Digital democracyGood governance can be enhanced through utilisation of novel technological solutions
Good governance entails the creation of a system that protects human rights and civil liberties, and as the world around us evolves rapidly, ways to enhance good governance through the utilisation of novel technological solutions are being increasingly emphasised. Now, plenty of initiatives have come to look at new technologies as a core tool in governance.
Yet while the rest of the world is embracing new innovations, technological advances and scientific research for good governance, Nepal is struggling to cope with this drive for progress. The state is lagging behind in comprehending, engaging, designing or delivering innovative development solutions in the evolving landscape. But as highlighted by a United Nations conference held in Kathmandu on Wednesday, plans to augment resources to design, test, adapt and scale up technology for new development solutions are in the works.
Sofia, UNDP’s first non-human innovation champion and celebrity robot delivered the keynote address at the conference. While Sofia’s presence was nothing more than a public relations stunt, it did serve to draw attention to the crux of the conference, which was to demonstrate the numerous contributions technology and innovation could make to better governance. Following Sofia’s address were presentations on the use of drones to provide basic healthcare to those living in remote regions, and on the application of e-governance tools in local government, among others.
Nepal may not be able to afford costly, high-tech systems, but the innovations presented at the conference have shown that there are some methods that can be followed to make lasting contributions towards the public good. In fact, systems such as the e-Building Permit Systems, where building permits are filed on the web and are checked for compliance with building codes serve as examples of the potential of innovation. They also signal a major step towards moving beyond the rudimentary, often paper-based record-keeping systems still prevalent in Nepal. A similar approach could be used for census data, property records and many other issues once national capacity is built up to the point where it can deploy and sustain these innovations. This would encourage citizen participation, foster transparency of government actions, and contribute to inclusive governance.
That new technology and innovation could propel good governance is thus clear to see. But what should also be given due consideration is the fact that technology, while an effective tool for governance work, is not a panacea to all the ills that deter good governance. There are still a number of issues to deal with. The lack of equality in public access to technology—particularly when taking into consideration those who live in remote areas, have low literacy levels and exist on poverty line incomes, and disintermediation of the governments and citizens are just two examples of the possible downsides to the use of technology in Nepal. The complexity of the challenges related to good governance require marrying innovation and technology with a myriad of other methods if sustainable progress is truly to be achieved.