Friday, May 13, 2016

Nepal fails to reap digital dividend

Nepal has failed to reap digital dividends, according to the vice chair of the National Planning Commission (NPC) Dr Yubraj Khatiwada.
"Expansion of technology has failed to boost the productivity of Nepali people," he said, releasing a World Development Report 2016: Digital Dividends' in Kathmandu today.
Nepal has 103 per cent telephony penetration and 50 per cent internet penetration, Khatiwada said, adding, "however, the access to technology has failed to boost productivity and contribute to the economic growth."
The World Development Report 2016 delves on digital dividends. "The Digital technologies have spread rapidly in much of the world," it reads, adding that digital dividends that is, the broader development benefits from using these technologies have lagged behind. "In many instances, digital technologies have boosted growth, expanded opportunities, and improved service delivery. Yet their aggregate impact has fallen short and is unevenly distributed."
Khatiwada was also of the view that Nepalis failed to reap the digital dividends despite huge digital penetration and expansion. "It could have helped efficient public service delivery and increase productivity," he said, highlighting that the increasing engagement on social sites has helped massive outflow of money from the country, instead of increasing productivity.
The report has also stressed that investment in the information and communication technology (ICT) sector should be matched by reforms in complementary areas like regulatory environment, labour market and governance, to foster economic growth, create more jobs, reduce income inequality, prevent rise of monopolies and reap maximum digital dividend.
With increasing digital technologies including internet and mobile phones, the number of mobile phone and internet users is also going up globally, according to the report that has claimed that the people, businesses and governments are more connected than ever before, creating a profound sense of social connectedness and global community.
However, Khatiwada, on the occasion, gave examples of some villages in Nepal, where farmers are taking help of mobile phones and internet to check weather for harvesting. "The farmers in some parts of Nepal are using technology to be update on weather for their crops," he said, without elaborating. "They have been also using technology to get real time market price of their agriculture produces," the vice chair added.
But increase of technology has also exposed people to various risks, Khatiwada said, adding that the cyber crimes have been increasing in recent years. "But these are the international issues, and a country like Nepal cannot fight alone."
He also suggested fighting unitedly against such international crimes.
"Although digital technologies, in many instances, have boosted growth, expanded opportunities and improved service delivery, the report reads, adding, "their aggregate impacts have so far been smaller than expected’ and ‘are unevenly distributed’.
“For digital technologies to benefit everyone everywhere requires closing the remaining digital divide, especially in internet access,” it adds.
"The unfinished task of connecting everyone to the internet – one of the targets of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) – can be achieved through a judicious mix of market competition, public-private partnerships and effective regulation of the internet and the telecom sector,” adds the report. "But making internet service universal is not the only condition for fair distribution of digital dividends."
The report has also recommended countries to work on analogue complements — by strengthening regulations that ensure competition among businesses; by adapting workers’ skills to the demands of the new economy; and by ensuring that institutions are accountable to get most out of digital revolutions. "What these priorities highlight is that core elements of the development agenda – business regulations that ease market entry, education and training systems that deliver skills that firms seek, and capable and accountable institutions – are becoming more important with the spread of the internet."
It generally means ‘digital development strategies should be much broader than ICT strategies’, it added.
The report has also highlighted that the internet may have been automating tasks but workers may not have been possessing necessary skills, which is promoting inequality, rather than efficiency. "The internet may have also helped overcome information barriers but the government may have remained unaccountable, thus, leading to greater control, rather than greater empowerment and inclusion."
Countries should come up with regulations that allow firms to connect and compete; develop skills that technology augments rather than replaces; and create institutions that are capable and accountable to take full advantage of the opportunities the internet and other related technologies have presented, the report concluded.

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