Management Information: Limit and Extent
Gaining New Ability
Export of IT Services
Data Communication in Nepal
The role of IT: Efficiency or Burden?
Sharing Multimedia Endeavor
role of IT : efficiency or burden?
Published in CORE, Nov/Dec, 1995
Himalayan kingdom has not been spared from the influence of Information
Technology (IT). Though IT has only been in Nepal for around ten
years, it has grown rapidly to become a field for potential development.
Unlike in most fields of development where the public sector is the
driving force, the private sector has played a major role in the
development of IT. Both private organizations and government
offices have begun to use IT to boost their efficiency and productivity.
But is the adoption of the latest technology helping these organizations
or increasing their financial and management burdens?
Offices must maintain harmony among
computer hardware, software and their technical support and maintenance
to ensure the successful use of IT. Since the latest technology in
the international market can be easily accessed in Kathmandu, the
availability of solid technical support has become the primary factor in
determining the success and efficiency of IT in an organization.
Unfortunately, technical support is
hard to come by in Nepal, and organizations suffer as a result.
Either computer vendors are not capable enough of supporting their
customers, or customers expect too much from their vendors. In
this issue, CORE Magazine delves into this problem. We have
selected the UNDP office in Kathmandu as a case study. We will
look into the state of automation in this UN agency, and the services it
receives from the local market. Of course, we have also noted the
grievances of both the parties providing and receiving services.
with Mr. Om Rajbhandari
Om Rajbhandari currently holds the position of SRIM
(sub-regional information manager) at the UNDP office in Kathmandu.
In all 117 UN offices, there are 20 SRIMs. Their job is to
exchange "information between SRIMs and with headquarters,"
and to maintain UNDP standard throughout the world.
Rajbhandari joined Data Systems
International(DSI) in 1982 and moved to Mercantile before landing his UN
job. We interviewed Mr. Rajbhandari about the automation in his
office and his assessment of the services provided by local vendors.
Excerpts from the interview follow:
is your role in the UNDP office?
I advise the management on the entire office
automation process. This includes users training to increase
productivity, system analysis of business processes in each section, and
in-house and external source database setup. (is this your
meaning?) I also support office automation at the Bhutan UNDP. I
visit their office once a year, and give reports on both countries to
our headquarters in New York. Every quarterly, I inform headquarters of
my plans and activities and receive instructions.
did you start your job at the UNDP?
When we started office automation in 1990, I trained
most of the staff, but was faced with hardware limitations. For
that reason, my first aim was to flood the UNDP with computers.
Eventually, even those people who initially did not want computers
requested them at their desks. I trained them first to use word
processing, and only after a year did their fear of computers diminish.
Later, I started to provide both
in-house and outside training, in organizations like Sama and
Mercantile. The UNDP eventually began to use corporate software like
e-mail. We have come a long way, but still have a long way to go.
is the UNDP procedure for the purchase of hardware and software?
Do you give priority to buying from local vendors?
We are allowed to buy from anywhere, and do not
necessarily give priority to local vendors. Initially, we got our
equipment directly from New York. In the last five or six years,
however, we have started to buy from local vendors. This is
advantageous because we also get technical support from them (during
warranty). If I find that the local vendors do not provide
adequate support, I can advise my management to buy from outside.
However, while outside purchases are cheaper, they are risky because
sometimes the equipment does not work.
These days, we mostly encounter
problems in networking. About 50% of hardware problems are user
problems. These problems could be reduced if a small training was given
to users. Such training needs to be negotiated with the service
does the UNDP change its hardware service providers every year?
All of the hardware companies in Kathmandu lack a
sufficient pool of well-informed personnel. For example, for both
networking and hardware problems, Mercantile has an excellent support
team, but perhaps they have more clients than they can attend to.
We need our problems solved immediately (within one or two hours) at
UNDP; my staff cannot stop working because a computer is down.
