The project aimed to assess and demonstrate the use of information and communication technology (ICT) as an instrument for facilitating and promoting social and economic development, with a particular focus on the poor and women, through an assessment of the use of e-governance and e-commerce in the rural-urban settling. The chosen approach for achieving this project’s objectives was to partner with the Rural-Urban Partnership Programme (RUPP), which was designed by UN-HABITAT and is now being implemented by the Ministry of Local Development.
A fact-finding review of ICT in development in a rural-urban setting was conducted to identify good practices in ICT-use and to establish knowledge resources on ICT by networking with similar national and international initiatives. A feasibility study on the use of ICT and Strategic Plan of Action was developed to facilitate and promote e-governance and e-commence (B2B) (http://www.rupp.org.np/hl_bhimphedi.htm) in a rural-urban setting. Based on these documents, pilot activities, including the establishment of Technology Resource Centres (telecentres) in municipal wards and rural market centres, capacity-building and development of models in e-governance and e-commerce were carried out. Members of the communities, through their TLO (Tole or lane organizations), the Chambers of Commerce and municipalities were involved in this process. In particular, the module on how to set up and sustain the telecentres was appreciated by the users. Despite the insecurity created by the Maoist insurgency, 9 telecentres in 5 regional market centres (Bhimphedi, Khaireni, Kohlpur, Dulegaunda and Rangeli) and 4 in 4 Municipal Ward Offices (Biratnagar, Nepalgunj, Butwal and Pokhara) were set up and became operational. A National Workshop was also organized jointly with the High-level Commission for Information Technology to share the lessons learned for future replication (http://www.rupp.org.np/hl_ictworkshop.htm). A website for the initiative was launched and the strategy was further refined based on the pilot activities (http://www.digidevnepal.org.np/index.htm). A concept note identifying the way forward was also developed.
The project contributed to the Information Technology (IT) Policy 2000 issued by the Government of Nepal by demonstrating the implementation of ICT on the ground. It is observed that websites and telecentres have enhanced access to information, particularly on agro-pricing, which is useful for women entrepreneurs. 4 telecentres in RMCs and 4 telecentres in Ward Offices of different municipalities have emulated this initiative by launching similar activities. The project has also helped improve transparency in the municipalities and raises awareness on the importance of information amongst citizens. It was learned that the institutional infrastructure and framework built by the Rural-urban Partnerships Programme (RUPP) was essential to sustaining these telecentres, and in ensuring that the Village Development Committee (rural market centres), regional market centres and Tole/Lane organizations (TLOs) had ownership of the project.