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No issues in coalition government: Deuba

Nepali Congress (NC) President Sher Bahadur Deuba has said that there are no issues among the political parties in the coalition government.

2 hours ago

Fate of NC-Maoist coalition

For quite some time now, Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal has been vocal about his intentions to revamp his Cabinet, aiming to oust underperforming ministers and those embroiled in controversies. Specifically, Dahal seeks to remove Health Minister Mohan Basnet, who has been mired in various controversies, and Minister of Physical Infrastructure and Transport Prakash Jwala, whose negligence re…

Speaker Ghimire directs government to answer questions raised in Parliament meeting

Speaker Devraj Ghimire directed the government to answer the questions raised by lawmakers in the meeting of the House of Representatives. Speaker Ghimire issued the ruling after the lawmakers of opposition parties including the CPN-UML created an obstruction in the Parliament meeting today saying that the government was not serious on the issues raised by them. “The government has be…

Three die in three vehicle collision in Morang

Three persons died when three vehicles collided at Belbari in Morang along the East-West Highway on Friday. According to police, the deceased have been identified as Yadukanta Bhattarai (52) of Kamal Rural Municipality-2 of Jhapa, Deepa Khanal (44) OF Kamal Rural Municipality-4 and Krishna Gajurel (36) of Birtamod Municipality-2, Jhapa. Critically injured in the incident, Bhattarai and Khan…

Gold price increases by Rs 600 per tola on Friday

The price of gold has increased by Rs 600 per tola in the domestic market on Friday. According to the Federation of Nepal Gold and Silver Dealers’ Association, the precious yellow metal is being traded at Rs 119, 000 per tola today. It was traded at Rs 118, 400 per tola on Thursday. Similarly, tejabi gold is being traded at Rs 118, 450 per tola. It was traded at Rs 117, 850 per tola. …

WAFF Women's Championship final: Nepal lose to Jordan in penalties

Nepal lost to Jordan in the penalties in the final match of West Asian Football Federation (WAFF) Women's Championship held at the Prince Abdullah Al Faisal Sports City Stadium in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. The match had kicked off at 9:45 pm NST on Thursday. Jordan, the sixth time winner of the title, defeated Nepal by 5-3 in the tiebreaker. Nepal stood the first runner up in their first attem…

Editorial: Setting the course for new budget

The government has begun preparations for the budget of the fiscal year 2024-25. The National Planning Commission (NPC) has set a budget ceiling of Rs 1.8trn for the upcoming fiscal. Minister for Finance Prakash Sharan Mahat outlined the principles and priorities of the new budget in parliament three months ahead of the budget day. The government was presenting policies and priorities of the Appr…

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opinion

Opinion

A wasteland for innovative minds?

