Computer Deployment in Nepal: Problems and Solutions

The NLF has over the last five years have funded a number of computer installations in libraries in schools across Nepal. The demand for access to the internet and digitally stored information is overwhelming. Practically all requests for funding we receive are for ICT resources.

However, we have found that without some very clear guidelines for implementation of these resources well intended – and funded – initiatives are likely to whither on the vine to the detriment of the communities who look to benefit from such resources. We believe that these issues are common to any organization seeking to improve access to information in Nepal and most likely in other developing countries.

These issues are sustainability, advocacy, mobilization, training and content.

Sustainability: Hardware has a limited life and requires maintenance. Replacement costs need to be configured into any deployment plan along with a maintenance and service budget. With limited funds available low cost and innovative hardware and software solutions must be sought. Where possible open source software should be employed to reduce licensing costs of commercial software. The NLF is engaging in discussions with others to develop a localized Linux operating system. We would appreciate hearing from others who would be interested in this venture and also to collaborate on hardware and networking solutions.

Advocacy: All institutions concerned with access to information in Nepal face the issues outlined here. Defining common needs and goals in collaboration with central and local government is a first step in a process to assist in the spread of resource deployment and the training in all aspects of ICT capacity development. Again we would be very interested in opening discussions with other organizations in Nepal who are interested in collaborating with us and others on the common issues we face.

Mobilization: We have seen excellent resources sit unused because of lack of understanding on how to access them. Resources need to be publicized and actively made available. Resources must also address specific needs and the community polled on what resources would be of use.

Training: The development of all levels of ICT based knowledge in communities is vital. From basic instruction on computer use to network management skills, all aspects of interaction with and management of ICT resources has to be mediated through training programs. These should be ongoing and developed in a way that knowledge is passed on throughout the community. This is another area in which collaboration can reduce costs and promote standardization

Content: Without access to meaningful and useful content ICT resources are likely to be of little use to the communities they are meant to serve. Access to the internet in Nepal at the moment is costly and rare except in rural centers. Our support of the Open Learning Exchange Nepal’s digital information and learning resource is an attempt to bridge the gap to those without this access. In collaboration with OLE we are deploying computers in libraries to act as local web servers to access the e-Pustakalaya digital library resource and the Grade 1 to 6 Nepal National Curriculum learning resources developed by OLE.

Organizations wishing to make use of this resource can contact us for more details.

We believe that the obstacles to providing access to ICT resources in Nepal are significant. However as stated earlier there is an overwhelming need as expressed by all the communities we have contact with to get access to such resources. The development of some commonly available resources such as the e-Pustakalaya as well as collaboration on hardware and software use, training and a common front to advocate government would go a long way to ease the difficulties that the people of Nepal face in gaining access to what is now becoming a basic tool of life.

- Paul Bird, Nepal Library Foundation