Digital Age And The Gorkhapatra

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A few months ago, a university scholar approached me for digital copies of The Rising Nepal for his research work dating from 2018 to 2023. As a matter of rule, I suggested him to visit the Gorkhapatra Corporation library and contact concerned officials so that he could get the matter he needed. On my part, I assured him of all possible help not because he was involved in academic knowledge production but particularly because he was in search of our paper as a raw material and a source of data. Being associated with it for so long as a journalist, I simply feel happy when I see The Rising Nepal cited in academic/research papers.  

The researcher friend submitted application to the concerned authority for the digital copies. Contrary to general expectation about getting the copies within a day or two following the submission of the application, it took days for him to get it. In the interval he would call me to inquire about the progress of the process because I had assured him of my help and I would respond to him after consulting with the concerned sections about the ongoing process and the discussion due to the lack of policy to provide the digital copies. Seeing that a minute long work was taking days, at one point during the interval, I even suggested him to copy all those from our site. Then he told me that he tried but it was difficult to download matters from the old site. Finally, he got the digital copies but said that he had got digital copies within a single day from other English newspapers in the country.

This anecdote could be one window to see the digital archive’s status of the publications of the Gorkhapatra Corporation.

Online, digitisation and digitalisation

As efforts to keep apace with the revolution in the information and communication technology, online versions of the Gorkhapatra Corporation’s publications- two dailies and three monthlies-- have been running while digitisation of the publications dating back to their launching copies has been going on. Digitalisation of the financial and administrative processes have also been initiated.

Online versions of the two dailies, gorkhapatraonline.com of the Gorkhapatra and risingnepaldaily.com of The Rising Nepal, have been running for over a decade. Although their presence in the Internet started much earlier, for instance, content of The Rising Nepal entered in the Internet some 26 years ago, their reach has not been as good as expected. 

As the nation’s first running daily, Gorkhapatra, now turning 124 years, is expected to have a stunning influence even in the online platform. Similarly, as the nation’s first broadsheet English daily, The Rising Nepal, should have been the most sought after news portal in the country. But data analytics show the truth otherwise. Clearly, we have not been adequately competitive and competent in terms of adaptation to the new technologies and presenting the content. Factors such as the lack of appropriate policy initiative and corresponding mobilisation of the resources may have contributed to this reality. The reality is dimmer compared to the glow of glorious legacy, and it should be addressed seriously and initiatives taken promptly.

The number of Internet users has increased with the pace of time since its use started in Nepal in 1995, five years after it was launched globally. In the last 29 years, there has been unprecedented change in the way people get information even in remote areas of the country. According to a report, over 16 million (over 50 per cent of total population) people use Internet in the country. In 2022, Nepal ranked 112th out of 131 economies in the Network Readiness Index, a global index on the application and impact of information and communication technology (ICT) in global economies. 

The country stands 101st out of 160 countries on the National Cyber Security Index. Nepal ranked 125th out of 193 countries in e-government development index 2022.

Social media has emerged as a vital platform for spreading news and information to the people and its users have increased in Nepal drastically. Social media make up a window into the society as they reflect what people are thinking and are likely to behave. Nepal was home to 12.60 million social media users in 2023, equating to 41 per cent of the total population. According to a report of the GSMA intelligence, a total of 42.78 million cellular mobile connections were active in Nepal in early 2023, with this figure equivalent to 139.2 per cent of the total population. 

The greater number of mobile users than the total population of about 30 million only indicates that a person is using more than one mobile sim card. Data published in Meta’s advertising resources indicate that Facebook had 11.85 million users in Nepal in early 2023. Similarly, numbers published in Twitter’s advertising resources indicate that Twitter (now X) had 553.6 thousand users in Nepal in early 2023. 

Digital significance

The data about the number of Internet, mobile phone and social media users only prove that significance of disseminating news and views through Internet by the reliable institutional news media such as the Gorkhapatra has grown much higher. This is because misinformation and disinformation also run through the Internet and such rumours can be checked only by the reliable institutional news media. Given this, it is imperative that institutional news media like the Gorkhapatra should focus on strengthening their digital status and efficiency. There is a need to focus on enhancing their online portals so that people get reliable information in time.

The government on its part should come up with concrete measures to bolster news media under it that their digital presence is dominant and that they are the main source of authentic information for the people. Let me refer to another anecdote to make a concluding remark. This happened two years ago. We were at a two-day digital workshop in Nagarkot and it was organised by the Corporation. During the training, I asked an expert on online news media in Nepal how often he visited the online edition of The Rising Nepal. And he replied that he visited the site to dig out and analyse some shortcomings of the portal because it was staffed by his own trainees.

(The author is the coordinator of risingnepaldaily.com, the online portal of The Rising Nepal.)

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