From the prehistoric epoch, our land has been home to some of the great minds, including sages and hermits with tremendous philosophical depth and ideology, sources of wisdom and knowledge throughout the world. Nepal has had personalities, who had attained dimensions beyond physical, in the genres of ‘tantra’, ‘mantra’ and ‘yantra’.  While the half hemisphere of this living planet was living in the stone age, knowledge based on profound experience of the cosmos was flowing in Nepal.  This is the land of the Vedas, of the Buddhas including Shakyamuni Buddha, this is where Kapilmuni propounded the Sankhya philosophy and Falgunanda instituted Kirant religion. While this rich and vibrant culture and tradition is still going on, the rulers of this country have failed to recognize and tap Nepal’s tremendous human potential. During the Rana regime, Gehendra Shamsher Rana, considered the first scientist of modern Nepal, developed Nepal's first mini-hydropower plant, water-powered rice pounding mill, wind-powered water pump and leather refinery, among others.  Gehendra Shamsher also made guns, cannons and a car. Despite these contributions toward the country, the then ruler Chandra Sumsher Rana demotivated this scientist and had him exiled. Finally he died in mysterious circumstances at a young age of 35. There was another innovator in Nepal, Achyutananda,  also known as Viman Pandit. He built a steam-powered car that could carry up to two people after 20 years of efforts, playwright Balkrishna Sama mentions in his book titled ‘Mero Kabitako Aaradhana’. Achyutananda is also said to have built a model aircraft with features including a kerosene-powered engine and a bamboo frame covered with waterproof wax cloth. He took off at Pachali Ghat and landed at Kalmochan Ghat. But the aeroplane project ‘crashed’ as soon as the news of the successful test flight fell on Chandra Sumsher’s ears. These projects were no mean feat in an era when Nepal was largely isolated from the rest of the world.  Almost 25 years after Achyutananda’s passing, another researcher-cum-innovator-cum-social entrepreneur, Mahavir Pun, was born in Nepal. Pun built a local communication network using wireless technology to connect people in the Himalayan communities.  But this innovator, a Ramon Magsaysay awardee, has also been suffering the Nepali state’s neglect toward his noble cause. Despite promises to fund his brainchild, National Innovation Center, no help is forthcoming from the state, forcing Pun to auction his international awards to keep the center afloat. The Takila mountain in Bhutan features a 155-feet-tall statue of Guru Padmasambhava, the first of its kind in the world. The place is expected to become a hugely popular tourist destination, bringing prosperity to local communities.  Who is behind this magnificent project? A Nepali team under Rajkumar Shakya, a prominent sculptor, who has taken the traditional Newari repousse metalwork to the next level. His works can also be found in Japan, South Korea, France, Italy and the United States.  After six years of hard work, a team of six sculptors under Manjul Miteri, a sculptor from east Nepal, have carved out a 65-feet-tall sculpture of Gautam Buddha on a cliff in Kyushu (Japan), considered the biggest sculpture of the century on a single solid rock mountain.  Laxman Shrestha, a self-taught expressive artist from Nepalgunj, participated in the 17th and 18th Asian Art Biennale in Bangladesh, with his abstract paintings entitled ‘Quake’ and ‘Starving Moon’. The Mumbai-based Gallery 7 has bought his works.  Shrestha is the creator of ‘Khoj’, a series of graffiti that used to be on display in Kathmandu with social messages. Instead of getting support from the state, he got arrested twice.  For a month, 41 artworks of 13 artists are on display at Drexel’s Pearlstein Gallery in Philadelphia, the first exhibition of contemporary Nepali artists in the United States.  The exhibition features the works of Shiva Kumar Sharma, an impressionist artist from Dolakha based in Kathmandu, among others.  His first exhibition was held in Darjeeling in 1982 when he was 14, followed by a solo exhibition in 1991 at Nepali Girls Dioses Center in Darjeeling. Sharma has been spearheading a ‘Save trees movement’ since 2000 and participating in popular group exhibitions.  These are but some of the representative cases showing the Nepali state not even bothering to give some of its exceptional minds even a pat on the back for doing Nepal and the Nepalis proud.    

