Going digital

Following the advent of the internet and particularly the growing use of smartphones that support various applications, digital payments have proliferated. Traditional cash payment operations have been losing steam for a while, and the Covid-19 pandemic only accelerated the pace of change toward digitalization. Nepal, too, seems to have found its footing, but at a slower pace in the global shift towards digitalisation. As per the figures from the central bank, digital payments swelled by 18 percent year-on-year and crossed the Rs6 trillion mark in the last fiscal year, which points to growing acceptance of the electronic payment system.

The digital payment system is just one aspect, albeit an important one, of the digitalization process since it facilitates the economic transaction process. However, digitalisation is about harnessing the power of information communication technology to inject dynamism into education, health, finance, tourism, agriculture and environmental conservation. But a revolution on a scale involving national priorities will necessitate support from those at the helm of the government. It requires substantial investment in infrastructure and organizational processes and the involvement of various stakeholders. It is only possible with clarity of vision to take the country forward, not envisioning the present but proactively preparing for the future.

Investing in infrastructure by making the internet accessible to every citizen will lay the foundation for future generations to get a head start in understanding the digital ecosystem that will inevitably surround our lives. But that will also require emphasising compulsory information technology education in schools and colleges, mainly focusing on regions historically deprived of the government’s economic schemes. The digital transformation will also need the training of public servants to enable them to enact government policies.

Achieving digital transformation will require a high degree of emphasis on implementing policies and ideas with clarity and vision, with a particular focus on inclusiveness. As is evident, gender disparity has prevented a section of the population, particularly women, from taking advantage of various opportunities to contribute towards the country’s economic growth and prosperity without an appropriate skill set. Hence, emphasising an inclusive strategy isn’t about just hitting the right political note, but about being able to utilize the latent energy that has been ignored in the act of undesired chauvinism.

But the arrangement would be rendered futile without robust regulations to ensure that systems and processes are free from abuse and exploitation. The government must understand that digitalization means minimizing its day-to-day involvement in running the affairs of state and facilitating efficiency and effectiveness by allowing automated systems to overtake archaic manual methods. While the trend towards digitalization is growing and businesses and individuals increasingly rely on automated processes, it is critical to see that it doesn’t completely overwhelm us. What needs to be understood is that digitalization is a process to enhance the quality of our lives, but not to the extent that it hinders our existence.

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