ICT and Society

Current news on growing rate of internet usage and installation of mobile towers in Nepal shows that more and more people can have access to pools of information and bridges of communication. The growing web of information and communication technology (ICT) can be a boon to people living in urban areas in general and remote areas in particular. Plenty of literatures, anecdotes, and empirical studies show that proper design, implementation, and execution of the technology can leads to extended social ties, better education and healthcare opportunities, and advance commerce activities, at the same time, more inclusive participation in political decision making.

In the context of Nepal, assessment of information and converting it into valuable knowledge, however, remains an issue. Likewise, the threat of social exclusion is another important issue that needs to be considered before realizing the joy. We cannot ignore the fact that majority of the population is still out of technology reach. And, the extension of towers is just one of the necessary conditions of development, but not the sufficient condition. Nobel laureate Amartya Sen argues that the primary end objective and the principal means of development should be focused on individual substantive freedom, such as education, healthcare, environment, gender equality, and political participation; so that they can lead a life they have reasons to value.

Even philosophically, technology means more than just a technical intervention. The word technology derives from the Greek techne and logos. Logos means word, thought, reason, which in turn could be interpreted as a form of knowledge. Techne means art and craft and is one of three ways of knowing as described by Aristotle, the others being episteme and phronesis. Techne describes the practical knowledge used when producing art and craft, episteme describes the abstract theoretical knowledge in science and phronesis describes the social knowledge used in our everyday relations with other people. The impact of the ICT therefore, should be directed towards phronesis or social welfare.

To warrant and back up this unequivocal claim provided below some statements made by prominent people working in the area of ICT and society in Nepal.

Mr. Karmacharya, executive director, OLE Nepal, stated:
Getting more teachers training, building schools, building classrooms, in spite of this, we are not saying that we should stop it, but in parallel let’s start looking into quality. One of the best ways is to introduce computers like OLPC in the classrooms… other thing technology can do is from the communication aspects, it improves the access, so now they[students in rural and remote areas] can go to school and access lot of quality education materials. Many places every year in remote areas don’t even get the textbooks, sometimes the books arrived when the academic year is over, so we are facing lot of these challenges. By introducing technology we can update and send the materials immediately, and easily access the materials. These are the things we can do with technology.

Dr. Dhital, Doctor, Kathmandu Model Hospital, Stated:
Currently we are in a very initial stage [talking about telemedicine project]…daily video conference can provide continue training to the health workers in the remote area. And secondly, at the time of emergency, they can bring patients before camera. Our effort is that health workers here in the village become efficient. The people in this village should trust them more, and ultimately it will benefit village people.

Mr. Joshi, Director, www.thamel.com expressed:
In the rural areas, there is always a misconception that there is no market. What works in urban obviously not work in rural areas, but the thing is all the rural areas have there own socioeconomic dynamics. Where we can plug in the technology and create some kind of socioeconomic opportunities… people in every village in the mountains like Nangi and Tikot are working somewhere else…So there are people making money and there are people sending money to villages…right now the remittance service in the middle of four or five villages can stop villagers to come down to Beni (district headquarter). If we bring that remittance service in the village then they don’t have to come down.

In the similar strand,
Dr. Pun, Team Leader, Nepal Wireless Networking Project expressed his optimism:
One of the reasons I involved in this project is because I have seen that this has good potential to provide some very basic services to the rural community. Like health and education services…Because there is no way Nepali government is going to build hospital and bring doctors in the rural areas … as it cost so much money to do that… also you can see a lot of good schools and colleges are in the urban areas… students are getting opportunity to get quality education there but students in rural areas are not. So there is a huge education gap…therefore, I think ICT can help to bring this education gap closer. Similarly, to make this project sustainable we have to generate income, that’s why we are working in ecommerce project and internet telephony.

Finally, this article acknowledges the role of information and communication technology in fostering socioeconomic development, however, at the same time, put emphasis on understanding the process through which this may happen.

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