Mercantile cannot respond to our calls for half a day, one day or even
two or three days sometimes. To minimize computer downtime, I requested
that Mercantile provide us with a full-time support person. They
could not comply, so we opted for a smaller vendor, Elite. They
provided fairly good service, but then we had a misunderstanding and had
to switch to CAS Trading House. However, CAS began to have
problems after the division of the company. They have one or two good
people, but they cannot spend all of their time here. They have assigned
one person to UNDP, but he can only do limited work on-site.
specific improvements are required of the local service houses to meet
the expectations of their customers?
I do not expect every person assigned to the UNDP to
know everything. In an organization like ours, where there is e-mail
communication, network communication, different brands of computers,
different users' requirements, and software made and used exclusively
for us, I do not expect to receive excellent support. Since our
system includes two kinds of networks and 70 interconnected computers,
an outsider needs six or seven months to become familiar with it and to
be able to recommend solutions to problems as they arise. CAS
personnel can quickly fix problems with HP or Compaq computers, but have
difficulties fixing other brands.
I am aware that it is impossible to
get a "complete" person. I want a person who can respond
to problems in the office automation, diagnose and fix them immediately,
if able. Otherwise, the equipment must be sent to the workshop,
and even then it may not be fixed. In these cases, I send the
broken equipment to the local suppliers who can fix it quickly and at a
are your requirements in hiring equipment and services?
We want a contract that does not require us to use a
service contractor to repair equipment, and that allows us to divert
equipment to other places that will do the repairs quickly. This
helps us to minimize our downtime. They should also control their
database. This implies that they should know the location? of the
repair works sent to other organizations, when it will be done, and when
to pick it up. (I don't understand this) The most important
objectives of the service house should be to minimize computer downtime
I have a hard time finding quick
service. My management demands a lot from me, and they want
immediate service for a downed computer. I think it is difficult
for an outside vendor to understand the demanding nature of a UN office.
you heard about the local vendors' complaints, especially regarding the
bureaucratic nature of the UNDP?
Yes! I admit that the UN is bureaucratic; decisions
are not flexible. They have to be made through the proper channels and
procedures, and this often results in delay. Vendors mostly
complain about payment delays. We understand why vendors are
dissatisfied, and are trying our best to minimize our delays. We
used to take months to process our payments, but now we have come down
to four or five working days.
exactly do you seek from local vendors?
Although we do not consider the local service
providers to be inefficient, they are still not able to meet UN
standards. Whenever we ask for new contract bids, everybody bids,
including the companies that have previously separated from us.
They still want our business. We choose the service proposals ( or
equipment contracts? unclear, because the following paragraph seems to
address service) that are the most cost-efficient and that meet our
We are more flexible about service.
For regular maintenance, we use the person assigned to the UNDP from CAS.
If the work exceeds the capability of that person, I ask him whether the
repairs can be done at his workshop. Then, if I am certain that
the problem cannot be repaired at the workshop, I send the equipment to
the supplier. This procedure is not a breach of contract. (whose?)
I decide where the equipment will be repaired, and in 90% of the cases,
it goes to the contractor. Only in rare cases is it diverted.
you also thought of partial contracts?
I look for people who can fill an advisory position
amongst technical staff, and work with both hardware and software.
I am trying to find more people that can provide technical support for
software, especially. I also look for people who can fill
administration positions and technical support positions for hardware.
Ideally, I require a person who can diagnose problems with hardware, has
expertise in software and can handle administration too.
(This section is very unclear to me.... do you mean it as I have
written, or do you mean, "what are his priorities when he takes a
new job?" If my first guess is correct, then you need to
specify what type of position he is hiring for, and where... at the UNDP?
...or as a consultant for the UNDP?)
Have you also thought of
We are currently thinking about
sub-contracting (with service providers?). Its main advantage is
that is enables us to boost our efficiency. However, it is
difficult to coordinate between different contractors, and people often
disagree over whether problems are hardware- or software-based.
With careful coordination, sub-contracting could be beneficial.
Below, we provide a service
evaluation by the UNDP office of their past and present service
|Mercantile Office System
||1992 - 1993
||1993 - 1994
|CAS Trading House
||1994 - 1995