your life easier. With the help of internet, we can connect to the rural part of the country to the rest of the world and deliver quality education and services,” said Sophia, adding “with AI in use, we can ensure better public services, revolutionise the agricultural sector, and can make more official use of limited resources to ensure better results.”

“We can protect the environment and make the world a better place,” stressed the first non-human champion.

“I hope this conference will help inspire and generate ideas to support Nepal achieve its development visions and global goals,” stated Sophia concluding the address with a Dhanyabad (Thank you).


Opening the session, UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative Valerie Julliand focused on the expectation and challenges of technology. “Technology is changing the way we govern countries. Through Artificial Intelligence, we will be able to buy extra dose of intelligence,” she said.

Julliand further stressed on the development of e-services including banking services, mobile services, e-education, and medicines among others.

Speaking at the event, Under Secretary at the Ministry of Science and Technology Krishna Gaire, who was at the event on behalf of Minister Sanjay Sharma, stated that technology was the key to make government services more effective and enhance the service delivery mechanism. “We need to prioritise research and development, and substantially develop economy. Also, the need of the hour is to improve quality of science education in schools and colleges. “New policies are being made for the same.”

Similarly, presenting the ideas, Under Secretary at the Inland Revenue Office under the Minister of Finance, Lal Bahadur Khatri, gave insights into the IRD’s online services applied in transforming the tax collection system in Nepal. The papers also informed the audience about its strengths and weaknesses, and the lessons learnt to move forward.

Likewise, Ramon Magsaysay Award winner Mahabir Pun focused on the development of remote mountains through innovative use of wireless technology.

He further talked about his new project that includes providing basic health services to people living in remote areas of Gulmi. “As many as 10 Nepali engineers are giving final shape to the project,” he said.

At the event, Dr Manish Pokharel, Head of Department of Computer Science and Engineering Kathmandu University discussed about imaginnovation (imagination and innovation) to develop the traditional approach that Nepal adopts in its education system and the need to replace it with smart technologies.

“When the world was having agricultural revolution, we were having political revolution. When the world was having industrial revolution, we were still having political revolution. Now, when the world is having technological revolution, luckily, we have finished our political revolution,” said Deputy CEO of Nabil Bank and Moderator for the session Anil Shah.

Likewise, Deputy Country Director of UNDP Nepal Sophie Kemkhadze, Vice-President of Federation of Nepalese Chambers of Commerce and Industries (FNCCI) Shekhar Golchha, UNDP’s Ramraj Narsimha, and Nagesh Badu also gave a presentation on various topics at the event.



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