Country to a High-Tech Track
Published in CORE, Jul/Aug, 95
Middle East has oil, Nepal has vast hydel potential. The water may be
free, but unfortunately everything else that is required to harness it
costs massive amount of money: dams, roads, generating equipment,
transmission lines. Carpet, ready-made garments and tourism have
Generated employment to some extent, but there is no sector in Nepal
offering adequate employment to the educated manpower. How can Nepal
survive in the long run?"
There is a great shortage of computer
professionals in the world but Nepal is in the process of developing a
surplus of computer manpower. Because even doctors and engineers are
today unemployed in Nepal, the coming generation seems to have primarily
switched-to computer education. Where will be the jobs for them?”
These are the words of Mr.
Bijaya Krishna Shrestha who has been working in the field of
electronics and computer in Nepal for the last the last two decades. He
is the founder of Beltronix, a leading electronics and computers
engineering company. "When I started, only a few computer
existed in Nepal: Data Systems International, MlPS, Mercantile. Some of
these companies used to consult Beltronix on matters dealing with
electronics", Mr. Shrestha the father of three sons, recalls his
past. After five-six years of establishment of Beltronix, he entered
into the computer industry to expand his business. “Being involved in
only one sector in Nepal, it is really hard to survive”, he says. In
1992, Beltronix opened up a branch in Patan.
of Software Services
“NEPAL shoudl give priority to the export of
software services”, Mr. Shestha gives his opinion. “ I hardly
foresee the traditional forms of development working in Nepal. Computer
software services could be the answer for the rapid development of
Nepal. "He realizes that Nepal should initially emphasize on
development of software services rather than software export which
requires specialized manpower, much more efforts and wide experience.
Examples of computer services are: data entry, digitization, GIS and
DT.P. "In the Third World countries, labor rate is low and
that comparative advantage needs to be exploited. By doing labor
intensive work of Western computer companies such as typing text of
'Help' file and DTP work of software manual, we' can work in tandem with
those companies and solve our unemployment and underemployment
“We can take an example of
Singapore. Although it is a sea-locked, resource starved country of the
size of Kathmandu valley, it made a target of becoming an information
technology island and has become the third richest country of the world
in dollar reserves. I think we' have much to learn from Singapore",
the chief engineer of Beltronix with valuable working experiences at
National Semiconductor Corp., Santa Clara, California, USA, and General
land, Illinois, Electric Corporation, Cleveland IISA, suggests.
"In the SAARC region, Nepal is
growing as the preferred centre for regional activities. We should try
to capitalize on this strength and build on it further. Today's
satellite, telecommunications and computer technology finally frees us
from the shackles of the problems steaming from landlockness of our
country. However, the role of Nepal. Tele-communications Corporation
becomes very crucial", he suggests.
He was a member of the non-government
initiated task force for the Development of Informatics, formed under
the Vice Chancellor of RONAST. The taskforce also conducted a field
survey in Bangalore, India. "That trip completely changed my
perspective on the computer software and services sector. It made me
realize the potential of this sector as the key to the development of
Nepal. Nepal should reorient its priorities towards this." He
shares his impressions.
“Taskforce explored the potential of software development and software
services in Nepal. The National Planning Commission was very supportive
and had even undertaken a joint site-selection survey. The former
government had allocated Rs. ten crores for the development of
Technology Park. Unfortunately the government changed and we are back to
square-one. Unless political stability comes, the idea is on hold, the
economy is on hold and even the whole country is on hold", he
Policies for Import of Computers
Born on 7th Nov.,
1948 in Kathmandu. He was Senior Cambridge student from St. Xaviers and
a board 3rd in I.Sc. from Amrit Science. How does he feel about the
government policy for import of computers?
