De-budgeting the Digital Budget?

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De-budgeting the Digital Budget?

‘Digital Nepal’ is the government’s game-changer project, but where is the required budget?

Although the government has brought various programs to build a digital Nepal, the necessary budget allocation has not been made, said the concerned experts.

Speaking at the Digital Samvad 2.0 program organized on Saturday, the experts drew the government’s attention to the availability of several programs but lack of budget, coordination, and focus on it.

Economic Adviser of the Ministry of Finance Dr. Prakash Kumar Shrestha said that the information and communication technology sector should not be abandoned for the development of the country. He said that government services still need to be digitalized. The government is working on it gradually.

He said that the transformation of the digital economy and digital finance is also taking place, adding that budget programs are continuously coming. “The implementation of such budget programs has taken time due to geographical reasons” he added.

“How much have you been able to improve living standards by using technology?” He said. “We need to focus on constructively using technology.”

Stating that the development of technology can help reduce the trade deficit of the country, he advised that it is necessary to promote the production of software.

Mr. Anil Kumar Dutta, Joint Secretary, Ministry of Communication and Information Technology, said that this year’s budget was positive and welcomed by all where enough budget is allocated to all form postal services to media.

“All in all, telecom, telecommunications, information, and communication technology have a budget of NRs. 15 to 20 billion,” he said. Digital Nepal Framework 2076 has been brought as a game-changer project and a Nagarik App has been promoted under this program.

Budgets and programs are in operation in various sectors including governance, digitization, land revenue, health, agriculture, education. He said that a cyber security policy is being drafted.

“We are focusing on the development of the digital foundation,” he said. And various programs are being conducted for that. National identity cards are also being distributed.

“However, there were some problems. There is a lack of coordination while working. There is a lack of coordination between the ministry and other bodies. Along with, lack of coordination and problems in documentation from the private sector” he added.

Former Minister Mr. Ganesh Shah reported that even though the Digital Nepal Framework was brought as a game-changing project, there was no budget allocation accordingly. He mentioned the internet and digital foundations were important and should be a priority for the government.

Chairman of the ICT Development Committee (Federation of Nepalese Chambers of Commerce and Industry) Mr. Mangesh Lal Shrestha said that some good programs have been brought in this year’s budget and programs have been brought to make the better future.

He said that it was necessary to coordinate with the private sector to move the digital economy forward. Also, there is a need to improve the local private sectors in the data centers as it does not include many issues.

Stating that the government needs to formulate policies on new technologies including AI, he noted that it is necessary for the digital economy.

“The private sector is a key factor in the digital economy,” Shrestha said. “It needs to be prioritized.” He also mentioned that there is a need for a knowledge-based economy by promoting digital startups.

He stressed the need for a digital economy to achieve the 2030 vision of a one million dollar economy taken by the Federation of Nepalese Chambers of Commerce and Industry.

CAN Federation President Mr. Nawaraj Kunwar advised that a separate Ministry of IT is needed to develop the technology. Stating that some of the programs brought by the government for the coming fiscal year are positive, he said that such programs are introduced also due to COVID-19.

“The programs in the budget are the same as past budget,” Kunwar said. “The new ones are coming because of COVID-19.”

Though information technology would be integrated into every sector, it could not be integrated with business. He pointed out the need to keep software and hardware in service along with the internet.

“Nepal’s software should be given first priority, but the vision has not been reached,” he said. “The hardware, mobile and software sectors need to be looked at with special attention.”

Chairman of the Internet Service Providers’ Association of Nepal Mr. Sudhir Parajuli said that the state is lacking in understanding in which areas the tax should be levied.

“We have repeatedly called for a reduction in taxes on the internet. There were assurances from the minister but the budget did not address them.” he commented. Currently, the internet is taxed at 46 percent.

Stating that there is no problem in connectivity in Nepal now, Parajuli said that attention should be paid to local content and its proper use. He said that connectivity has reached 97 percent of the area by the month of Ashad. He complained the government’s investment in the ICT sector was very low. He also argued that the program was scattered and investment could not be made by focusing.

Management consultant Ms. Sumana Shrestha said that women’s participation in the digital sector was very low and attention should be paid to increase their participation.

“The main problem with digitalization is that we have a lack of data which makes it impossible to get general information and work,” she added.

She advised that if you want to leap from the digital sector, you need to focus on the necessary data, accurate data, and the use of new technology. “Many programs have come in the field of information and communication technology but they have not been implemented”, she added.

Although the government has been saying smart city for many years, people are still unaware of what a smart city is. “Technology is a medium for developing digital infrastructure,” she said, adding that “Digital thinking is needed for transformation.” She pointed out the coordination and awareness from local bodies was needed.

Editor of ICT News Mr. Santosh Neupane gave a presentation on the budget programs brought by the government in the field of information technology in the last year. He pointed out that many programs have been repeated and there is an implementation side. Managing Director of Nepal Telecom Mr. Dilli Adhikari, Former Chairman of CAN Mr. Vinod Dhakal, Mr. Hemant Baral, and Dr. Subash Pyakurel have suggested the government about the budget for the ICT sector. Even in the case of COVID 19, the government has not been able to pay attention to the digitization of the Health and Agriculture sectors, Pyakurel commented.

What are the programs included in the field of ICT in the budget?

The government had made public the budget for the fiscal year 2078/79 on May 30. A budget of Rs. 7.74 billion has been allocated to the Ministry of Communication and Information Technology. The ministry’s budget also covers IT, communications, media, and cinema. Along with this, ICT programs are also included in the programs of various ministries.

  • To eliminate the use of illegal mobile sets, the government will start operating mobile device management system services from the next fiscal year.
  • The government is going to issue an electronic visa with a QR code.
  • National identity cards will be distributed to all Nepalese within 2 years of period.
  • Digital Nepal Framework is to be implemented in the coming Fiscal Year.
  • The quality of telecommunication services will be improved.
  • Electronic payments will be made simple and secure.
  • Systematic postal service will be expanded in the coming Fiscal Year by integrating postal service with modern technology.
  • A budget of NRs. 1.20 billion has been allocated for the provision of alternative education.
  • Broadband internet will be expanded in 60 percent of government schools in the coming Fiscal Year and broadband will be extended to all schools in three years.
  • The government is planning to provide online tickets for public transport. GPS will be installed in freight transport.
  • The government will give tax exemption to startups for 5 years.
  • Up to NRs. 2.5 million loans can be taken by pledging educational certificates in the budget.

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Rabins Sharma Lamichhane

Rabins Sharma Lamichhane is the owner of RabinsXP who is constantly working for increasing the Internet of Things (IoT) in Nepal. He also builds android apps and crafts beautiful websites. He is also working with various social services. The main aim of Lamichhane is to digitally empower the citizens of Nepal and make the world spiritually sound better both in terms of technology and personal development. Rabins is also the first initiator of Digital Nepal.

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