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Regional Strategies > Interviews > The Net Can Help Boost Cooperation Among South Asian Countries >

The Net Can Help Boost Cooperation Among South Asian Countries

Madanmohan Rao interviews Rajib Subba, Internet entrepreneur, Nepal


Rajib Subba is a communication engineer in Nepal and a columnist for Cyber
Post <www.nepalnews.com>, a fortnightly IT feature page of The Kathmandu
Post newspaper. He is a founding member of the Nepal Internet Users Group and Secretary of the Computer Association of Nepal.

Q: What is the estimated size of the Internet economy in Nepal?
A:
The estimated size of users may be about 100,000. There are nine ISPs and 4 are
in the offing. There are about 200 Nepal-related ".np" domains, but there are plenty of other Nepal related sites. There are more than a thousand different organisations on the Net. There are three VSAT service providers. Nepal Telecommmunication Corporation, the sole PSTN provider, provides lease lines.

Q: How much does Internet access cost on the average (dialup, leased line)?
A:
Dial up costs about 30 USD per month unlimited access. Leased line costs
about 500 USD per month for 33Kbps.

Q: How reliable/fast are Internet connections, depending on location/time?
A:
They are fast as now ISPs have their own VSAT links and get connected straight to the U.S. Outside Kathmandu it is less fast as they get connected through land telephone lines.

Q: How favourable is government policy towards the Net?
A:
There is no IT policy till now. It's getting drafted, and might take some time. But as
a whole, government as well as the National Planning Commission are supportive of the Net.

Q: Which government departments have the most useful sites?
A:
Ministry of Home, Nepal Police, Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Q: How are academics and students viewing/using the Net?
A:
As a tool for email, research and general information. Students also use it as a medium for entertainment. But the majority of users -- about 60% -- use it only for email. At a recent gathering of the Computer Association of Nepal, more than 50% of the visitors were students. I see this as a very positive sign for the coming days.

Q: Is Internet access via cybercafes and community centres widespread in Nepal?
A:
A German journalist visiting Nepal told me that there are more cybercafes in Kathmandu than in Europe! There are plenty in Kathmandu and a few outside as well. But the government has not come up with any info-centers of their own till now.

Q: How much coverage does the Net get in the media in Nepal?
A:
The Internet is definitely the hot topic in the media these days!

Q: How much locally relevant content in local languages is available in Nepal?
A:
Not much. Only some Nepali newspapers are online now.

Q: What is your vision of what the Net can offer a county like Nepal, and a
region like South Asia? How can the vision be realised?
A:
Nepal may be a land locked but not mind locked. The geographical barrier can
be overcome with the Net. Nepal will benefit with the Net in future as never before.
The impact of e-commerce will be tremendous as Nepal will be able to export
its products directly to customers abroad. The vision of exporting software
through the Net is very clear and some of the companies have already started
that as well.

South Asia will also benefit as we all have similarities. We are facing the
same problems like poverty, illiteracy etc. We should getnet worked so as to
get overall benefit. India has achieved a lot through IT these days. Other countries --specially Nepal - could gain by piggybacking on Indian IT.

For this, we need lower equipment costs, and better teledensity. The percentage of lines outside Kathmandu should increase from 40%. Ironically 60% of phone lines out of 250,000 are in Kathmandu valley. Nepal is one of the poorest countries of the world. Ironically, line costs have just been doubled, and there are no toll-free lines.

For a mountainous country like Nepal, the Net can help coordinate e-commerce and domestic freight.

Q: How are NGOs and non-profits using the Net?
A:
The number of Net users in these communities are increasing. There are more
than 10,000 NGOs in Nepal. A prime example is Nepal Net, an Internet-based forum for NGOs who are working in different sectors. Currently there are about 35
NGOs in the network. It is funded by IDRC International Development Research Centre of Canada and technically supported by ICIMOD (International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development). Currently it has been handed over to NIUG (Nepal Internet Users' Group).

Q: What kinds of services does your organisation provide in the Internet area?
A:
Nepal Internet Users' Group is a not for profit organization and a forum of Internet users. NIUG provides facilities on its Intranet called Indreni, such as training of Web technologies like Webpage designing, networking, etc. Nepal Net has been managed by NIUG since mid 1999.

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The writer can be reached at madan@techsparks.com

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