IT WORLD OF NEPAL
Published in CORE, Annual, 1995/96
Until the early 1970s, computers were more a thing of fantasy for the Nepalese than an everyday tool. The use of computers in Nepal started with the IBM 1401 for the population census of 1971. HMG's Central Bureau of Statistics rented the computer from IBM for RS 30,000 per month. As a result, it took only 20 months to complete the processing of the 1971 census of a population of 11.5 million, as compared to the 1961 census, which took six and a half years to manually process the population of 9.4 million.
Institutional initiative to promote computer awareness and provide computer training began with the government's establishment of the Electronic Data Processing Centre in 1974, renamed the National Computer Centre (NCC) in 1976. The first person to head the NCC was Devi Prasad Chapagain.
In 1979, the Nepal Electricity Authority started using computers. In 1981, NCC purchased the fourth generation computer, ICL 2950/10. The computer could store one million words or numbers, had an input rate of 1,000 cards per minute and an output of 1,130 lines per minute. In the same year, the Civil Engineering faculty of the Institute of Engineering procured micro-computers to launch computer courses.
The history of computer training dates back to 1971, when American experts provided training in AutoCoder programming to operate the IBM 1401 computer. Later, in 1973, Tribhuvan University (TU) and NCC gave FORTRAN language training to about 100 persons. In 1977, four persons were sent to the Asian Institute of Technology (AIT), Bangkok for training. Around the same time, scholarships were offered to Nepali students for courses in computer science under the Colombo Plan.
In 1981, trainees were sent to America and Britain by NCC to learn how to operate ICL computers. In the private sector, MIPS, the first computer vendor company, started to provide computer training in BASIC. In 1982, Data System International (DSI) was established, and trained its staff mainly in COBOL programming. In the same year, Nagarjun Institute started conducting theoretical lectures in COBOL, FORTRAN and BASIC programming languages. NCC began rubbing shoulders with the private sector, and opened a computer training unit around the same time. The computer field was all set to move ahead with leaps and bounds by this time, thanks to the growing participation of the private sector. The Data Documentation Centre, Computer Information Systems and Innovative Computer Systems, emerged in the mid 1980s, and began to compete amongst themselves to cater to the ever-growing number of computer trainees. Besides giving training sessions, these companies also began to sell computers.
While the computer market has witnessed a continuous boom since then, the promotion of computer education in the national education system started only in the early 1990s. The Centre for Curriculum Development, Sanothimi, under the Ministry of Education, designed computer science courses for the 9th and 10th grades in secondary schools. In 1992, eight private schools offered computer science as an optional subject for S.L.C. exams. Only last year, a 10+2 course in computer science was designed by the Ministry of Education and Tribhuvan University also enforced the computer science curriculum for its B.Sc., M.Sc., B.Ed. and M.Ed. levels. Kathmandu University offers admission for B. E. in computer science since last year.
The scenario now includes a lot of computer vendors in the capital, not to mention the mushrooming of computer institutes. The IT world has grown to such a great extent that there are a number of specialised fields under its umbrella. Let's have a brief glimpse of these:
In around 1982, MIPS P. Ltd., the authorised reseller of Apple, became the first computer vendor in Nepal. Apple had a good market from the beginning, but between 1987 and 1989, IBM and its compatibles picked up in the market and began to replace Apple. Now, Apple has only about a 20 percent share of the market.
There are over 50 hardware vendors in Kathmandu at present. Most world class brands of computers are available in Nepal. There has also been an influx of multimedia products. The popularity of PCs in Nepal has led to computer parts dealerships and the sale of assembled computers. Mr. Bijaya Krishna Shrestha, the Chief Engineer of Beltronix Electronics and Computer Engineers, promotes the assembled computers saying that, “branded computers need branded spare parts, which are generally hard to find by the time they wear out as the technology changes.”
Still, there are many problems in the computer hardware business. During import, there are problems at customs. International price fluctuations also make the business risky, since the market is not based on real valuation. Changing government policies have hampered the computer business. Also, our telecommunication lines are expensive and unreliable which makes communications with the suppliers and customers difficult. Bidding for tendors also has its problems, “Technical specifications of tenders are either outdated or incorrect, and instead of accepting bank guarantees, the bidder requires cash transactions,” said Atma Ram Ghimire, Managing Director, Computer Ssystems and Integrated Technology P. Ltd. He further added, “the government policy does not allow vendors to replace spare parts if they fail during warranty.”