Opinion

Remittance is buoying a crises-ridden economy

Our economy is not in the best of shapes as relevant indicators suggest.  According to the macroeconomic report of ADB, the GDP growth rate was 1.9 percent in 2023, which is lower than the average growth rate of the current decade. Agriculture and manufacturing sectors are going from bad to worse, a far cry from the times when both sectors were booming. In 2023, the growth rate of the agriculture and the manufacturing sector was 2.7 percent and 0.6 percent, respectively. The country is importing food and grains to meet a growing demand, in urban areas as well as in villages. This points at a large scope for growing crops for consumption in villages, mainly in the hills where farmlands have been lying barren for decades. Reviving the farm sector will require structural transformation through the use of modern methods, including enough investment and incentives. Despite deepening dependencies, a mid-term evaluation of the budget and monetary policy for the fiscal year 2023-24 shows economic indicators on a positive trend. Among others, Nepal has reasonably healthy foreign currency reserves, providing some relief to the government.  There will surely be differing views vis-a-vis comfortable forex reserves, but I think it will have stronger negative effects than positive ones. In all likelihood, excess forex reserves will raise both liquid and total debt, pull interest rates down, cause a decline in consumption and move labor to tradable sectors from non-tradable ones. In this context, it will be relevant to put forth some of the findings of the fourth living standard survey.  Per the survey, the last 12 years have seen a meager reduction in poverty.  Estimated on the basis of threshold per capita per year income of Rs 19,261, a quarter of the population (25 percent) was under deprivation in 2011. On the contrary, the poverty rate is being calculated on the basis of the threshold per capita income of Rs 72,908 per year in 2023. This level of income was considered as the minimum income required to fulfill basic needs of the people such as food and non-food items. On the basis of this threshold income, the poverty rate has come down to 20 percent, a  paltry 0.16 percent reduction in 12 years.  Per the survey, Far-Western and Gandaki provinces have the highest (34.16 percent) and lowest (11.88 percent) poverty rates, respectively. Also, poverty runs deeper in rural areas than in urban areas. The poverty rate in rural areas is 24.66 percent against 18.34 percent in urban areas, according to the findings of the survey. These data stress the need for serious efforts to reduce poverty, which is pervasive and deeply-rooted. Notably, there is a significant change in consumption expenditures between the third and fourth living standard surveys.The average expenditure on consumption of nonfood and food items was 38 percent and 62 percent, respectively in the third survey. It stands at 47 percent for nonfood items and 53 percent for food items in the fourth survey, showing that people have increased consumption expenditure on nonfood items compared to food items over 12 years. The household consumption expenditure as percentage of GDP in 2023 was 88.2 percent while the same was 85 percent  in 2011, an increase of 3.7 percent. It reveals that Nepal has consumed all of its income rather than making long-run investments for achieving sustainable development goals. In 2011, remittance inflow stood at $4.22bn while in 2023 it swelled to $9.3bn, marking an increase of a whopping 120 percent in 12 years. In 2011, remittance’s contribution to Nepal’s GDP was 19.54 percent, which soared to 22.7 percent (an increase of 16.1 percent) in 2023. During the 12-year reporting period, the poverty rate has come down to 20 percent from 25 percent.  Apparently, remittance inflow is behind a marginal reduction in poverty and increased forex reserves.  Without a doubt, a constant inflow of remittances over the past 2-3 decades has been keeping the Nepali economy afloat.

