IT for poor too

Information and communication technology has been hailed as a major tool in fighting poverty worldwide. That is particularly true for those countries with a strong IT base, skilled manpower to design need-based software and a robust market for the product, besides the necessary infrastructure. The boom in IT revolution occurred in the first place all because of techno-savvy consumers. It was also due to the availability of user-friendly IT products. As always, success in IT lies in simplifying the product as in raising awareness among the consumers about its benefits. Strong existing economic infrastructure in the industrialised world paved the way for integration of IT in the market, in the absence of which, that journey is already proving difficult for Nepal. Although the future holds immense promise, there is but a relatively small Nepali software demand at the

moment but its market penetration is limited. Also, Nepal produces over 4,000 IT graduates each year. It is an indication that Nepal is serious about the need for a strong domestic IT sector. But the time has come to find IT usage beyond industrial sector alone. Given an opportunity, residents in far flung areas could prove as much a customer base as any other industrial sector.

In order to encourage and familiarise the consumers with the latest technology and electronic gadgets, the CAN InfoTech jamboree is being organised each year in Nepal for over a decade now. While that is one way of ensuring user-acquaintance with the new technology, the hard fact remains that IT as an organised industry in Nepal exists only in the commercial nodes. The private sector takes the laurels for the advancement just as the government takes the plaudits for devising IT-friendly policy. Plans are afoot to build an IT park in Dhulikhel and to invite major international players in the filed. The global market dynamics make it necessary to undertake such ventures. But in doing so, the market players must remember that IT is an effective tool in the fight against poverty too. Efforts in that direction has not been as visible. For example, what does the CAN InfoTech fest mean for a peasant in Jumla, whose apples, for lack of transportation facilities and market, simply rot? When farmers from remote areas in other countries find consumers through Internet, when will Nepal’s domestic IT sector cater to similar needs of the people? It is for the government to assess and devise means to reach out to them. That, however, cannot be achieved in the absence of infrastructure like roads and communication. The prime minister’s assertion that IT can help battle poverty is actually true. But it is a hard and long way ahead before IT takes the lead in shaping the lives of the rural folks.