Computer awareness in Nepal is increasing tremendously and so is the demand for computers. Retail outlets of international vendors need to be developed to further enhance the computer market. The computer industry is generating more local employment. “The hardware market has definitely risen and become very competitive,” said Satish Lal Acharya, the Managing Director of World Distribution Nepal.
"We will try to maintain pre-stocks of popular brands."
-Yogesh Lal Shrestha
CORE: Hardware vendors have not been able to provide good technical support after sale. Why?
Y.L.S.: We provide support services, but warranty and support are different things. This is not understood by most users. One has to pay an additional fee for support services once the warranty period is over. Another reason is the lack of user awareness. In 70 to 80 percent of the cases, customers call us for help with problems that have arisen out of their own ignorance.
CORE: Why don't you maintain pre-stocks?
Y.L.S.: Since models become obsolete very quickly, we find it difficult to maintain pre-stocks. We have Pentiums but we do not have P6, as there is no demand for them. Our interaction is mainly with the markets of Hong Kong, Singapore and Taiwan. We maintain stocks of relatively old (established) models. Until now, the delivery of goods has been swift. It takes 10 to 14 days to receive our orders. We get CPU consignments by air, whereas monitors are sent by sea. We are also planning to open Computer Land by the end of 1996 or early 1997. There, we will try to maintain pre-stocks of popular brands.
CORE: Do you think the lowest bidder should get the tender for computer supplies?
Y.L.S.: The tender should go to lowest bidder, provided it has the same configuration. We usually advise our customers that while you may save 10 to 20 percent initially by procuring cheap clone computers, you will lose this savings in the end. For example, in terms of power only, brand-name computer save 20 times the power used by clones.
In the early 1980s, technical manpower was available only in the field of electronics. Later, DSI and other training institutes ventured to develop computer manpower. The established hardware vendors were mostly trained at DSI. These vendors then started selling machines and provided warranties for at least a year. The trained personnel did maintenance work as needed under the warranties.
Recent years have seen an unprecedented increase in the number of computer vendors. The demand for computers has greatly increased. Even government organisations have started buying a lot of computers. Vendors started to supply such large numbers of machines that they were unable to handle the maintenance by themselves, and began to search for computer manpower.
The demand for hardware maintenance manpower then resulted in a number of support centre and institutes with computer hardware maintenance courses. Still, the leading hardware vendors continue to be strong providers of hardware maintenance. Now, since organisations are concerned about their machines, they have started to award organisations maintenance contracts and are allotting parts of their budgets to maintenance. However, organisations that award contracts are not always satisfied with their service providers, and constantly switch from one company to another for maintenance contracts.
“The main problem in hardware maintenance is the unavailability of spare parts. Authorised dealers and distributors lack the ability to provide the required spares on time,” says Gagan Pradhan, hardware consultant with Computer Advance Systems.
It is essential that a maintenance provider remains up-to-date so that h/she can manage any new technology without difficulty. The lack of manpower is another constraint in the field.
“The rapid change of technology is pushing us towards maintenance at the card level, which means you just have to replace the card that is not functioning, so I don’t see a bright future for hardware maintenance,” says Pradhan.
“The sellers in Nepal sell only products, not services.”
aren’t there any certified service centres for the popular brands of
machines in Nepal?
If you have to sell the hardware at cheaper prices, you can't extend full support. The price of the product reflects what you get. Users don't seem to realise that service is basically related to cost. Users don't know what type of service they buy along with the product.
The development of any sector in our country is arbitrary. People expect services at par with foreign countries, but try to ignore how much it would have to cost. Services and hardware are separate in other countries. But our users jump into new products without knowing how to handle them.
all the new hardware service training institutes, do you think they
provide quality training?
you think the machines are being turned into guinea pigs in the name of
In general, raw engineers do not have practical knowledge and understanding of this sector. They need proper training before they can provide efficient service in computer hardware maintenance. After we train them, they tend to leave the job for a better one and this creates problems in providing good services. On top of that, even if you can find capable service engineers, you usually cannot hire them because you have to provide services at a very low cost.
The Internet -- the global network of computers -- provides easy and reliable access to information worldwide. E-mail, one of the components of Internet, was practiced independently before the introduction of full Internet services in Nepal.
