Nepal is soon to boast of an ultra-modern, high-tech Information Technology (IT) Park. The near-complete Rs 210 million cyber zone sprawling over 237 ropanis at Banepa is expected to put Nepal in the global IT map by 2005. The Park aims to facilitate the promotion, development and export of computer software and other information and communication technology-related products and services. An optical fibre line, high speed internet connection, wider roads and other necessary facilities in the offing make the IT Park almost ready to set sails. It is a welcome development and Nepalis would be privileged to have such a facility within the country.
Nepal has long been the neglected backwaters in tapping the potential of the IT revolution. A large number of Nepali students graduate each year in this subject, earlier considered chic, modern and among the most promising of courses besides medicine and engineering. In course of time, IT students, especially those at the lower rungs of the academe, found the IT market was not as rosy as they had thought. Welcome as the office job is, the promises of this ever-evolving subject ideally lie in designing newer software and producing cheaper and user-friendly computer applications. But very little has happened in this sector in Nepal. The reason: there is no common platform to sell any groundbreaking ideas to the European and American software giants — a task which has been perfected by some countries in the region. A large number of IT students who moved abroad have done relatively well. The Banepa Park can evolve into a well-heeled platform championing the cause of IT by coming to the aid and rescue of those wishing to design and sell software abroad.
Fine as the idea of the Park is, its purpose nonetheless will be undermined if it fails to deliver what it promises to provide. To say the least, it should not function as any other government office lest bureaucracy and cumbersome formalities discourage even an incorrigible optimist. It is up to the government to set up an IT-conducive environment, convincing the best brains in the country and Nepalis living abroad to return and offer their services, but without being too ambitious at the outset. It could attract investors from home and abroad and has the potential to persuade foreign firms to outsource from Nepal, a partial but remunerative remedy to unemployment. But once again it is also up to the government to ensure that the groundwork for growth, promotion and development of IT is properly done. To begin with, the existing IT courses need to be updated. Strong academic base is indispensable for IT like any other discipline.