SAARC yet to prioritoze in Information Technology

by Hari Lamichhane, Kathmandu, Nov 16:  One of the reasons for mutual relations and economic development not making great strides among the SAARC member countries is the failure to benefit from the advancement of Information Technology (IT), the main infrastructure of the modern development. Though different commitments were made by holding discussions about IT in the SAARC Summits and other regional meetings, expected results have not been achieved for lack of implementation of the commitments.


The use of IT has become a compulsion today as any task can be carried out in efficient, quick, smooth and transparent manner. In view of the necessity of IT, development goals cannot be achieved until special attention is paid for the development of IT in peace, security and development sector.


The importance of IT has been further rising as the world today has transformed into a small village due to the use of IT. A race has been seen to be a powerful with a belief that information is knowledge and knowledge is power. Billions of rupees have been spent around the world for its development.


At a time when initiatives are underway to take the management and development of IT with importance by establishing regional and world level organizations through IT, SAARC has also given special emphasis on it.


Initiatives have been taken among SAARC countries for the development of IT in the health and education sector. Accordingly, the Ninth SAARC Summit adopted the issues of science and technology raised in the Seventh and Eighth SAARC Summits. The Summit, however, failed to address other issues except bio-technology and genetic engineering. 


Stating that development of science and technology in South Asia was important, the 10th SAARC Summit held in Sri Lanka expressed commitment to remove obstacles seen in the flow of IT.  

The Summit also reiterated the commitment to take initiatives to ease the living standard of people by using bio-technology and bio-industry, the projects which directly affect the living standard of people. Though the Summit could not give any newness, it emphasized the need of development of IT.


Likewise, the 11th SAARC Summit held in Kathmandu did not clearly mention about the issue of IT but decided to give priority to the use of IT in education, health and security sectors.


The 12th Summit held in Islamabad decided to make rapid development in economic and social sector in SAARC region by collaborating and making IT accessible. It also imagined a prosperous South Asia by developing IT.


Likewise, the Summit had a belief that media would help extending peace, progress and familiarity   by giving special priority to IT. A decision was taken to establish a SAARC Information Centre in Kathmandu. The Summit also made commitment to take initiatives for the development of society by ending digital divide seen in the access of technology among people of South Asia.  The Summit expressed commitment to strengthen mutual relations by exchanging cultural tools, films, songs, music and documentary at public level with the maximum use of internet after establishing a ‘cultural centre’  at Kandy, Sri Lanka.


Head of State and government participating in the 14th SAARC Summit held in New Delhi stressed to bring South Asia closer by using IT. Though the Summit had decided to establish ‘health care project’ through regional telemedicine network, it was not fully implemented. An understanding was reached among heads of state in the Summit to determine the telecom charge at regional level on the mutual basis and extending relations between people to people by developing regional telecom infrastructure. 

The 15th SAARC Summit held in Colombo, Sri Lanka, on a separate topic, ‘Development of IT’ decided to make growth in development of telecom infrastructures to increase contact through IT and to extend regional collaboration.

It also directed to implement ‘Telecom Project’ for the arrangement of health care and education.  The ministerial meeting organised by India made the commitment to implement the action plan clearly for the use of science and technology in South Asia to improve living standard through information and biotechnology.

Although the Summit decided to take initiative to maintain same fare in low rate among SAARC Countries in ISTD call, it has not been completely implemented. The European Countries have the same ‘roaming’ since long, but the rate is different among SAARC countries. Extending public relations by developing IT to poor people, developing transport, telephone, radio, television and internet services to uplift their living standard were SAARC Development Goals (SDG).

Similarly, the 16th and 17th SAARC Summits had given special priority to development and use of IT, but it did not take a clear course of action. Obstructions seen in telecom sector among SAARC Countries are still remaining. It is necessary to make IT, considered as the appropriate medium for the poverty alleviation, cheaper and accessible as it is very expensive for grassroots people.

It has been expected that the upcoming 18th SAARC Summit scheduled in Kathmandu from November 26 and 27 will bring a clear draft about the use of IT for general people. It is also believed that the upcoming Summit will make a concrete decision on the issue of IT included in ‘HIT’ or Highway, Information and Technology formula mentioned by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi while addressing the parliament during his Nepal visit.

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