– By Narayan Prasad Ghimire
A schoolchild collects information on World War I; a homemaker learns how to prepare macaroni; an officer reads how the developed countries invented and used technology. I too seek many things of my interests, and so you might be, too. Where? Answers may vary. But most would say, on the Internet.
Whether for information or entertainment, or for study or research, the Internet is a huge platform used by billions of people daily. Moreover, billions of transactions and businesses are conducted through it. People can’t live without the Internet even for a few minutes. This worldwide platform is both a source and a resource. Needless to say, it is significant for communication and correspondence via this global channel.
There is hardly any area that has remained untouched by the Internet regime. If any, it must be only in a least developed country like Nepal.
In this connection, it is worth mentioning here that the government’s budget for this year has brought the concept of smart cities. As per the budget, Kathmandu, Bara and one another district will have smart cities. This decision is very welcome and encouraging, for at least it reflects the government has given priority to the Internet.
The Internet is the basic for building smart cities. If there had been smart cities in Nepal, the scale of the disaster (earthquake) could have been greatly reduced. Of course, there is very little discussion and debate on expanding the Internet in the country. Both the government and private sector does not seem very enthusiastic about realising smart cities as per the provision in the budget.
Only internet-friendly policies are not enough to ensure the Internet in different parts of the country. The development of information and communications technology (ICT) with the necessary infrastructure is a pre-requisite. But Nepal is reeling under constant power outages. It is a fact that even the capital city Kathmandu must grope in the dark. So building smart cities is a challenging task.
Though at a snail’s pace, the Internet is expanding in Nepal. According to the Management Information System (MIS) report of Nepal Telecommunications Authority, Internet penetration has crossed 40 percent in Nepal. The spurt in the use of the mobile phone has obviously upped the spread of the Internet.
It was the private sector that first introduced the Internet in Nepal, and it continues to take the lead. The first internet service provider (ISP) was Mercantile Communications. Currently there are nearly 50 ISPs competing in Nepal.
Given the lack of sufficient ICT infrastructure in Nepal, the expansion of the Internet has been delayed, and the same will be the case with the smart cities. So policy makers and stakeholders both in the government and private sector need to come together to translate the concept into a reality.
Once easy and quick access of the people to the Internet is ensured, then will come a flurry of issues, such as security and safety, privacy, human rights, freedom1 of expression, cyber crimes, cyber laws, data protection and business, which need to be resolved.
Though many of such issues are still at a discussion level, cyber crime has, however, taken its toll here. Several cyber crimes have been recorded, and the Nepal Police has initiated action against those involved in it. Due to the lack of ICT literacy, many people, especially teenagers and youths, are falling victim to cyber crime.
With this in mind, the time has come for Nepal to mull over the dynamics of the Internet. It is already late for us in harnessing the benefits of the Internet and curbing new misdeeds on this miraculous worldwide platform.
(Source: The Rising Nepal, August 3, 2015)