Nepal's stint with the Internet started with the e-mail services provided by Royal Nepal Academy for Science and Technology (RONAST). The Nepal Forum of Environmental Journalists was also one of the first organisations to have e-mail facilities. Mercantile Office Systems started e-mail services for commercial purposes in June 1994. Later, it opened a separate branch, Mercantile Communications (P) Ltd., which was the only Internet service provider in the country. World Link has become the second private company to provide Internet facilities in Nepal.
Mercantile Communications P. Ltd. started to provide full online access to Internet services and a presence of Nepal on the Internet by providing home pages on July 15, 1995. Mercantile operates via a lease line through Nepal Telecommunications Corporation (NTC) to Singapore. It had around 150 subscribers in January 1996 and most of them International Non-government Organisations (INGOs). Mercantile has also put the two newspapers, The Kathmandu Post and The Independent, on the Internet.
World Link does not have online Internet services like Mercantile. It has duplex dial-up lines, and dials Seattle, USA, every four hours, four times a day. It had around 60 subscribers in January 1996, and most of the subscribers are NGOs. “We provide very cheap and reliable Internet services,” remarked Bijay Jalar, technician at World Link.
The major constraint in expanding Internet services in Nepal, according to the Internet service providers, is the high cost of the leased lines. The unavailability of telephone lines has also posed difficulties in its expansion. High investments are also needed to run Internet services. Since the direct link to V-SAT is very expensive, service providers rely on the services provided by the NTC.
The Internet provides access to oceans of information. At the moment, subscribers can only access the text interface, but in the future, they can expect to have access to the graphical browser interface as well. Mac users can also connect to the Internet. The Internet has some darker sides as well, such as the flow of pornographic information, and some Islamic countries have banned the Internet.
Subscribers to Internet services are private organisations, NGOs, INGOs and individuals. With the Internet, one could say that Nepal is no longer landlocked, but LAN locked.
"The Internet is the ultimate expression of free speech."
-Sanjib Raj Bhandari
you think that the Internet will bring unwanted influence in our
society, since the government will be unable to control the information
and how will the Internet become affordable to the public?
Regarding its availability to the general public, in Nepal, probably never. With a per capita income of a few hundred dollars, the general public cannot afford to buy a computer, and the Internet is out of the question. Which public are you talking about? If you are talking about the users who already have computers, the cost will become affordable if one of the two scenarios above happens.
you have any programme to open your branches to provide Internet
services out of Kathmandu?
In the early 1980s, DSI had a Novell network with an NCR minicomputer, 10 to 12 computers and a UNIX network with 10 terminals. The rest of the machines they used were all stand alone computers. Around the same time, NCC also had a Novell networking system with an ICL terminal processor and 20 computers.
The benefits of networking have begun to be felt due to increasing user awareness, and organisations have started switching to networking. Most of the banking systems have a networking environment and use Novell Netware software often. In the training field, one or two computer institutes are using a networking environment, for example, Computer Information Systems (CIS). INGOs have been using networking mainly for communications and e-mail. Financial sectors have made use of it for file sharing. Most of the broad-sheet daily newspapers have also switched to networking for efficient time management.
UNIX networking also has a scope in Nepal. The big commercial banks are thinking of switching to a UNIX environment. For small databases, user friendliness, file and printing sharing, Novell is better. For large databases and applications UNIX is better. “DOS is more popular in Nepal than UNIX, so Novell is adopted more often than UNIX networking due to its user friendliness,” said Bodh Sharma, Managing Director of Computer Network Services.
There are five Certified Novell Engineers (CNE) and one Certified Novell Instructor (CNI) in Nepal. They are mostly trained from outside the country. A CNI teaches CNEs. Novell's policy is to limit CNIs but maximise CNEs, so that they can support Novell networking. Recently, Computer Knowledge Centre has also begun to train CNEs. They have initiated a fourth batch of CNEs, which numbers around 40 so far. “Being a CNE does not necessarily guarantee that he/she is capable of networking independently. A lot of experience is also required. Any person can be superior to a CNE if he has worked in the field of networking for 4 to 5 years,” said Vimal Kaji Tamrakar, CNE and director of World Distribution Nepal.
Of course, the main problem faced by this sector is affordability. Investments of thousands of dollars are needed. People are interested, but the cost factor is a main constraint, not to mention the complicated system of networking in an organisation. “The lack of client awareness of the benefits of networking is another hindrance,” added Tamrakar. “I feel a lack of technical support in the field of networking, and after a networking upgrade, the support is harder to come by. Due to financial constraints, users cannot afford training, so the networking solutions provider has to support them online, which is difficult,” explained Sharma.
