A thought by -Niraj Khanal
We can all come to an agreement that the internet is here to stay. More and more applications are being developed, Blockchain is being widespread, IoT(Internet of Things) is picking up pace, smart-cities are being planned out and self-driving cars are hitting the roads. And the backbone that all of these things are plugged into is the internet. While this is true and more people around the world are using the internet daily, it is extremely difficult for people in Nepal to browse the internet because of the cost of using the internet relies on the data plan from the telephone provider (usually NTC or NCell). This is the reason, people turn off their data-plan on their phone and go about their day in Nepal. While there are some plans from the telecom industry to give you unlimited data (usually with throttling after a few GBs), it’s still not accessible and affordable to many. Even for people who have money, they care about the data so much that they automatically turn off their data. This is more of a mentality that access to the internet is not free and background apps consume a lot of data. That combined with fewer wifi hotspots makes it extremely difficult for a regular user to have access to use the internet all the time.
On the other hand, the world is moving at a much faster pace. Data from 2018 shows that only 54.1 percent of the Nepalese population has internet penetration while countries like the United States (89% penetration), UK (94.6% penetration), Japan (93.1% penetration), Korea(95% penetration) have a much greater internet penetration. Nepal has a lot to catch-up in this regard. This is where the internet revolution needs to happen. This is not something that can happen overnight and it has to be planned and executed properly. This has to come as a formal plan from the government. It can jump-start the process by providing fast, free and secure wifi in most busy locations like hospitals, bus-stops, government-offices, airports, etc. to start with. It has to then change it’s backbone infrastructure to use a fast internet in government offices and slowly digitize everything from it’s ledger-book to a security badge to enter government offices. It has to start making computer education a requirement in schools.
While that is happening, a lot of business ideas are just ideas at this point because there is no widespread adoption of the internet in Nepal. GPS is one example. While there is GPS in Nepal, there is no such thing as Google maps that can show traffic in real-time. This business idea can be enhanced if people share their location data in real-time. The advertisement industry can benefit from this as well. This is not the case right now because people are losing money every minute they enable their data in their phones and they chose to turn everything down because they don’t want to pay for something they are not using. Internet providers should change their business models to support a subscription-based system instead of per minute.
Having said all that, there has been some movement lately from the government that we should admire. For example, the launch of a mini-satellite for Nepal should be welcomed by everyone. The ground station is currently being built while the testing is being done from japan. More and more things like this need to happen and it needs to happen at a very fast pace if we want to catch up to the world. While the world is living in the clouds, we should not be focusing on getting on a mainframe from the '90s. We should rather focus on building data centers and maybe run our cloud infrastructure in Nepal. The big data is only going to get bigger and to support that, we need to come up with scalable infrastructure.
In summary, there needs to be a technological revolution in Nepal. If we want to create more opportunities for people and take our country to the next level. The implementation has its challenges and therefore preparing students for this revolution is important. Making computers a compulsory course from middle school is going to help us. Emphasis should be given to entrepreneurs who are working with innovative ideas. Disruptive Technological ideas are only going to come if the government will encourage people to pursue their ideas. Pathao and Tootle have set that standard and more entrepreneurs should be able to work on their ideas and follow in their footsteps. Internet should be available widespread and the government should make it easier for it’s a citizen to have ample access to the internet. People should change their mindset about internet usage and internet providers should change its model and install free hotspots around Nepal so that the public can use it easily and for free. The mentality about the internet should change from its current form. Censorship should end.