ICT For Development


The advent of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) has ushered in an era where every job – whether at home, office, workshop, or factory – has undergone radical changes. Only a handful of technologies have been able to rival ICT in empowering mankind. But there is one feature where ICT vastly dwarfs its competitors: all- encompassing. And that is what makes it all-powerful. ICT has not only revolutionised how we do things, but has itself gone through revolutionary changes. From rudimentary computers to state-of-the art data centres housing networks of super computers to artificial intelligence (AI), the development ICT has undergone is incredibly phenomenal and meteoric. So, to make the most of this technology, keeping abreast of the newest development is crucial.   

Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda, while addressing the 'Digial Nepal Conclave 2024' on Friday, said that the upcoming fiscal year's budget will feature a significant initiative aimed at fostering Nepal's evolution into an ICT hub. He also said that the budget has declared the upcoming decade 'the ICT decade'. Aiming to facilitate the export of ICT products worth Rs. 30 billion and to create 500,000 direct and 1 million indirect jobs, the budget is said to include provisions to elevate ICT as an economic catalyst, to establish a legal framework for embracing cutting-edge technologies, as well as to oversee the development, promotion, and regulation of AI.

As admirable as these provisions are, they are easier said than done.  If we are to really become an ICT hub, we need to capitalise on our strengths, rather than copy the models that have worked wonderfully elsewhere. The idea of fostering startup culture and innovation and digital governance and digital economy, as claimed to be provisioned in the budget, is great. But without a great deal of money and for lack of matching workforce, they get mired in delays or uncertainties, as has happened before.

We feel one of the most overlooked of our strengths is our climate. Experts have said that Nepal is one of the ideally suited countries to become the hub for data-centres given its vast swath of land marked by cold climate. Propelled by the booming use of social media – like Facebook, Youtube, X (formerly Twitter), etc. – the business of data centres has grown so high that they are forecast to account for 13 per cent of the total energy consumption in the USA by 2030, for example. Similar trend is observed in many countries.

Since they dissipate so much heat and so require costly cooling mechanism to operate normally, high-altitude places in Nepal that are freezing cold year-round offer cheap alternative to costly option of setting up a data centre in a place that frequently witnesses sweltering temperatures. In an increasingly globalised world, after all, business moves to where operating cost is less. What's more, increasing generation of hydropower makes this prospect even more viable. 

The amendments to laws and policies the government has been making to make the country an ICT hub has sent the message that we will never let the would-be investors down. Besides, we ought to be careful not to miss out on the AI wave that is taking the world by storm. We are increasingly living in a world where AI is fast becoming an indispensable tool to boost productivity and bring prosperity. 

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