After installing a network, equipment will be used efficiently. Networks also help for sharing expensive resources with the use of file and printer sharing. “Networking provides security and will be a cost effective solution for organisations,” added Tamrakar.
"When your organisation expands, you need networking."
networking an organisation improve efficiency or create a managerial and
there any specific requirements for training CNEs here?
are the benefits of Wide Area Networking (WAN) in Nepal?
If you have a head office in Kathmandu, and branches in Birgunj, Biratnagar, Pokhara, etc., you can get online information with WAN. For an efficient management information system, such as for government tax collections, WAN is a must. Banks like Grindlays, Nabil and Himalayan Bank use this technology.
Before Dina International become the distributor for Microsoft Inc. in 1990, consumers mainly imported software from Singapore. Software was widely copied for three reasons: lack of awareness of copyright laws, unavailability of a variety of software in the local market and unaffordability.
Dina International spent about a year developing software know-how and marketing Microsoft products in Nepal. Unlimited Software Nepal entered the software market in 1992 with the distributorship of the Wordstar package (Micropro) and later, with Microsoft Inc. The company helped to generate a greater awareness about using genuine software.
The software growth rate is good for a developing country like Nepal. Major portions of software sales are for Microsoft products. Major buyers of software are mostly multilateral organisations, public corporations and foreign-aided projects, which contribute to around 67 percent of the total sales. Individual buyers comprise only around three percent of the market.
Software marketing is a highly risky business in terms of investment. “The main problem is that users tend to copy software rather than buying it,” said Bikesh Shrestha, CEO of Himalayan Computer Center. “users usually do not have adequate information about the utility of a product and get confused before making a choice,” he added. Shrestha also suggests that hardware vendors should push their market outside Kathmandu and come up with innovative schemes like demonstrating the use of computers.
The investor needs to synchronise his investments with the risks involved in this sector. There is also a scope for exporting software, but the local product must be of international standard. Though the software business is difficult, it is also challenging, according to local businessmen.
"The Government should control pirated software."
training be included with a software sale? If so, do you have adequate
Right now, we have certified manpower for products only, such as Windows NT. Microsoft has also given us Marketing and Sales Training (MAST). They have provided us Technet as a trouble-shooting CD for customer support, which is updated every month. Moreover, Microsoft software is self-explanatory.
the limitations of Nepali consumers, can you request special price
editions for local consumers?
Our market share is small. The total sales of Windows 95 was 80 million units in 1995, whereas we sold less than 2,000 units. For these reasons, it is unlikely that we will be able to have special pricing, but we are trying to anyway.
have heard that Windows 3.1 pirated versions are updated with the
genuine version of Windows 95. Doesn’t
this violate the anti-piracy law? What measures should be taken to
Software Development and Services
NCC for the first time developed software in 1971 for processing data for the population census. Foreign experts trained Nepalese in AutoCoder programming and developed software for the IBM 1401 mainframe at NCC. The ICL machine came in 1981. Around the same time, the private sector started coming up with various data processing services. The credit for software sector should go to the Data Systems International (DSI). DSI, established in 1982, developed and exported software. In 1984, five Nepalese from DSI went to California for nine months to develop software for the Vivid Software Company. Later, in 1988, DSI got a contract from Little Computer Services to develop software for the American Army. At that time, 25 to 30 programmers were working in the US and 30 to 35 in Nepal to complete the project in a year.
There are a number of companies in
the market who develop software. The major companies among them are
Mercantile Office Systems (MOS), Professional Computer System, Multisoft
Computer Consult and DesignCo. The main areas of software development
are business software, such as accounting, payroll, sales and
financial/banking software. MOS has recently announced the client/server
version of Pumori, PumoriPlus, banking software developed by MOS with
audio/video effects. “The future of software development will switch
towards the banking sector, hotels and the insurance companies,” said
Prakash Bajracharya, software expert, MOS.
At present, though there is no official record of it, the Nepal Team for Software Development has been exporting software to Japan. Lack of exposure of local software developers/service providers to the global market has been a constraining factor towards the export of software/services. MOS and DesignCo are participating in CeBit '96 in March, but participation in such events has been inadequate. Furthermore, the direction of our software development has gone off-course, because most of the software is designed to cater to the needs of the local market rather than the export market.