Opinion

A roadmap for eradicating TB

Over the past two decades, the world has made remarkable progress in the fight against tuberculosis (TB). However, TB is still a serious challenge from a global health and development perspective.  According to WHO, more than 10m people continue to fall ill with TB every year. More importantly, a heavy burden of TB is on poor, vulnerable and socially marginalized populations. In this context, the strategic interventions primarily focus on a unified response to end all the sufferings by addressing social determinants of TB. However, in many low-income countries, there are still inadequate policies and strategies to support implementation of universal health coverage, social protection, and regulatory frameworks to prevent and end TB. Nepal has set the goal to end TB by 2035. The first-ever prevalence survey in 2018-19 shows that TB incidence and prevalence in Nepal are 245 and 416 per 100,000 people, respectively with a majority of TB patients from productive age groups. Interestingly, the prevalence among men is more than in women. Considering this reality, Nepal’s strategic plan to end TB (2020/21-2025/26) offers fresh hopes to many TB patients in terms of an easy access to timely diagnosis, treatment, prevention and care.   An ambitious plan By 2025, the ambitious strategy aims to significantly increase treatment coverage, success rate, uptake of new diagnostics and new drugs, and reduce catastrophic costs. The strategic priorities primarily include integrated patient-centered care, treatment and prevention, multi-sector engagement, and research for creating synergies for a unified response. Putting patients at the heart of the delivery, the strategy calls for consistent actions to ensure early detection, treatment and prevention for all TB patients. A recent review of the strategic plan to end TB suggests that there are significant gaps in strengthening prevention and treatment services, community engagement, multi-sectoral coordination and accountability in the federal context. While social protection services for improved service delivery are critically needed, the rollout of new tools and innovative digital technologies are crucial for an effective TB response. This will help ensure treatment for all people with TB, including the drug-resistant strain. A priority agenda Engaging the private sector is a priority agenda in TB response. However, there are limited interventions to strengthen implementation of the public-private partnership strategies at all levels. Experiences from Bangladesh, India and Myanmar suggest that non-governmental organizations can play a critical role in providing essential TB services at the community level. Effective implementation of the strategic plan is crucial at the local level. Because of inadequately-trained human resources for TB services, it is a challenging task for local governments to provide quality TB services. Therefore, concerted efforts are needed to ensure supportive supervision, periodic review, monitoring and evaluation, and timely feedback mechanism for actions at the local level.    Despite persistent challenges of ensuring human and financial resources, Nepal has implemented a TB-free initiative at the local level for enhancing political leadership and ownership in TB response. The scaling up of the TB-free initiative is critical to strengthen local health policies and harness the power of multi-sectoral engagement for timely notification, diagnosis, prevention, treatment and care. Inadequate efforts However, existing efforts are inadequate to enhance the capacity of local governments in participatory and inclusive planning of a TB-free initiative. More focus is needed in the area of ensuring meaningful engagement of TB patients so that their representation, voiced experiences, and choices of prevention, treatment and care are realistically addressed at all levels. While TB is heavily influenced by socio-cultural, economic and health risk-related factors such as undernutrition, diabetes, HIV infection, and smoking, multi-sector actions are needed to combat the epidemic.    More importantly, there are high-level global and regional events that have significantly reaffirmed commitments toward ending TB. In Sept 2023, the political declarations adopted at the UN High-level Meeting on TB include commitments toward universal access to TB services in both high and low-burden countries, with time-bound targets of reaching, with health services, at least 90 percent of people with or at risk of TB between 2023 and 2027. Moreover, there is a critical need to increase investments, and fast-track the development and availability of new tools to prevent, diagnose and provide treatment for TB.   Undoubtedly, TB is largely a social disease that poses significant development challenges. There are growing needs to reduce human suffering and the socio-economic burden of TB by providing mental health and social protection services at the community level. Toward this end, anthropology of infectious diseases is instrumental in understanding interaction among socio-cultural, economic, political and biological variables in prevention and treatment of TB. In this context, it is evident that TB is disproportionately common among disadvantaged populations. From an anthropological perspective, the relationship between poor health and poverty is a consequence of biosocial and biocultural factors. Still, stigma and discrimination associated with TB is another challenge to provide necessary care and support in the families. Therefore, apart from TB prevalence surveys, it is equally important to better understand people’s indigenous knowledge, attitude and health–seeking behavior to prevent and provide treatment for TB in the communities. Urgent action necessary To sum up, urgent actions are necessary to ensure universal access to TB prevention, treatment and care at all levels. The strategic priorities must focus on multisectoral actions to address wider determinants of the TB epidemic and effective management of the co-morbidities. In addition, there is an emerging need to strengthen health systems for ensuring essential TB services during disasters and pandemics such as Covid-19.  The author is a health policy analyst  