"In the past, computers were a controlled commodity with limited quotas
on which the government collected premiums by auctioning off the import
license. After liberalization, open general license system has been in
practice as a result of which the import of computers into Nepal went up
fourfold and is still rising. However the valuation process of import
items is not at all realistic, not reflecting the dynamic situation
peculiar to electronics and computers where things get bigger and better
but cheaper very fast. Government officials fail to understand this, as
in every other case, prices go up from general inflation or currency
There are two
types of computer vendors in Nepal. One represents an international
company and promotes its brands in Nepal and the Other brings in
computer parts assembles a computer and sells them as assembled or clone
What is Beltronix doing regarding the
representation of a brand of computer? "Having the reputation of a
solid engineering service company, we are not eager to join the rat race
between different brands and push only a particular brand on our
customers just to meet the quota. We are more interested in tailoring
our offerings to the needs of our customers. Furthermore branded
computers eventually need branded spare parts, which are generally hard
to find by the time they wear out.”
"The West call afford to dispose
their computers as the technology advances and buy new ones. But in
country like Nepal with scarce resources, throwing computers away after
using it for a couple of years is unthinkable. This is also true with
laptops and notebooks. Therefore we feel that fully tested computers
with completely interchangeable parts are a much better investment in
the Nepalese context", the Chief Engineer of Beltronix stresses.
Education and Training Institutes
Every corner of the country saw the emergence
of computer training institutes over the last five years. But have these
institutes been successful in producing qualified, trained work force?
How does the graduate from University of Detroit Michigan, USA (1971) in
Bachelor of Electrical Engineering feel about this?
"There are always good and bad
sides to anything. The private sector is responding with numerous
training institutes which is good because there is a great demand and
need for such training course among the job holders and job seekers.
However, the potential student at these computer institutes is confused
by their conflicting claims. Students have no idea which courses they
should take or how much to pay for the quality. So there is a
requirement of standardization and gradation of these institutes.
"Mr. Shrestha has a Master of Business Administration (M.B.A.) from
Southern Illinois (University, Carbondale, Illinois, IISA(1972). He
perceives, "This is entirely a new for the government to handle.
Also, trying to put absolute control over the system can make the
matters worse. For instance, if Tribhuvan University or Ministry of
Education was given responsibility, then it may instead ruin the market.
"He further expresses, "the
government could put in voluntary standardization package for the
training institutes like 'Nepal Standard' system which is not mandatory.
Government has appointed Council for Technical Education and Vocational Training (CTEVT) to formulate polices for this sector but being a new
organization itself they seem to be covering other areas first. CAN has
a committee working on this sector. It had organized a seminar on
Computer Education and Training, which also discussed the issues of
quality control and standardization." "Computer literacy has
become inevitable. In the formal sector we have seen St-Xavier's Campus
and Kathmandu University coming up with computer education coursed. It
is also the responsibility of us in the computer sector to educate the
people and the government. It requires some effort and long term
commitment", the 47 year did scholar believes.
Association of Nepal
member of Computer Association of Nepal (CAN), Mr. Shrestha, foresees
the things that can be done by CAN. "In Nepal there are many
organizations which exist only on paper. Thankfully, this is not the
case with CAN".
"CAN has already achieved a few
constructive things in its first year. Within the association,
competitors are co-operating with each other for the common goal. That
spirit has been achieved. We are aware of many things that we should do
but could not do because, we do not have a base to operate. Our
membership dues hardly give us enough budget to run our single room-one
man office. Inspite of all these constraints, 1 think we have done quite
well in the first year, a very promising beginning with activities like
Info-Tech 1995 and the seminar on Software Export".
"We have become a member of FNCCI. In the past, when CAN did not exist, naturally some one else was
representing the computer community. But now that CAN is alive and
active, we need to make our presence felt. There is no reason in the
near future we should not be as influential as HAN or other similar
"Computer Industry could be the key for
Nepal to leapfrog several stages of traditional development right
into the 21st century. With computers and communications we could
possibly remove the traditional bottlenecks to Nepal's development.
Nepal has so few long term options. I see computers as the core
industry for the future of Nepal."