“The software development sector is not flourishing, due to the lack of a proper government strategy. Users are not aware of software. There is difficulty in marketing the software. We need not fear international competition, because local software developers will always be there for after-sales support,” said Bajracharya.
“The lack of coordination among the different local companies made it difficult for us to work together on a big project,” said Manjil Joshi, programmer, Multisoft.
Generally, international bidders are required for a major software development tender. This policy needs to be changed. INGOs and our own government need to be convinced that there is enormous potential for the export of software.
"We have yet to cater to long-term projects."
- Suresh K. Regmi
you believe that software development has a lot of potential in Nepal?
If so, how and why?
The tradition here has been for every graduate or post-graduate in computer science to open his/her own company. What we lack is the ability to put our efforts together to improve efficiency.
isn’t outsourcing possible in Nepal?
software upgrading happening here?
The history of computer training dates back to the introduction of training in Apple II by MIPS, in 1981. Sometime later, courses in BASIC, COBOL and FORTRAN were taught at Nagarjun Institute using chalk and talk only. In 1982, Data Systems International started training its staff, and developed technical manpower of around 75 persons. Data Documentation Centre, Computer Information Systems and Innovative Computer Systems came into the picture later to provide commercial computer training.
Visit any nook and cranny of the capital, and you will find one or two computer training institutes. Though the exact number of such institutes is not available, it is estimated that there are more than 100 in the Kathmandu Valley. The main cause of the growth of these institutes is the lack of standardisation. In addition, there has been little research in the development of training packages. No survey to assess the needs of the local market has been conducted. The Council of Technical Education and Vocational Training (CTEVT), a nodal agency under the Ministry of Education, lacks the jurisdiction as well as the specialisation to monitor computer education in Nepal. CAN initiated attempts to categorise the institutes on the basis of their physical facilities, quality of their trainers and the training courses, but since most of the training institutes are out of CAN's umbrella, the survey is incomplete.
“The trainees are totally confused about what courses are appropriate, and the institutes are fooling around with their careers. Even the government has not paid attention to this sector. CAN still needs to do a lot to develop this sector,” said Bimal Kumar Sharma, former president of CAN.
Bikesh Shrestha, CEO of Himalayan
Computer Center agreed, “Good training, enough handouts, a lot of
software and hardware demonstrations, the lending of computer magazines
to trainees, good and experienced teachers and sufficient facilities
help in the success of a computer institute."
"With the blossoming of new institutes, competition has grown."
-Juddha Bahadur Gurung
is it that newly trained students can't handle the things they have just
If a trainee does an integrated training package like 5 in 1, s/he will not have enough time to learn the subject matter in detail. If you don't have enough time to spend on training, such a package can help you. Otherwise, joining individual programmes is better for excelling in a particular field.
there any conditions that should be fulfilled for opening a computer
did you decide to work with NIIT. Does this mean that you have failed
among domestic competition?
NIIT will conduct three courses of six months each. The basic thrust of NIIT has been for students to take computer training courses along with their regular education. This will make them competent in the labour market.
Multimedia was introduced in Nepal in the late 1980s. Computer animation started in Nepal in 1989. In the early days, hand-drawn animation was used, and then flat 2-dimensional animation came. Now, 3-dimensional animation is used.
Multimedia, an interactive mode of media in which sound, visuals and text are intermingled, can be used in TV advertisements, audio-visual teaching and for many other purposes. In Nepal, beer companies and multinational giants like Coke and Pepsi use multimedia in their advertisements. Nepal TV has also initiated the use of multimedia in their programmes.
Industrial iron industries and rubber tyres have also started using multimedia in their advertisements. A group of animation producers are now working on a project called Nepal-96, an interactive CD-ROM version of any and all information about Nepal.
There are only a handful of multimedia producers in Kathmandu. Creative Touch, Jawalakhel and Design Definition, Dhoka Tole are involved in 3-D animation, and Jivan Multimedia and A-One Audio Video, New Road are involved in flat 2-D animation and titling.
