Rise and fall of High Level Information Technology Commission in Nepal
Planners and IT experts usually argue that a high-level, centralized, and powerful body overseeing the IT sector is what required for unleashing the revolutionary power of IT in Nepal. This idea is generally evoked for all sorts of technology development. This paper criticizes this polemic by presenting the story of the rise and fall of High Level Commission for Information Technology (HLCIT) established in Nepal in 2003.
The HLCIT was the apex body formed under the chair of the Prime Minister to provide crucial policy and strategic direction to the Nepali IT sector. Located at the Prime Minister’s Office, the HLCIT had a powerful vice chair, secretaries of two line ministries (Science and Technology, and Information and Communications), and the President of the Computer Association of Nepal as its members. The HLCIT was active from the beginning. It defined IT agenda in Nepal by preparing the draft of e-governance master plan, commissioning research, and organizing roundtables with ‘stakeholders’ as well as by establishing tele-centers, standardizing Nepali font, and preparing the strategic business plan of the IT Park in Kavre. The intense activities of the HLCIT, however, came to an abrupt end when the cabinet meeting on 13 December 2011 decided to dissolve the body. The decision was made despite the protests from the private sector and the related parliament members.
In the meteoric rise and the sudden downfall of HLCIT (2003-2011), it is useful to see that a centralized and powerful body alone does not ensure technology development. I argue in this paper that socio-political aspects of bureaucracy, particularly the way (perceived) power is organized in government bureaucracy, often shape the trajectories of such commissions/institutions irrespective of either the usefulness of the technology in question or the designed efficiency of the high-level institutions.