Opinion

Distress calls from a rare waterbird

Black-bellied tern (Sterna acuticauda) is a globally endangered bird species that belongs to the family Laridae and is locally known as “Utkroshi Phyalphyale” in Nepal. The species, once abundant throughout its distribution range, is vanishing silently. This calls for a heightened conservation attention from stakeholders. Native to countries like Nepal, India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Thailand, China and other Southeast Asian countries, this species is found near water bodies like rivers, ponds, lakes and marshes. Once found abundantly on the lowlands of Nepal at the elevation range of 75-730 meters, the species seems to have vanished, literally, these days. Characterized by a distinctive black belly, deeply forked and long tail and slender orange bill, black-bellied tern is a small waterbird measuring 32-35 cm in length. Its diet includes fishes and insects. The bird is quick when diving for fish and skims over the surface of water and land to catch its prey. Nesting and breeding take place from February to April. This bird is solitary during nesting, nests on sand and gravel islands in water bodies. It shares its habitat with other bird species, so conservation of one species helps other bird species as well.  In the Bengali region, this bird is considered sacred and is associated with wealth and prosperity. The species is known for its unique appearance and a major ecological role, mainly as a predator to small fishes and insects. The conservation of this species is important to maintain a healthy ecosystem and biodiversity. Globally, the population of this geographically-restricted species, like several other waterbird species, is declining, with an estimated population of less than 10,000 individuals at present, including merely 10-20 individuals in Nepal.  Habitat loss and degradation, invasive species, overexploitation of resources and climate change are some of the threats facing the species. Anthropogenic activities such as hunting of the species for meat and foraging for eggs, and use of catapults have impacted the species directly. Invasive plant species in lakes and rivers, overfishing, sand and stone mining and extraction, dam and other water regulatory bodies, recreational activities (picnics near their habitats, boating, etc), agriculture and aquaculture have impacted the species indirectly.   The threats to the species native to the Tarai region are multiplying, thanks to a number of factors like massive migration of people after the eradication of malaria from the region in 1950s’ and 60s’ in search of fertile farmlands and better infrastructure. Industrial development, rampant extraction of construction materials like sand, stones and boulders from riverbeds, ‘transformation’ of many wetlands turned into settlements and agricultural land, this species and several other flora and fauna are facing an increased threat. Combined, these threats can lead to local extinction of the species.  What next? As we have a limited understanding of the ecology of the species in Nepal, including information on its distribution, our first priority should be on addressing the knowledge void.  What is shocking in this regard is a recent study that recorded just two individuals at the Koshi Tappu Region, considered a prime habitat for the species, pointing toward serious threats facing the species. Deploying bird watching groups as citizen scientists can be fruitful in this matter. Conservation measures should be carried out side by side as we cannot wait till the ample evidence is collected for devising conservation measures. Raising awareness in local communities particularly those whose livelihood is directly dependent on the rivers and wetland is must.  Sensitization of other stakeholders, including local people, schoolchildren and government representatives are also essential. Monitoring of the nesting sites to avoid egg collection, prohibition on collection of river bed materials during the breeding season and regulation of the use of heavy machinery in potential habitats are also equally necessary. Also important is the livelihood diversification of fishing communities to reduce their dependence on wetlands. Dams have drawn criticism for their negative impact on many species, but for this species, dams are a habitat. So, we might think of constructing dams in some areas as they provide a perfect habitat for this species and also protect its food habitat. Conclusion Black-bellied terns, whose population has suffered a drastic decline in Nepal, need serious conservation intervention. As we lack information on the ecology of the species, there’s a need to carry out research and conservation works side by side. Working together, we can create a better future for black-bellied terns and other waterbirds. The author is a conservation associate at Environment Protection and Study Center (ENPROSC)

Opinion

A diclofenac-free status: No mean feat for Nepal

Diclofenac, a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug commonly used in veterinary medicine, has been linked to vulture population declines in South Asia. When a vulture ingests this drug, it causes renal failure and results in the scavenger’s death. As the population of the natural cleansers of the carcasses declines, carcasses are left in the environment to rot, spreading various infectious pathogens to humans and animals in their close periphery population, posing a big threat to public health.    Nepal is home to nine species of vultures, eight of which are either threatened or near threatened.  The country was home to almost a million vultures until the 1980s. But due to a massive use of diclofenac sodium in livestock since the 1990s and its residual effect on carcasses of the dead animals, which is the feed source for vultures, the population of vulture had been declining massively, with almost 91 percent of the vulture population lost by the year 2001.  Out of the nine species found in Nepal, four species, namely slender-billed vulture (G tenuirostris), white-rumped vulture (Gyps bengalensis), Indian vulture (G indicus), and red-headed vulture (Sarcogyps calvus) are now critically endangered. This dwindling population of vultures has raised concern among conservationists and several initiatives are in progress to arrest this decline. This includes the government’s decision to ban the production, import, sale and use of diclofenac in animals since 2006.  Despite this ban, it took 17 years to declare Nepal diclofenac-free, which, nonetheless, is a commendable step in the field of vulture conservation and protection of ecological crises resulting from declining vulture populations. Against this backdrop, a complete phase-out of diclofenac became possible through collaborative efforts of stakeholders like government agencies, veterinary professionals, pharmaceuticals and vulture conservation groups including Bird Conservation Nepal.  The use of vulture safe anti-inflammatory drugs such as the Meloxicam Sodium and Tolfenamic Acid, public awareness campaigns and regulatory measures of the government have played a significant role in making Nepal diclofenac-free.  Summing up, other nations dealing with similar problems, especially South Asian countries, can learn a lot from Nepal’s experience on how to work collaboratively on the protection of endangered species and ecological well-being. The involvement of various stakeholders with a collaborative approach and use of safe drugs should be the top priority of any nation as they seek to mitigate the impact of diclofenac on vulture population and maintain a healthy ecosystem and biodiversity. The author is a veterinary officer at the Department of Livestock Services

Cutting-edge AI: A friend or foe?