For a multimedia producer, the main limitation is the initial high cost of hardware. A 10-minute animation programme can take up a 100MB storage capacity. Also, marketing the product is difficult. The cost of the product is usually high, due to the amount of time required to complete a project. The advertisers are generally unaware of multimedia and its applications, so the market is small in Nepal. “Client awareness and budget are the main constraints for an animation producer,” said Nirmal Sherchan, Creative Director of Design Definition, the winner of the best film, The Egg Head, at the recent international film festival in Kathmandu. “I developed the film on a PC and it contains portions with computer animation,” highlighted Sherchan.
The Star T.V. network has greatly helped in generating multimedia awareness in Nepal, and the future of multimedia seems promising. Employment opportunities can be generated for a number of youth who have talent in this field. International multimedia orders are needed to speed up the development of this sector, and for this, like in every other field, multimedia professionals need to be more dedicated. “Given the time and effort, anyone can have design creativity. If a few people work in this field, there is enough work. The field still needs to grow,” Sherchan added.
“We need teamwork and coordination to produce multimedia successfully.”
- Karun Thapa
there are different commercial media in Nepal such as print media, radio
and TV, none are flourishing. In this context, why do we need another
communications media such as multimedia?
kind of skills are necessary to become a successful multimedia producer?
would you recommend to generate multimedia awareness in Nepal?
Computer use in Nepal began with Apple II computers, not with IBM compatibles. Afterwards, Apple IIe computers came. Nowadays, Macintoshes are widely used for desktop applications.
MIPS introduced Apple computers in Nepal in the early 1980s. Innovative Computer Systems split from MIPS a decade ago, and started to work independently as an Apple reseller. In 1994, Mac Support Professionals was formed by the employees of MIPS and emerged as yet another Apple reseller. Other key players in promoting the use of Mac computers are Odin International, the authorised distributor for Nepal, and CAS Trading House.
Everything is integrated in a Macintosh computer from the beginning so it is expensive. Compatibility is another negative factor in Nepal. If you have four IBM computers and want to add another, you cannot add a Macintosh. Spare parts are not easily available because of dealership problems, and since spare parts are expensive, there is a difficulty in maintaining stocks.
The Mac operating system is superior to and more reliable than that of IBM compatibles; it rarely crashes. Mac’s main advantage is for graphics applications. For example, IUCN generated a Macintosh-based biodiversity system which has effective sound and movies.
“The management and policy of the Apple headquarters are responsible for the state of the Apple market in the world now. Even though Apple’s operating system is superior to IBM’s, Apple could not take the advantage of it because of its poor marketing strategies,” said Ashok Bhattachan, Managing Director of MIPS.
The successful introduction of PowerPC, based on RISC architecture, resulted in a surge of professional users and revenues. This resulted in application software for PowerPC becoming widely available and cheaper. PowerPC-based machines are also advantageous because they operate in both Mac OS and OS/2 environments. If PowerPC-based machines become affordable, they will have a promising future.
“We have a shortage of Apple technical manpower.”
-Gyanu Shanker Sainju
have not been able to sell Macintoshes other than for DTP purposes. Is
it the weakness of the vendors or the machines themselves?
Apart from DTP purposes, Mac is used in Nepal for film editing (multimedia) and standard control programmes by the Nepal Bureau of Standards and Metrics. It is also used for digital recording.
we have applications developed for Macintoshes in Nepal?
We are working currently on a Nepali spell checker. We are also working to develop clipart of Lord Ganesh, Kalash, etc.
Macintoshes were the first computers to be introduced in Nepal, why
isn’t there sufficient and reliable support?
Geographical Information System (GIS)
GIS dates back to 1973 with the establishment of the Nepal Remote Sensing Centre, which was set up in the beginning in the Department of Forests, with the assistance of USAID.
GIS is a facility for storing and manipulating geographic information in a computer. Typically, a GIS can be defined as a computer system that can hold and use data describing places on the earth's surface. With the help of maps and data, one can formulate plans directly on a computer. With the consideration of the physical and socioeconomic factors of a certain place, one can conduct prefeasibility studies for a project. The computer provides speed and accuracy in the planning process.
A number of institutions now use GIS. ICIMOD supports GIS activities and helps train local manpower. It is helping Tribhuvan University, which has been designated through the National Planning Commission (NPC) as a GIS focal point for Nepal, in their GIS training programmes and other GIS activities.
