Policy Reforms Could Enable Rs 30 Billion in Information Technology Exports

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Policy Reforms Could Enable Rs 30 Billion in Information Technology Exports

KATHMANDU: Stakeholders believe that Nepal can achieve the ambitious goal of developing the country as an information technology hub in line with the government’s announcement of IT Decade in the budget of next fiscal year.

Speaking at a discussion program on the Information Technology Decade organized by the Society of Economic Journalists Nepal (SEJON) on Tuesday, experts stated that exporting information technology services worth Rs 30 billion would be achievable if policy reforms and legal hurdles are addressed, and a stable policy is established.

Finance Minister Barshaman Pun announced that through the budget for fiscal year 2081/82, the government aims to export IT services worth Rs 30 billion and create 500,000 direct and 1 million indirect jobs within ten years. To support this goal, the government has taken policy decisions to encourage the private sector by protecting and promoting the industry.

Minister Pun also mentioned that a high-level commission will be formed to ensure policy stability in the IT sector, prioritizing the creation of a legal framework. He highlighted the revision of the 'Digital Nepal Framework' and the establishment of institutional arrangements for its implementation and monitoring. Additionally, the operation of IT parks with high-speed internet, electricity, security, and other infrastructure in Kathmandu Valley and Butwal will be advanced, with plans to build 10 IT parks across all provinces.

Emphasizing the role of the private sector in driving the IT-related service industry, similar to agriculture, tourism, and energy, Pun stated that the state does not intend to engage in business but will address tax issues through discussions. He asserted that the IT Decade would foster the belief that intellectual labor can be performed from Nepal, reducing the need for Nepalis to work abroad for income.

Pun reiterated the need for the government to maintain up-to-date and stable policies in the IT sector to accommodate the digital generation, aiming to create a competitive environment for the young generation to thrive in Nepal.

Minister for Communication and Information Technology Rekha Sharma announced the formation of a task force under her ministry to achieve the IT Decade goals, with a clear annual blueprint for activities. She stated that Nepal Telecom and the Nepal Telecommunications Authority are preparing their budgets to align with the IT sector policies outlined in the budget. The government is also ready to utilize domestically produced software and will provide free space in IT parks in Kathmandu and Butwal, with various programs conducted in public-private partnerships.

Sharma emphasized the government's commitment to revising necessary policies and laws to promote the digital economy, startups, innovation, job creation, and digital governance. She declared that the next fiscal year would mark the beginning of the IT Decade, establishing IT as a pillar of the economy. The government's programs for economic development and job creation will be enhanced through technology, enabling economic and social transformation.

Sharma acknowledged the ineffective implementation of the Digital Nepal Framework, initiated in 2076, and noted the lack of clear data, with 100,000 people currently working in the IT sector. She attributed the issues to outdated and unclear policies, and affirmed the government's efforts to reform these laws. Additionally, the government plans to create knowledge parks through public-private partnerships, offer internships to undergraduates, foster an entrepreneurial environment, and establish an innovation commission. She informed that the Cyber Security Policy 2080 has been released and sought support and suggestions for new legislation.

SEJON President Sujan Oli expressed concern that the IT Decade may face challenges similar to previous initiatives in tourism and energy. Dr. Amrita Sharma, an IIDS consultant presenting the paper, emphasized that digitization requires stability and political commitment, asserting that the Digital Nepal Framework must stay on track. She highlighted the need for a private sector-focused approach, with the government acting as a business partner and promoter.


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