Nepal is in the process of finalizing its ambitious e-Governance masterplan. To be implemented with a total cost of US$ 75 million which is jointly funded by Asia Development Bank (USD 30 million) and Korean Government ( USD 30 million) , the plan aims to provide state of art electronic public servcies to the citizens of country. Vikas Kanungo of m-GovWorld during a recent visit to the country discussed the details of the plan with Mr. Saroj Devkora , Vice Chairman of the HLCIT and the man in charge of the program.
"We intend to take-up the automation of the government department and ministries first i.e. government to government domain. Once the back office automation is completed and the departments are integrated, we will be ready to provide services to the citizens."
Vice Chairman , High level Commission on IT, Government of Nepal
m-GovWorld: What is the progress of Nepal in terms of formulating the national e-Governance strategy and its implementation?
Saroj Devkota: In 2006 we had memorandum of understanding with Korean Government under KIPA. They came to Nepal and in 2006 and we prepared an e-Government master plan. It is a very broad document covering all aspects such as e-Government, e-health, e-commerce etc. They have submitted that report in November last year. Meanwhile we had correspondence with ADB we signed an MOU with them in November 2006. From November, the consultants from ADB are working in Nepal, preparing the PPTA (Project Preparatory Technical Assistance) document. Few international consultants and six consultants from Nepal are also working in coordination with the consultant from ADB. In April this year, they will submit the report that is being prepared at a cost of USD 7, 00,000. They have identified all the sectors and the cost of implementing the master plan will be around 75 Million USD. ADB has committed 30 Million USD and government of Korea has committed another 30 million USD. Rest of the 15 million USD will have to be invested by the government of Nepal. We will have to invest this money ourselves or find some other donors. The document will be discussed with ADB in June and by end of the year 2007 we expect to sign the agreement with ADB. The implementation of the master plan will start beginning 2008.
m-GovWorld: While making the master plan , did you have some countries or some models in your mind for replicating the best practices?
Saroj Devkota: The master plan was prepared by the Korean government agency KIPA. They have developed similar types of master plans for Magnolia and Bolivia. They are not replicating the same concepts here and have made change keeping in mind our cultural and contextual conditions. However, the basic concepts in the plan may be the same.
m-GovWorld: In Korea, they have started provisioning many services through the mobile phones and mobile government is in advanced stage there. Have they incorporated similar services in Nepal’s master plan?
Saroj Devkota: No, mobile service provisions are not there in our e-Government master plan yet.
m-GovWorld: As per your mater plan , how are you planning to facilitate the delivery of services to your citizens. Is it through government offices, internet or some dedicated kiosks?
Saroj Devkota: We are doing it through Rural telecenters that are like kiosks. We have already established 240 telecenters in Nepal. We will have computers, internet, telephone lines, fax services and video cameras in the telecenters.
m-GovWorld: Since the master plan is yet to be implemented starting nest year, what is the work telecenters that have already been established doing?
Saroj Devkota: They are doing two things .The telecenters are used to provide computer training to the people who are already literate to some extent. This will help us having the trained workforce available by the time we start implementing our master plan on e-governance. The second work that the telecenters are doing is provisioning of some services in health and agriculture sectors.
m-GovWorld: Is training the employees a part of the master plan?
Saroj Devkota: Yes, capacity development is an integral part of the e-Government master plan. We plan to provide proper training to our officers as well as telecenter employees.
m-GovWorld: It is seen in recent times that the mobile phones have a much higher penetration even in rural areas compared to computers and internet. If planned innovatively, many services can be provided through the mobile/wireless devices to the citizens. Are there any plans to incorporate the same in the master plan in near future?
Saroj Devkota: Yeas definitively! As we are just in the planning stage, it is easier to incorporate those kinds of services. We will strive to implement the latest technologies for provisioning of the services under e-Governance master plan
m-GovWorld: Which is the nodal government agency responsible for implementing e-Government programs in Nepal and what is the timeframe to implement master plan?
Saroj Devkota: The e-Government services in Nepal are being implemented by High level Commission on IT (HLCIT) that I am heading. e-Government master plan is a very vast program incorporating e-heath, e-Government , e-agriculture and e-education being implemented with a cost of 75 million USD as mentioned earlier. The implementation starts from 2008 and we intend try to complete the implementation of all the services under master plan in 5 years.
m-GovWorld: For implementation of the services under master plan, will you give priority to urban areas or the rural areas?
Saroj Devkota: We intend to take-up the automation of the government department and ministries first i.e. government to government domain. Once the back office automation is completed and the departments are integrated, we will be ready to provide services to the citizens. I don’t know how far you are familiar with our administrative procedures. e-Government is at a very primitive stage and most of the processes are manual and our officers are used to that. There is a very high resistance to migrate to automated system. The resistance is present both at the high level as well as the middle level of officers. First of all we have to change the mindset of the government people and it is a very difficult task. Through the first phase of the project we will be focusing on the middle level employees.
m-GovWorld: Are you planning to involve the people in conceptualizing the services under the new master plan?
Saroj Devkota: Yes! We have introduced a system – management software which also connects the Prime minister’s office. Citizens can send their feedback to the government and this will be considered.
m-GovWorld: India has a very good National e-Government Plan and have many successful projects in the domain. Since the service requirements of the rural people in India and Nepal are the same, how come you have not looked at the Indian model for replication?
Saroj Devkota: I have raised this issue with the ADB consultants making the e-Government master plan for Nepal government. We are planning to conduct a workshop in April 2007 to finalize the framework under the master plan and we will be inviting key e-Government practitioners from Indian government for presenting their views.
m-GovWorld: Indian government is providing the technical support to many countries in South Asia. Are you planning to ask for the support of Indian government for your e-Governance master plan?
Saroj Devkota: You see most of the programs in the developing/underdeveloped countries are funded by the donor agencies and the agenda is mostly determined by the donor. In our case, government of Korea has come forward to help us in our e-Government program. The technical support and the agenda therefore will be prepared in coordination with the donor agency. We had tried to approach India many years back but did not get a significant response whereas Korean government themselves approached us and offered their support and funding. We will be happy to have support from the Indian government but no one has approached us as yet.