In human civilization, human beings are always in search of an alternative, which can work at least like them. In this quest, humans seem to be getting more than what they bargained for, thanks to recent advancements in the field of Artificial Intelligence (AI). When it comes to mastering languages and playing chess, for example, AI has already surpassed humans, indicating that AI can display its boundless capacity across diverse sectors. According to the famous author and historian Yuval Noah Harari, AI is associated with the future of humanity. In his words, there are at least two milestones in the development of AI. First is the capacity of the machine to identify and respond to the feelings and emotions of human beings. Another is the ability to navigate and operate safely in a real-world scenario. According to John McCarthy, AI is the science and engineering of making intelligent machines that can perform tasks that are characteristics of human intelligence. The intelligent systems could be in the form of software, hardware or a combination of both. We notice some overlap between AI and information technology basically in terms of the use of computer technology. Actually, AI is more focused on creating intelligent systems that can be operated autonomously and make decisions, while IT is concerned with the infrastructure and systems used to manage and process data.  Recent trends in AI The key elements of AI include Natural Language Processing (NLP), expert systems, robotics, intelligent agents, computational intelligence and artificial general intelligence, etc. In recent years, many advancements have been made in each of these elements. Areas of AI application range from features in social media and smartphones to image and speech recognition, use of robotics in customer service, recommendation engines for effective strategies, stock trading and useful products like generative AI. ChatGpt, chatBot, Google Gemini are few widely-used generative AI tools, which have already evolved into new generations with multiple capabilities.  Paradigm shift is seen in AI quantum computing. AI humans like robots are interesting aspects as they can read human expressions and emotions, a capability that can be used to perform repetitive chores, especially in customer care and factories. The right tracking of use of AI is the accountability of humans. If AI goes out of human control, there is a risk of developing a supposed friend into an alien. Talking about recent advancements in AI, we should at least recall web development and its commercial use since the 2000s. Another remarkable event is of late 2017 when an AI program named Alpha zero developed by Google defeated the most powerful chess program, indicating that AI is surpassing human capability. Simulation of intelligence in machines is another development in AI. Virtual reality and augmented reality creating simulated environments are also crucial achievements in the sector.  Emotionally-intelligent AI are able to detect micro expressions in face and support customer care. Autonomous AI systems are known for multitasking such as driverless vehicle operation along crowded roads. Microsoft’s Open AI is known for speech and image recognition. ChatGpt introduced in Nov 2022 is regarded as a turning point in AI use.  According to Geoffrey Hinton, ‘godfather’ of AI, machines may walk over the humans who make them in the near future. Quality education Inequality vis-a-vis access to modern information and communication technology is best described as the digital divide. Once we make countrywide coverage of internet services, there will be easy availability of access to AI tools through apps, most of which are free of cost. Personalized AI education systems are supposed to be adaptive and effective in addressing learning gaps followed by performance analysis. Hopefully, the quality of education will go up with the introduction of AI tools in the near future. AI-enhanced healthcare The time taken for x-ray reports has diminished from more than a week to just one minute, thanks to AI. Diagnostics of critical diseases has been made easier using AI supported programs. For example, cure.AI is an Indian company providing its service to more than 700 hospitals. In Nepal, telemedicine is already in use and there is a possibility of using AI-enhanced healthcare through well-equipped focal hospitals. AI-enhanced tools are useful not only for disease detection but also for personalized medication. But provisions for data security and privacy protection are absolutely necessary as the use of this technology becomes widespread.   AI and economy We can recall the use of Sophia, a humanoid female robot at a Sustainable Development Goals-related program that UNDP had organized in Kathmandu in March, 2018. It is increasingly believed that AI will transform the global economy in the coming years. But we have to start making preparations by anticipating this transformation. Recently, the International Monetary Fund warned that AI may hit almost 40 percent of jobs and cause a new kind of inequality in the world. Historically, machines and computers ate up a large number of jobs in their massive use stage and there’s every possibility that a massive use of AI tools will yield more severe results.  Also, AI is supposed to be useful in mitigating impacts of climate change, waste management and efficient use of energy. Generative AI, for example, has the potential to automate many tasks and eventually boost global economic growth. Goldman Sachs Research forecasts that AI will start having a remarkable impact on US GDP from 2027 and begin affecting growth in other economies around the world in the years that follow. Impact on society With a fast-changing capacity of AI and its widespread use, human beings are gradually being AI-enhanced. At the initial stage, skepticism prevails everywhere. We need a set of policies to safely leverage the vast potential of AI for the benefit of humanity. The features and provisions in the AI tools should honor the basic tenets of democracy like freedom of expression, transparency, accountability, rule of law, human rights and concerns of marginalized sections of the society. Novel threats demand novel approaches to deal with and AI is no exception. One study conducted by analyzing the views of 2800 authors throughout the globe revealed that the evolution of AI tools and techniques has been remarkably faster than projected. AI and governance It’s clear that AI governance and governance through AI have different scopes. The trend has shifted to the latter these days. In this context, the Ministry of Communication and Information Technology, Nepal recently prepared a preliminary conceptual note on the use of AI in the country. It is working with experts to give this document a final shape. Now is the right time for the National Planning Commission to pay attention to policy and programs related to governance through AI for inclusion in the upcoming periodic plan as well as the annual budget. AI should be a priority agenda for our government also, at least for learning and adaptation.  Grave concern Global initiatives are important to create a forum for discussions on AI issues. For example, there may be a need for a treaty to ban the use of military robot, check the random use of data algorithms, especially during general elections. We need to use AI more for increasing production and simplifying public service delivery.  With its rapid increase in application, AI regulation is the area every government needs to give attention to. Since the public sector of the third world has every chance to lack AI experts, there should be a policy guiding capacity development of government officials vis-a-vis AI, followed by general regulation for the best use of AI in Nepal and encouragement for tech companies working in the field of AI.  Let me wrap up this piece with a note of caution: AI in the hands of bad actors will be a matter of great concern.  The author is a joint secretary at the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology

