News Commentary- Digital Transformation: Where are we?

Narayan Prasad Ghimire – Three news to begin with: On Saturday, Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal said in Chitwan that he would work for good governance and development every day; the same day, Home Ministry said it would implement suggestions from a group of IT experts to address people’s complaints on distribution of passport and national ID card; and on December 23, Nepal Rastra Bank Governor Maha Prasad Adhikari inaugurated a digital financial literacy in Khalanga, district headquarters of Darchula in the far-west Nepal.

The digital revolution and transformation have become defining features at present, but we Nepalis are bound to stand in line for hours to receive public services. Similarly, good governance is always the catchphrase of every government the country gets. However, the examples mentioned above show that we’re crawling in terms of adopting the digital transformation. The serpentine lines of service seekers are common not only at the gate of Passport Department but also other offices as Department of Transport Management and government hospitals.

When do the service seekers get benefitted with digital services? Why are we lagging behind it? Even though we got such many governments- 753 local levels, seven provinces and a federal government with the adoption of federalism, why has the ‘governance’ not improved? These are serious questions to be addressed now. Digital transformation is the change in the way we perform works with the utmost use of information technology. It not only ensures smooth and prompt service delivery but also helps create additional value of products and propels business. We can reap benefit from digital transformation only when it is expanded to other sectors beyond IT service and businesses.

So, it is necessary to understand whether Nepal has been ready and capable to undergo the digital transformation. The determination of the stage we are standing in terms of digital transformation may help identify the hindrances on the headway. Augment digitalization Digitization and digitalization are the essentials to the digital transformation. Digitization is largely focused on creation of digital data while enriching data ecosystem relates to digitalization. For this, utmost use of information technology is imperative. Once we identify elements and measure the resources required for digitalization, it shows our digital readiness. The human resources must be equipped with skills and knowledge to take ahead the digital ecosystem.

The creation and processing of data and ensuring its value pave way for expanding digital service and business. Quality of the data we are creating and how wisely the data are used- for the welfare of people, to make service prompt and smooth, to foster business and exercise freedoms and build equitable society- bears significance. Together with this, who and how data are controlled is equally significant issue of digital transformation and governance. Retain IT products Although Nepal’s bureaucracy and political leaderships are too traditional and process-oriented, the young generation of IT experts produced from Nepali universities are also globally competitive. But, there is huge gap in our system and university products. Young and energetic IT experts are moving abroad for higher education and works. Why we are not paying heed to them is serious indeed.

Brain drain is appalling aspect of Nepal’s human resources management. Once we become able to retain the IT products, giving them opportunities within home to work, it would obviously contribute to Nepal’s digital transformation. It is also the time to address IT smart young generation’s apathy towards government system. In order to revamp bureaucratic nature and service, the government should capitalize the IT smart young generation and bring changes in the day-to-day works. Mere slogan of ‘digital government’, ‘e-governance’ is not enough, but the major drivers of change must be attracted by our system. Pay heed to experts In this regard, Member Secretary of the E-Governance Commission, Dipesh Bista, points out the need of ‘e-governance blueprint’ in Nepal, which, he claims, would pave a way for integrated system of data.

Once the data generated from various levels- local, province and federal governments, and different public offices are integrated, it would guarantee uniformity and avoid duplication of data collection and management. In a question whether our laws are favourable to the digital transformation, Member Secretary Bista suggested for the legal change so that ‘interoperability’ will be achieved. The data collected from one public office should be usable and implementable to other offices. It largely reduces duplicity and wipes out hassles and saves time. Relating to the hassles meted out to service seekers with the compulsion to stand in line for hours, he suggested that we could adopt two measures- improvement in current system (setting up branches and additional facilities), and reengineering of whole government system. Reengineering of whole system is a long term solution for which the E-Governance Commission was working on e-governance blueprint.

Development long cherished Good governance and development are long cherished dreams in Nepal. Some argue that there are a lot of changes the country made. They are accurate. But are all changes the development? Of course, not. Is the pace of development in Nepal as per people’s expectation and the promises leaderships made? We have no option but to adopt digital governance for good governance, and the good governance is one of the pillars of development. It is time to review the initiatives Nepal has made so far for digital transformation. Identification of gaps in policy and practices and necessary reform in legal, institutional, procedural and practical levels are a must to transform the country digitally. Although the Digital Nepal Framework the government launched was expected to bring reliable change in digital realm, noticeable achievements are still awaited.



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