Nepal | August 05, 2020

Power of data in new Nepal: Providing solutions as needed

Faris H Hadad-Zervos
Share Now:

Access to data alone is not enough. Without the ability to unpack and make sense of this data, it may be useless to the vast majority of those in society who need it the most. Data needs to be properly used and reused

In my travels across this richly diverse country, I’ve seen a common pattern of hope, optimism and high expectations for a new Nepal. In many ways, we are in a new country with three tiers of government and a new social contract. For the first time in Nepal’s recent history, we have a stable government that aims to equip Nepalis with the means to achieve their aspirations and to become a middle-income country by 2030. Prosperity and happiness are being sought in equal measure.

To achieve this development ambition, Nepalis – across the government, academia, media, civil society and the private sector – need to access and use timely and actionable data to make decisions, enhance public accountability, identify risks and opportunities, track progress, and more. The keyword here is ‘use’ – access to data, irrespective of how robust and timely it may be, is simply not enough. Without the ability to unpack and make sense of this data, it may be useless to the vast majority of those in society who need it the most. Data needs to be properly used and reused.

Policymakers’ recent statement on the importance of open data and a broader data ecosystem is welcome, as it also reflects an awareness that equal investment will be needed in the human capital of citizens and public officials across the three tiers and seven corners of the country.

We must transform existing data into actionable insights and policy outcomes that improve people’s lives, and that holds others accountable for doing so. Especially in this time of transition and recovery, enhancement of the ‘data literacy’ of all stakeholders, who can produce and increase the quality and accessibility of official statistics, is of paramount importance.

Data literate professionals can proactively engage in evidence-based analysis, policymaking and feedback, and improve the delivery of public services, such as education, health, water and sanitation, gender equality, social inclusion, urban planning, and climate change adaptation and mitigation.

In that sense, data literacy for all is also the bedrock of Nepal’s transition to a federal system. It will contribute to a solid framework for fiscal relations between the national and subnational levels and allow for evidence-based decisions by government and society. This will not only accelerate the path towards a middle-income country level of GDP, it will also create the groundwork for the social and economic benefits that should come with development.

As one initiative, the World Bank Nepal office in coordination with DFID Nepal launched the Nepal Data Literacy Programme to train trainers to sustainably transfer data literacy skills to stakeholders in Nepal and build an enabling environment for evidence-based policy making and strengthening federalism in the country.

More than 75 mid-career professionals representing 50 organisations from the academia, private sector, media and civil society have committed themselves to the 120-hour programme and recently completed the first phase of training.

To ensure there are resources to support data literacy beyond these trainings, local community partners have developed an open source Data Literacy portal <  >to allow for greater access to important content and experiences in the use of data. Over time, this living portal is expected to be a nexus of content that can be customised, adapted and reused for free within and outside of Nepal. Local institutions will be critical for this initiative to endure, so we are also partnering with Kathmandu University School of Management to develop a data-driven course for the next generation of leaders and decision-makers.

Over the last decade, governments across the world have tapped the potential of open data. Within Nepal, we are seeing many government agencies take important steps by introducing open government data portals. The end game in this is a living, interconnected ecosystem where government data, private data, big data and other sources interact to provide solutions as needed. Data is power, and by giving this power to the people we help them to find solutions to their complex problems.

A young entrepreneur in Janakpur or Jhapa can use publicly available data to identify a business opportunity, to link to markets for inputs or products, and to cooperate with others to tackle a common problem. If citizens from across the world have used data to launch startups, we should also do so. In Nepal, geo location data, which is publicly and freely available, has already enabled young professionals to launch successful startups.

The good news is that Nepal’s open data and data systems transformation has already started, by both state and non-state actors who have chosen to lead the change. The Nepal Data Literacy Programme is just one small step in this direction—there is a long way to go to build not just data institutions but the ecosystem wherein these institutions interact with one another to deliver meaningful solutions. Likewise, we all need to do the same. The public sector, the private sector, civil society and development partners can and should look into how we share and use data, and how we can work together to build something bigger than ourselves.

Hadad-Zervos is Country Manager of World Bank for Nepal


A version of this article appears in print on July 04, 2019 of The Himalayan Times.

Follow The Himalayan Times on Twitter and Facebook

Recommended Stories:

More from The Himalayan Times:

MoHP lists swab collection centres in Kathmandu; urges public to follow safety guidelines

KATHMANDU: The Ministry of Health and Population on Tuesday announced 14 swab collection centres to facilitate extensive testing of coronavirus infection in Kathmandu valley at a time when new cases have been on the rise. MoHP has urged the public to visit the swab collection centres from 9:00 am Read More...

Gai Jatra: Festival that honours the memory of those departed

KATHMANDU: Gai Jatra, literally translated to the festival of cows, is observed by bereaved families by taking out procession in memory of the ones they have lost. People, especially children, walk in different costumes, and the processions are also accompanied by traditional bands. Gai Jatra is Read More...

A woman carrying an umbrella crosses a flooded street as it rains in Mumbai

Heavy rain batters India's Mumbai disrupting rail and road traffic

MUMBAI: Authorities in the Indian city of Mumbai issued a red alert on Tuesday and warned people not to venture out after heavy overnight rain in the financial hub brought flooding and travel chaos. Some suburbs have seen more than 300 mm of rain in the 24 hours to Tuesday morning and more heavy Read More...

Nepal’s COVID-19 count crosses the 21k mark, 259 new cases detected on Tuesday

KATHMANDU: The Ministry of Health and Population has recorded 259 new cases of the coronavirus infection on Tuesday, taking the nationwide count to 21,009. The new infections were confirmed after testing 7,687 specimens through PCR method across the nation in the last 24 hours. Among the new c Read More...

Nepal COVID-19 Update: 259 new cases, 65 recoveries, one fatality recorded today

KATHMANDU: Nepal’s Health Ministry, in its regular press briefing, shared the latest updates on coronavirus contagion from across the country, and government’s response to the health crisis. As of today, 406,494 tests through Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) method have been carried out, w Read More...

Nepal logs one more COVID-19 fatality; death toll reaches 58

KATHMANDU: One more person has succumbed to the coronavirus infection, confirmed the Ministry of Health and Population (MoHP) at its regular media briefing, on Tuesday. A 77-year-old male from Biratnagar Metropolitan City-5, Morang, has died from the highly contagious disease on Monday. The pa Read More...

Reimpose lockdown, issue curfew order if necessary; strictly implement security protocol: Experts to PM Oli

KATHMANDU: At a meeting called to discuss government's further steps to contain the spread of Covid-19, experts suggested that the government should reimpose lockdown to ensure that the pandemic is checked. Some health experts even suggested Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli, who had convened the meeting Read More...

Bangladesh board denies not paying players ICC prize money

DHAKA: The Bangladesh Cricket Board (BCB) on Tuesday dismissed allegations from a players' body that its international cricketers have not been paid all their prize money. The Federation of International Cricketers' Associations (FICA) said in a report that the Bangladesh players have not bee Read More...