Main entrance of the IT Park complex in Banepa, Kavre.
Experts blame lack of stable policy on IT sector's development
BANEPA, March 2: Information Technology (IT) Park established in Banepa in 2003 with an aim to promote information technology and services has failed to kick start. Stakeholders claim that the park has not been able to run its activities due to political instability. Last year, Kathmandu University (KU) and two private companies had signed a deal with the government to operate it. However, they were held back soon after. To this they are still in dilemma about running the park fearing policy changes.
The two companies that showed interest in the IT Park are Cloud Himalaya Private Limited and Soft Tech Foundation Nepal. KU and these two companies had signed separate MoU with the Department of Information Technology undertaking separate responsibilities.
However, soon after the agreement, the agreements were dashed by an unexpected order from the government. It had ordered them to stop working on the park immediately, said professor Manish Pokharel, chief of Department of Computer Science and Engineering at KU’s School of Engineering.
“Right after the MoU was signed, the government ordered for not implementing the agreement. That kind of whimsical decision grounded our plans and programs,” Pokharel said. “Since then we have remained quiet,” he added. The two companies also complained the same.
A source that has been following the development closely informed that the decision was taken by the then prime minister KP Oli. “What to do if the organizations come and say that they want to occupy all blocks for IT activities. Can we then provide only the said 3 blocks? Considering this scenario, we have decided to put hold on the program for now,” the source quoted Oli, while requesting anonymity.
The government’s decision brought the likely kick stark of the IT Park after 14 years to a grinding halt. “All the concerned staffs and the companies turned hopeless since then,” the source said.
The department had created atmosphere for starting the park by bringing together three partners after rounds of meeting. “However, all these efforts turned futile with the governments order,” the source added.
Lokraj Sharma, director at the IT Park Department also expressed similar views. “A direct order like that forced us to keep quiet. That was very disheartening,” he said.
Shekharnath Dulal, central member of Federation of Computer Association Nepal (CAN Federation) stated that the government’s policy regarding IT Park has never been stable. And that has been a serious problem. That never allowed the Park to move on as it should have,he opined. “When the government is not visionary and takes such issues so lightly, it is difficult to bring in partners to work with. In such circumstances let alone retaining the existing partners, approaching new companies for partnership becomes challenging, too,” he said.
Dulal added that earlier a company from the Netherlands had worked for a while for the IT Park. After it, Open Technology Resource Center had also tried to work with the government for the park. “However, it never could get a real start,” he noted. “Whoever comes in with the intent to work on it, they quit due to the sluggish approach of the government,” he added.
A year has passed since the government asked KU and the other two partners to halt their activities and though there has been a change of guard, nothing has progressed, Dulal said. Though KU and the two companies are still eager to resume their work, the government has not created an enabling environment, he remarked. “The status quo is due to the inaction of the government. It’s a huge loss for the IT sector. For a country like Nepal, development and promotion of IT sector has great rewards, but still the government remains indifferent.” he added.