politics

No issues in coalition government: Deuba

Nepali Congress (NC) President Sher Bahadur Deuba has said that there are no issues among the political parties in the coalition government. Talki…

Fate of NC-Maoist coalition

For quite some time now, Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal has been vocal about his intentions to revamp his Cabinet, aiming to oust underperforming …

Speaker Ghimire directs government to answer questions raised in Parliament meeting

Speaker Devraj Ghimire directed the government to answer the questions raised by lawmakers in the meeting of the House of Representatives. Speaker…

Upper House lawmakers call for prioritizing job creation and youth mobilization in budget

National Assembly (NA) lawmakers, speaking in the discussions on the principles and priorities of the Appropriation Bill for the upcoming fiscal year…

apEx series

Girls who marry early face abuse and health issues

The impacts of child marriage are plenty and far-reaching. Dr Richa Amatya, psychiatrist, says psychological problems in child marriage start with adjustment issues, which is mostly true for the brides. “They find it difficult to adjust in a completely new environment,” she says. Ruby Khan, activist, says the girls are blamed for not handling the family well and that adds to their woes. “Famil…

ApEx Series: The devastating effects of child marriage

A few months back, a woman jumped into the Karnali river along with her four children. Apparently, she had gotten married as a teenager, and was often abused by her husband and in-laws. The 25-year-old decided to end her life, and that of her children too, as she saw no way out of her plight. No one survived. This, Nirjana Bhatta, national coordinator at Girls Not Brides-Nepal, a network of or…

ApEx Series: What if… ropeway was our major means of transport?

