The 13th CAN InfoTech, a mega exhibition of information technology, has kicked off with a dictum “New Nepal: E-Nepal” at Birendra International Convention Center (BICC), Kathmandu from January 9. However, the ever-increasing digital divide in Nepal has posed a greater problem in the realization of the ambitious ‘E-Nepal’.

Vice-Chairman of Information Technology High Level Commission, Saroj Raj Devkota, inaugurating the mega event, stressed the need of promoting E-learning, Distant Learning, Open University, Telemedicine, E-commerce in the country.

“If necessary infrastructures for information technologies are developed in the rural areas across the country, Nepal could also be a hub for information technology like our neighboring countries-India and China,” Devkota said. He also underscored the need of promoting the concept of E-Banking.

At the function Devkota also informed that Nepal government has been working on E-Governance Master Plan (EGMAP) with the support of Korean government.

“With an aim to provide prompt service to the people, preparations are underway with the financial assistance of Asian Development Bank for E-governance,” he added.

Similarly, General Secretary of Computer Association Nepal, Rajan Pant, who is also the organizer of the event, said that development of the country is only possible through the optimum use of information technologies.

“Information technology works as an engine for the socio-economic development of the country,” Pant said.

According to the organizers, altogether 234 stalls- 64 hanger stalls and 170 commercial stalls are displaying latest gizmos in the festival. Modern day technologies like CCTV, laptops, USB, desktop computers to various other electronic gadgets are on display as well as for sale. Besides, this event is also recognized as a platform for numerous computer and IT institutes to lure students with great ‘discounts’ and scholarships for different IT and computer courses.

However, despite the increasing number of such IT institutes and computer courses, the digital divide among the people belonging to urban and rural parts of the country is also increasing. Only few years back, a four-year graduation course BIT (Business-Information Technology) was launched in Nepal. However, the major institutions and the scope of such courses have been limited in the capital Kathmandu and few big cities only. According to Reporters Sans Border, there were only around four hundred thousands internet users in Nepal back in 2003, while the total population of the country is over twenty million. Naturally, the figure would have been doubled at present.

People have complained that the event only cater to the need of urban Nepali youth. This seems the greatest drawback of the event which will almost make it very difficult to achieve its own target- “New Nepal: E-Nepal”. Now that the government has proposed to cut internet price by over 50 percent, the IT sector and the access of Nepali people living in rural areas would be surely easy and affordable. At present, people have to around 50 American Cent for an hour of internet surfing in far remote parts of the country. While, we in Kathmandu, pay as little as 10 cent for the same duration of internet surfing. Most of the higher middle class people have access to internet from their homes and offices. The number of cyber-cafes is also increasing, and the rates have been gradually decreasing.

However, the skilled and capable computer literate population of Nepal is also increasing, many are making career in Web Designing and Hosting as well as in IT sector. Nepali models have got a platform to get better day by day. Internet based jobs and news portals are coming up. CAN InfoTech is only one such event that we, Kathmanduties, wait eagerly as it is only during this event that we can ogle those latest cell phones, iPods, et al and get ‘heavy discounts’ if we want to buy them.

The first day of the festival has been categorized as Business Day in which corporate houses are briefed and introduced to the new technologies. From Wednesday, the festival will be opened for students as well as general public.

An estimated number of over 300 thousand visitors are expected to visit the event which will end on January 14.

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