‘Government should invest in innovation as private sector may not find it attractive’

Published On: March 1, 2017 11:00 PM NPT By: Republica  | @RepublicaNepal

Dr Mahabir Pun is known for his extensive work in applying wireless technologies to develop remote areas in various parts of the country. He is now the founder and chairman of National Innovation Center.
He was awarded Ramon Magsaysay in 2007 in recognition of his innovative application of wireless computer technology in remote parts of Nepal.
Pun, in conversation with Republica’s Prasansha Rimal
explains the need of involvement of government in the field of technology and innovation.

You have independently started projects in the field of innovation but have always emphasized the importance of the government to get involved in this field, why?
Government should actively be involved in the field of innovation. In most of the countries this sector is supported by the government. Government usually separates 2 percent to 5 percent of the total budget obtained through GDP of this sector. But in Nepal the scenario is different and this sector is usually looked after only by private companies. It is essential for the government to be involved in innovation and technological sector because it is expensive to give life to new innovation and technology. When private sectors invest they look for guaranteed return but new innovation might not be profitable immediately. So it becomes necessary for the government to get involved as it private companies or businessperson may not find attractive to invest in this field.

How can technology and innovation change Nepal?
Nepal has a huge prospect of technological and innovative changes. Various fields including agriculture and tourism can be transformed through technology. Nepal produces large number of crops, fruits and medicinal herbs. If we could use new innovation and technology to process these items we would get more profit. Even though Nepal has various tourist attractions, we have failed to attract large number of tourists to Nepal. With the use of technology, we could improve managerial aspects in tourism sector and boost the country’s overall economy. Technology and innovation amplify the economic progress, making Nepal capable to compete in international markets.

What impact do you aim to create through National Innovation Center (NIC)?
Young, talented, visionary and creative youths are leaving Nepal every year in search of better career and opportunities abroad. This is shameful for a developing country which needs every hand it could get to make its development process effective and efficient. NIC aims to identify new innovative ideas, nurture it and help foster their creativity and innovation within Nepal.

Could you share about one bitter experience you have had while looking for government’s support?
I cannot say that I have had bitter experience while looking for government’s support. They have welcomed me every time and carefully listened to my plans. They have never said no to my plans but I am very disappointed as they have just made lofty promises. They always say they are ready to help me but when it becomes necessary to translate their words into actions, I don’t find them helping.

The young generation of Nepal has been trying to change the field of technology but have you really witnessed change in this field?
I cannot say that the young generation hasn’t tried to work in this field. They have tried to make progress in the IT sector but only few have succeeded. Still many youths prefer to go abroad in search of opportunities. They still have to face the burden of the huge expenditure for that. Transformation in the field of technology and innovation still awaits young, creative minds. In comparison to the world market nothing has been done in Nepal till now.

How can we motivate young generation of Nepal to get into this field?
To be honest, young generation of our country doesn’t need motivation. They just need an environment to work and hone their talent which should be provided by the government. I would also request the youths not to go abroad. And to those who are still working here, I would ask them not to lose hope and just try harder to achieve desired effect in this field.

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