Saturday, 29 January, 2022

E-governance Can Be Game Changer For Nepal

Sunil KC


Nepal shares open border with the world’s two fastest growing economies - India and China. It is 45-km away from Bangladesh and can reach there through India’s Siliguri Corridor. As a landlocked nation with a population of 30 million, Nepal has been endowed with abundant natural resources, and diverse cultures and geographical zones.
In the past, Nepal used to export rice and other daily essential goods to Bangladesh through the eastern part of the country. Bangladesh, which was upgraded to developing nation status last year, is now known as a new Asian Tiger due to its performances in Asia over the past decade with the average growth rate of 6 per cent like Singapore and Hong Kong achieved during their industrialisation period. And, today’s Bangladesh is working to achieve the Digital Bangla-desh Vision 2021with the introduction of e-governance master plan.
India launched the Digital India Initiative with the objective of providing services online to its citizens in 2015. Digital India consists of three core components-- the development of secure and stable digital infrastructure, delivery of government services digitally and universal digital literacy. Its schemes like ‘Make in India’ and ‘Start Up India’ are popular programmes, which aim to enhance its domestic economy.

Digital Nepal
Nepal adopted its new Constitution in 2015, transforming itself from unitary to federal state. With the successful election in March, 2018, KP Sharma Oli became the Prime Minister of Nepal for the second time. While prioritising economic development as the main goal, PM Oil announced the “Digital Nepal Campaign” in 2018 and his government officially formulated the Digital Nepal Framework with the theme “Unlocking Nepal’s Growth Potential” last year.
The government’s targets and priorities are focused on achieving the developing nation status by 2022 and the middle income country status by 2030. The government targeted to achieve 7.01 per cent growth in 2020, with the motto of ‘Prosperous Nepal, Happy Nepali.
Compared to its neighbours, Nepal has enjoyed incredible success in digital realm with mobile penetrations exceeding 100 per cent and internet penetration reaching 63 per cent. Nepal is expected to lead internet penetration by 2025 in comparison to major economies like China and India, according to information provided by the government. Now, the time has come to launch an e-Governance agency involving all ministries to deliver the public services through one stop shop so that the people would not need to go to various departments and ministries for the public services like birth, death and marriage registration, notary services, getting driving licenses, National ID cards and passports, among others. All services will be provided through one umbrella that will act as “Non-Stop Public Services Delivery” mechanism, which will be under the direct supervision of the Prime Minister.
Last October, the Prime Minister paid a state visit to the Republic of Azerbaijan to attend the NAM Summit. Azerbaijan has launched an agency called “ASAN” which means “easy” in English. The state agency ASAN delivers more than 320 services, with the composition of 10 state bodies.
It is evident that the country has been putting significant efforts in the development of e-Governance. One of the remarkable examples of e-governance is the “ASAN Visa” that has facilitated tourists to get visa promptly. E-governance services run under the Public Private Partnership Model (PPP) has helped the country to generate $1 billion in revenue in 2019.
Another example is Estonia where 99 per cent of the public services are available online in 24 hours and seven weeks. Around 30 per cent of the Estonians are using i-Voting that has reduced considerable amount of working time for the bureaucracy. The country is known as the digital republic, with popular programmess like e-residency which allows people from other countries to apply online and register their company in Estonia. The companies are known as European ones while their operators have not necessarily to be in Europe.
The Oli-led government must be serious about creating the agency like ASAN for the efficient public service delivery through one stop shop. It should be based on public private partnership. This will help Nepal to achieve the status of developed economy from the status of a developing nation in the future.
The government has set up an ambitious plan of expediting the country's economic growth. The government is firm on meeting the target of economic growth through decentralised economic planning and polices but it needs a proper mechanism to expand e-commerce activities and public service delivery.
The establishment of robust e-governance platform will assist in expanding the national economy, thereby boosting good governance in the country.

(KC is a founder of The Asian Institute of Diplomacy and International Affairs.)