The Department of Forestry is mapping the eastern and western Terai with the help of FINNIDA. They are planning to develop maps of the whole country and put them in GIS. APROSC in Kathmandu, the Institute of Forestry, in Pokhara, and the Institute of Agriculture, in Rampur are using GIS for research and development in agriculture and forests. Government agencies like the Department of Civil Aviation, the Department of Housing and Physical Planning and the Department of Roads are also showing their interest in GIS. The Nepal Agricultural Research Center (NARC) has started soil-mapping of the whole country. Similarly, all GTZ projects in Nepal have introduced GIS as an integral component.
Data availability is the main problem for GIS, but is being solved to some extent thanks to the Royal Nepal army. “Even if data is available, the quality of data is another problem for GIS,” said Birendra Bajracharya, GIS expert with ICIMOD. Lack of funding and trained manpower are the other difficulties in this field. The lack of government priority is another constraint.
We can also get in the international market if we develop this sector. The Nepalese, due to their patience, are considered excellent at the job of digitising, which is tedious work. At present, the private sector is doing this job to some extent. If the government institutionalises this, it will be one of the best foreign exchange earners. Countries like Japan, Germany and others are interested in handing out this job. Indian cities like Bangalore and Hyderabad are doing it. There is a probability that we can also do it, provided that we develop the necessary infrastructure. Since it is landlocked, Nepal can excel in planning through GIS only, according to the experts.
On the other hand, if we can develop GIS as a smallscale industry, it may become a reliable income-generating job for our unemployed educated. One can draw bank loans to procure a digitiser which costs roughly US$ 5,000, and after a short training period one can earn up to Rs. 200,000 per year. This work can be done from anywhere; one does not need to be based in Kathmandu. It can even be done with a solar power. It may look a dream now, but it will materialise.
"The National Planning Commission should assign others the task of updating the database."
the latest mapping technology available improved the accuracy of our old
We have been using the Land Reforms Management Programme (LRMP) maps since 1978. There has been a great change in land use since then, and there is much room for improvement. We need to ask all the new projects coming into Nepal to put their information in a digital format so that it can be updated. The LRMP brought out land use maps of Nepal in 1978, but they haven't been able to update the maps until now because of the lack of resources and manpower. Had it been in digital format, it could have been updated at least every 5 to 10 years.
geographical information is constantly changing, who will update the
system, and how?
The NPC has almost completed eight districts. Next, they are targeting 40 more districts. Planning so far has been of a top-down nature. Data needs to be incorporated at a district level so that it can reflect local problems in the planning. The NPC should assign others the task of updating the database. Database updating is a gradual process; if we do not initiate it now, we will be left far behind.
type of GIS setup do you have at ICIMOD?
Management Information System (MIS)
MIS provides necessary information to management in an efficient way. It enables instant information retrieval. This has made the computer-based MIS synonymous with MIS itself. An MIS consultant can select office management software, office automation software, and hardware and advise management to make certain decisions.
“The job of an MIS consultant is to advise 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,” said Om Rajbhandari, Subregional Information Manager, UNDP.
The NCC, Nepal Police and other organisations are also developing communication systems within the organisations and between their different units to develop an online database. The army has a good setup. If it is affordable, government offices will also adopt it. There is no office that can escape this system. While a small office can be manageable with the help of files and folders, once a company grows, efficient management is necessary.
But there are still problems not only in collecting information but in processing them to see if they are right, so information update is a continuous process that has to be done regularly. MIS is not flourishing in Nepal due to the financial constraints, user awareness and a lack of technical support.
A manager who is not aware of MIS can manage information efficiently with the help of MIS experts, although knowledge about the operating system is helpful, though not always possible. Since information technology is changing so quickly, it is almost impossible for one person to keep track of the latest developments. That's why an expert has to assist the manager.
"Slowly but steadily, MIS is growing."
is the role of an MIS officer?
is the status of MIS implementation at the government offices?
a boss is computer illiterate, how can a young professional convince him
of the benefits of using MIS?
Take the IT park, for example. Initially the discussion on setting up an IT park was confined to a single room. People like Dr. Ram Sharan Mahat, the minister of finance, who are well educated and widely traveled became convinced of it and it is going to be realised shortly. So, you have to keep on trying to influence key persons by assisting them and not by opposing them. It will take time, it is a very hard process. But once we show them they will be convinced.
In the earlier days of computer technology, use of computers was mostly confined to the National Computer Centre, Data Systems International or the Data and Documentation Centre. Except for the computer professionals trained to do certain jobs on computers, computer users were scarce in Nepal until the early 1990s. The IT field grew rapidly, and now, computer users are found almost everywhere: trained, untrained and professionals. The private sector is more responsible for the growth of computer awareness and training. The launching of new banks, finance companies, insurance companies, and computerisation of government organisations increased the number of computer users tremendously.
