Nepal not good for working remotely, says reportThe Himalayan republic ranked 89th among 108 countries in NordLayer’s list.
Despite being among the world's top tourist destinations, Nepal is not a great place to work remotely, a recent report says.
The Himalayan republic has been ranked 89th out of 108 countries for remote work in 2023, marking a significant drop of 24 places compared to the previous year, according to the Global Remote Work Index published by United States-based cyber security firm NordLayer.
A score of 80 to 90 is considered less attractive for remote work.
This decline can be attributed primarily to Nepal’s poor cyber security, economic safety, digital and physical infrastructure and social safety.
Remote work is the practice of employees doing their jobs from a location other than a central office operated by the employer.
The Global Remote Work Index evaluates the potential of 108 countries to qualify as top remote work destinations.
The index measures four main dimensions: 25 percent of cyber security, 25 percent of economic safety, 25 percent of digital and physical infrastructure, and 25 percent of social safety criteria to ensure the quality of remote work.
The index's cyber safety dimension covers infrastructure integrity, digital threat response capacity and the level of cyber security-target legislation.
Economic safety refers to the cost of living, healthcare access, ease of communication and opportunities for quality free time.
The digital and physical infrastructure dimension covers the country’s digital capabilities to provide and support a stable, fast and broad internet service and ensure convenient and safe physical infrastructure for travelling around.
Social safety incorporates the social and physical security aspects of working and living remotely.
Nepal’s low ranking is a consequence of poor performance across all four dimensions including cyber safety (95), economic safety (89), digital and physical infrastructure (93) and social safety (52).
The report highlighted that Nepal's e-infrastructure is among the least developed in the world, earning it the 93rd position. Furthermore, Nepal’s internet connection is both expensive (75th) and lacking in quality (82nd). E-government is ranked in the 98th position.
In the context of social safety, Nepal appears to be average with a personal rights index of 88, inclusiveness 55 and safety index 34.
While Nepal is recognised as one of the most cost-effective destinations with the third lowest cost of living, its healthcare system is rated poorly at 95.
Nepal comes 22nd in terms of tourism attractiveness destination.
Nepal’s cyber infrastructure is ranked poor at 78 with a response capacity rate of 32.
India ranked 64th globally in the Global Remote Work Index followed by Bangladesh 84th, Sri Lanka 85th and Pakistan 93rd.
India ranked 56th position in cyber safety followed by Bangladesh 49th, Pakistan 70th and Sri Lanka 89th.
In terms of economic safety, India ranked in the 55th position followed by Sri Lanka 74th, Pakistan 88th and Bangladesh 103rd.
India is ahead in digital and physical infrastructure taking 77th place, Sri Lanka 84th, Bangladesh 89th and Pakistan 100th.
India ranked 74th in social safety followed by Sri Lanka 71st, Pakistan 94th and Bangladesh 107th.
Denmark, Netherlands, Germany, Spain and Sweden were the top five in the Global Remote Work Index.
Experts say that Nepal lags behind in terms of cyber security and digital and physical infrastructure required for remote working.
“We are in a premature phase of digitalising, and we do not have adequate infrastructure. For instance, 4G does not work properly outside Kathmandu Valley and not even smoothly in some places inside the valley,” said Tanka Aryal, president of Digital Rights Nepal, an advocacy group.
"The internet needs to be reliable to provide continuous service, but internet quality, especially mobile broadband, is not reliable," he said.
"Though digitalisation in different sectors has started, service providers and clients have not been able to function comfortably through the online system. In terms of cyber security, many government sites have been compromised, and even private sector service providers' data is being hacked," he said.
According to the International Telecommunication Union, Nepal ranked in the 94th position in the Global Cybersecurity Index 2020 among 180 countries, climbing from the 106th slot in the 2018 edition.
On August 8, the National Cyber Security Policy 2023 was endorsed by the cabinet, but stakeholders pointed out that the new policy lacked a collaborative approach and that it was copied from neighbouring countries.
While the number of internet users continues to grow across the country, the quality of internet speed available to consumers has not been consistent.
“Nepal’s ranking in cyber security is very poor in the index which also has dragged down the country’s position in the overall ranking,” said Arjun Kharel, a labour and migration researcher.
“This shows that Nepal should improve in cyber security. Both the government and the private sector need to invest in the improvement of cyber security and digital and physical infrastructure. Nepal can be one of the best destinations for remote work contributing to the economy," said Kharel, who is also an assistant professor of sociology at Tribhuvan University.
“Attracting remote workers in Nepal will also help in contributing to the country’s economy. Despite internet service providers assuring the fastest internet, Nepal’s internet is not reliable for working remotely," Kharel said.
"In terms of social safety, there is an issue in acceptance as most employers prefer offline work to online," Aryal said.
"The private sector is not willing to make investments in gateway security and platform security. Lack of gateway security and platform security increases the risk in the system," he said.
Government services and legal or consulting services could have been done digitally, but internet reach and speed of the service giver and receiver are poor.
"During the Covid-19 period when the government imposed a lockdown, all offices adopted a work-from-home model without any preparation," said Aryal.
Companies adopted remote work systems due to mandatory provisions, but following the end of the lockdown, they do not seem to have continued working remotely.
Experts say that the nature of the job in Nepal is more physical than digital as there is lack of adequate digital infrastructure.