Thursday, 21 October, 2021

Thriving Digital Economy


Avash Palikhe

Digitalization has brought about tremendous changes in how we live, work, and play. The increasing investment in technology is unsettling the traditional business techniques and making a clear pathway towards the digital economy. Digital communication, digital payment, e-commerce, and online marketing have grown in recent years. We have payment gateways like e-Sewa and shopping platforms such as Daraz making our day-to-day life faster and easier.
The use of debit cards/ credit cards, ATMs, and digital gateways for payments is also increasing rapidly. Coronavirus pandemic played an important role in accelerating the rise of the digital economy.
Stay-at-home orders and social distancing requirements forced banks and financial institutions to promote cashless solutions. The number of online shoppers and digital payers jumped due to the need for contactless shopping and transactions.
Rise In E-commerce
According to the online marketplace Daraz, 40 per cent of the transactions are being done through cards and e-wallets which is a big number for a country like Nepal. Internet consumption rose sharply as people were confined to their homes and had to work remotely, take online classes and attend online meetings or webinars. People are using the internet not only to use social media platforms like Facebook and Tiktok but also for education, health, retail and economic activities. The rapid use of technology in every field has been witnessed throughout the pandemic.
 Certainly, Nepal is moving towards digitalization. Our country has greater potential for advancing economic development through the development of the digital sector. The government has also prioritized a digital economy and brought policies accordingly. Recently, the Nepal government released the 'Nagarik App' assuring to provide government services in a single online platform.
The application contains certified details of citizens such as citizenship, passport, PAN number and voter identity card and eliminates the nuisance of carrying legislative, personal, or educational data and documents. The government has also launched 'Mero Kitta' and Nepal Land Information System (NELIS) in a bid to facilitate the realty sector in the country.
The use of technology will contribute to fast, efficient and economical services as well as transparency and good governance in land administration services. The government has said it already started the process of integrating information, streamlining works concerning citizens such as managing electricity tariff, internal revenue, customs tariff, driver's license, and renewal. Nepal is racing to become the first country in South Asia to offer super-fast connectivity.
According to Nepal Telecom, the 5G tests are expected to start by the beginning of the next fiscal year. 4G service has reached all 77 districts in the country, covering 85 per cent of the total population. Broadband penetration had expanded to 82.79 per cent of the population as of mid-January 2021. These numbers are encouraging, we are adopting the new technology and are willing to create a pathway for the digitalized economy.
Major Digital Shift
Yes, we are moving towards major digital transformation but there are significant challenges now and, in the years, to come. One of the main issues is the lack of skilled manpower. Another is inadequate infrastructure to adopt such technology. Video data and high bandwidth connectivity are essential to implement.
The main foundation of a Digital Nepal will be connecting people around the nation with the high-speed, affordable, and easily accessible internet. We have progressed in digital payment and e-commerce but its availability has been limited within the Kathmandu valley and some major cities. Lack of long-term policy planning and management has been a big problem for us.
Planners and policymakers have the central role to keep up pace with the global digital revolution. The Digital transformation of Nepal is only possible with high investment in innovation and prioritizing the use of technology in every infrastructure of development. Disconnected enterprise, lack of strong database, lack of facts, poor service delivery, and inefficient markets are some of the major barriers to be broken down to speed up the transformation. Corruption and disempowerment of the government and local level are equally a hurdle.
As the world's attention was now focused on the exploration and development of the digital economy, digital transformation of our economy is a necessity. Although it is a tall task, the journey to a digital Nepal should not be that difficult, given that the growth in internet facilities and mobile services has been most encouraging. We have companies like Khalti, Pathao, Foodmandu and many more which are making our daily life convenient.
While making a digital Nepal, such platforms will increase their reliability and expand their availability in all places of Nepal. Companies must associate with each other and discuss with the government to figure out a futuristic plan which will be the best for the industry. We must attract International and encourage local enterprises to invest in our markets. Supporting start-ups and creating a good business environment is equally important.
To form a digital Nepal, serious efforts need to be made to digitalise the government. Public services must be provided online, making visits to governmental offices an occasional affair. Technology will enhance the productivity of the municipal services and provide better social and community outcomes. It’s a long shot, but Digital Nepal will be able to vote for a parliament member via the internet while being at any part of the world using his/her digital signature. Such use of technology to the fullest will help the government to make faster and better decisions ultimately providing better public service in a way that addresses the changing needs of businesses and citizens.

Use of Technology
We must revolutionise our education system as it is becoming more traditional every year and it is one of the main reasons people lack awareness of the proper use of technology. We must modernize the education system to pave the way for the success of Digital Nepal and also to produce globally competent human resources. Nepal has to learn from its neighbours China and India who are the fastest digitizing economies and are increasingly recognized as a global force.
Economic growth and rising productivity are the major expected outcomes of digitalization in the world's two most populous countries. If they can, why can't we?
Nepal is one of the countries that have huge potential for economic growth. What is needed right now is an improved education system that will produce efficient manpower to carry this nation on the track of the Digital Revolution and proper plan and policy to make it easier for businesses to go online. The need to digitalize our economy is not only about modernization but also to uplift the quality of life of our people. I believe a true Digital Nepal isn’t as far away as it seems.

(Palikhe is pursuing a computer engineering course)