Ropeways are an ideal means of human and goods transport in Nepal, a country filled with rugged mountains and hills. In fact, installing ropeways is …

ApEx Series: International ropeway practices and lessons for Nepal

When Bir Bahadur Ghale, a local of Barpak village in Gorkha, went to Hong Kong in 1986, he was fascinated by the cable cars he saw there. They were a…

ApEx Series: Is ropeway revival possible?

This year marks the centenary of the start of ropeway in Nepal. Renewable Energy Confederation of Nepal (RECON), Nepal Ropeway Association, USAID and…

apEx pioneers

Harry Bhandari: An inspiring tale of Nepali immigrant in the US

Quick facts Born on 1 Oct 1977 in Parbat Went to Tribhuvan Secondary School, Parbat Graduated in PN Campus, Pokhara; post-grad in English literature from Tribhuvan University First elected to the Maryland House of Delegates in 2018 and has been a member of the House since Jan 2019 PhD from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC) Husband to Sangita Baruwal Father to Ronix Bhandari and Salona Bhandari I began my early education at a public school establishe…

Baburam Bhattarai: An analysis on Nepal’s underdevelopment

Quick facts Born on 18 June 1954 in Gorkha Went to Amarjyoti Janata High School, Gorkha Graduated from Punjab University, Chandigarh, Post-grad from School of Planning and Architecture, New Delhi PhD in Regional development planning from Jawaharlal Nehru University Published doctoral thesis ‘The Nature of Underdevelopment and Regional Structure of Nepal: A Marxist Analysis’ in 2003 Husband of Hisila Yami Father to Manushi Yami Bhattarai I went to India in…

Sunil Babu Pant: A guardian of LGBTIQA+ community

Quick facts Born on June 1972 in Gorkha  Went to Laxmi Secondary School, Gorkha  Graduated in Computer Science from Ukraine and Belarus  Became the member of first constituent assembly in 2008  Partner to Peter Neil  I saw the oppression of gay men during my time in Minsk, Belarus, where I was studying for my master’s degree in computer science. The queer bashing, the poster…

Usha Nepal: An inspiration to every working woman

Quick facts Born in Mahottari, Nepal Went to Balika Secondary School, Biratnagar Received a Bachelor’s in Arts from Banaras Hindu University, India Received a Master’s degree through Colombo Plan Scholarship in Patna, India  Studies Law from Tribhuvan University, Kathmandu Became the first female CDO in 1989 Being the first female Chief District Officer (CDO), whi…

Anupama Khunjeli: A trailblazer banker

Quick facts Born on 14 Nov 1970 in Kathmandu  Went to St Mary’s High School, Lalitpur  Graduated from Shanker Dev Campus; post-grad from Ace Institute of Management  Joined banking sector in 1991 as a teller  Wife of Dr Rabindra Khunjeli  Mother to Swastika Khunjeli  I have always had a competitive streak in me. I was into sports from a young age and I wanted to be an ath…

Capt Siddartha Jang Gurung: Aviation rescue specialist

Quick facts Born on 20 April 1975 in Lalitpur  Went to Alperton High School, London, UK Completed flight course from Florida Flight Academy, US Started rescue flights from 1995  Husband of Sraddha Gurung Father to Devanshi Gurung and Shlok Jung Gurung  I have been flying helicopters for 27 years now, and have a long experience of flying in the mountainous terrain of Nepal…

Bhuwan Chand: Born to perform

Quick facts Born on 14 June 1949, Kathmandu Went to Ratna Rajyalaxmi Campus, Pradashani Marg, Kathmandu  Took a leading role in the first Nepali feature film ‘Aama’ in 1964 Wife to Michael Chand Mother to Sheela Chand, Sheetal Chand, and Shirush Chand  I started my career in acting when I was merely four-five years old. Back then, we had no such thing as film acting. Nepal s…

editorial

working together is no longer optional-it is a matter of compulsion

Annapurna Media Network has announced the Unity for Sustainability campaign which comes into force from January 1, 2022. The main aim of this campaign is to 'lead the climate change dialogue' working closely with all the stakeholders on sustainable development mode, particulary focusing on climate-change issues.