Can Nepal invest in the cloud?
Agroup of young overseas Nepalis based in the UK wanted to invest in cloud computing in Nepal. They were already doing work for Amazon, Microsoft and Alibaba and were attracted by Nepal’s lower labour cost, as well as the availability of professional software engineers.
It took one year for them to just register the company. In that same time, a company they set up in Bangladesh was not only registered, but had already started its work. In Nepal, they were given the runaround, sent from one ministry to another, and spent a year explaining what cloud computing was.
After much to-ing and fro-ing the company was finally registered, and once fully operational it will employ 500 young Nepali IT engineers and spend more than $100,000 a month here.
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“Not only does Nepal not even have rules about cloud computing, people in government have no idea what it is. If this goes on, no foreign investors are going to come here to invest in information technology,” said an investor involved in the project.
According to the National Planning Commission, Nepal needs Rs20.25 trillion worth of investment to reach the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals in 10 years. While most of these investments will have to be in infrastructure and transportation, the country needs to make it easier for foreign investors to bring in new technology and resources so Nepal can leapfrog into the IT age.
However, as our example shows, Nepal does not seem to be technically and mentally prepared for IT investors. Talk earlier this year about the need to register social media platforms before they can operate here shows how regressive the government’s mentality is.
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None of the multinational giants involved in IT do all their work at headquarters. They outsource it to parts of the world with lower costs and know-how, like Vietnam, Philippines, Indonesia, Cambodia or India. Those countries have given IT investors tax holidays, as well as streamlined repatriation of profits. The greatest potential for foreign investment in Nepal is in the IT sector — in third-party contracts for developing apps, web design and maintenance, animation, digital mapping, etc.
Nepal has competitive labour costs, and the country produces 7,500 IT graduates a year. We have to cash in on this potential, which would provide jobs for youth who would otherwise emigrate to find work. But first, we need to streamline the bureaucracy and legal process, and update our investment laws.
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