Friday, August 21, 2015

Stakeholders for Universal Connectivity in Nepal

[This text has been extracted from the Research Brief published by Martin Chautari under the Universal Connectivity research. The brief can be  downloaded from Martin Chautari's website [Link to Research Brief].]

The Internet ecosystem has changed drastically in Nepal in the last seven years. The ISPs are no longer the dominant actors. Telecoms own a large percentage of the communication infrastructure, individual customer base and are institutionally capable of rapid large scale expansions. The rural market does not offer an attractive investment-return and the penetration there relies on the effective use of the RTDF funds to meet the universal service obligation for telecommunication. The investment guarantee to translate the sound promises of the policies and roadmaps to the poor and the marginalized is non-existent. The proponents claim that the promises in the literature have not been acted upon because the government has failed to prioritise IT. They point to the absence of a dedicated IT ministry, delays in implementation by NTA and in establishing the payment gateway.

More pressing issues, however, are: first, existing policies and plans should be reshaped with primary research on connectivity, access and use of the Internet; second, the design of digital ecosystem should address critical issues related to adjacent technologies, particularly ways to manage immense power demand and e-waste production; and the last, the rights of the poor and the marginalized in e-Nepal should be ensured particularly when the technology shows strong divisive capabilities. The present activities of the key actors in the Internet ecosystem therefore need to orient away from the case of business as usual. From a preoccupation with the struggle to be relevant now, these activities need to cohere around a unified grounded vision for universal connectivity. 

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