Ninety percent of the computer users are using computers for documentation which has definitely increased their efficiency at work. Besides that, a small group of users are making use of computers for specific purposes such as GIS, multimedia, educational purposes, information and communications.
Users need to update their knowledge along with the development of new technologies that come along. The local computer training institutes usually do not provide training in a new field of computer use of such as multimedia, Internet, or GIS. However, ICIMOD, and the Department of Geography, TU is training people in GIS, and World Distribution Nepal plans to introduce training in ORACLE.
There is no users groups to share the problems and exchange experiences among themselves as there are no consumer cooperatives or groups in other sectors. “The private sector must initiate the formation of a users group in Nepal. Limited UNIX users like us are finding it difficult to support a UNIX environment,” said M.S. Kathayat, a UNIX user.
“Users basic problem is ignorance”
isn't there a users group in Nepal?
Computer Association Nepal (CAN) should initiate a users group. Business interests should not shadow such groups. The time and place for such meetings should be convenient and participants could be charged to make the programmes sustainable.
are cases when a user unnecessarily calls service providers for simple
faults on their computers. Why are users dependent upon others?
is it that a user is ready to spend money for a computer, but not for
optimistic are you about the opening of renowned training institutes
from India in Nepal?
In the earlier days, desktop publishing (DTP) was initiated by MIPS and Innovative Computer Systems, and Mac-based Devanagari-based publishing started after the development of a Devnagari font for Macintosh by Karun Thapa in 1984. At that time, Devnagari fonts were also being developed by Muni Shakya. These font developments in Devnagari enhanced DTP work.
IBM-based DTP started in 1989, with programmes such as Time Works and Ventura. Still, Mac-based DTP is dominant due to the unavailability of good Devnagari fonts for IBM. In the recent years have started to be used more for DTP. The new dailies, such as Himalaya Times, have started to use IBM for DTP.
A lot of investment is required to start a DTP house. Publishing houses generally do not realise the potential of computers, and use them only as typewriters. Personnel in this field also lack design knowledge and creativity. This is partially due to the publishers, because they do not demand high quality design, and instead take only what a DTP house gives them.
But this does not necessarily mean that there are no good publishing houses in Nepal. In recent years there has been an establishment of good publishing houses. As a result, we are in a position to restrict the flow of publishing work to foreign countries,which has been caused by the lack of quality publishing. Furthermore, due to cheaper manpower, we can start doing publishing work for developed countries, and this is a potential source of expanding the DTP field in Nepal.
"We should sell creativity, not the mechanical services."
CORE: How will DTP houses
survive in the long-run now that organisations can do their own
You can see that the cost of producing a sheet of paper may vary from Rs. 10 per page to Rs 1,000 per page. This means that you are selling your creativity, not the mechanical services only.
If an organization has the need of publishing a newsletter, and one or two books a year, hiring a full time professional may not be worth for it. So, outsourcing of such job to a professional hand/house will be beneficial to the entire DTP industry. If clients do their work themselves, the quality of the product may not be up to the standard. In such a situation, the professional service providers will not get enough work too. This will bring a lose-lose situation for both the clients as well as the service providers.
are the requirements for a quality DTP house?
Other side of the coin is that you should know what is to be done. It’s again the matter of creativity, For example, if you are catering to an elite group, you have to take into account of the things like color combination and their taste. But most of the time our DTP professionals can’t deliver the message perfectly.
If we talk of the investment side, setting up a DTP house may range any where in between Rs 150,000 to Rs five or six million at current prices. It depends on what type of DTP house you want to build up.
DTP is a major sector in computing, why has it not flourished in Nepal?
Since not-professionals are delivering low-quality services at cheaper prices, a common client comes to believe this is what DTP can offer. Worse, most of the DTP providers themselves are ignorant about its strength. If we fail to provide quality job, foreign consultants will come in and take away the cream of the computer industry. This may also give the impression that Nepal does not give the impression that Nepal does not have manpower and capability to do quality DTP.
So, I personally feel that organizing some kind of DTP exhibition to show our capabilities will help boost the industry. At the same time we must be more serious to excel the job, rather than making quick bucks.