ICT Infrastructure from Non-Government Sector in Nepal
This article is about ICT education, research and resource sharing practices initiated by a non-government sector in Nepal. Though most of the educational institutes in urban areas are connected to the Internet, they could not get benefit in the education other than email and basic internet services and also practice of the resource sharing and research and development between inter-institution is very negligible. To overcome the scenario of research backwardness and supporting to transform the trend of teaching-learning practices, with the support of Government, Nepal Research and Education Network (NREN) has connected with Trans-Eurasia Information Network (TEIN) , a high-speed research network that connectsAsia with Europe and America, NSRC , in the year 2009. This initiative aimed to connect with Global R&E communities as well as establish high-speed dedicated research and education network nationwide by connecting leading universities, and institutions focusing on research and education. The overall initiatives has been handling by Nepal Research and Education Network, a not for profit organization establish for promoting research and education network in Nepal. It also supports to build technical human resources by hosting various essential and advanced training for private and public sectors collectively working to build IT enabled nation. The partnership between international agencies working for ICT and Knowledge development i.e. NIA (Korea) , Global Development Learning Network (GDLN) , ConnectAsia supporting to create ICT environment and efficient sharing of knowledge between the countries and the regions.
ICT in Education sector in Nepal
Internet was introduced in Nepal in 1992 to exchange electronic -mails. But after the long span of time internet is still limited to the urban area of Nepal. All most all of the educational institutions have internet connectivity but limited to the basic internet activities like email, it is mainly due to the fact that internet cost in Nepal is quite high to afford the high bandwidth. High and dedicated bandwidth service is needed to access contents like Open Course Ware (OCW) , Video Conferencing (VC), and online activities which is not accessible through the current internet bandwidth pricing in Nepal (NTC, NRs. 45000/mbps/month : almost equal to salary of two full-time lecturers ). Though most of the education materials are available in the Internet, students are limited to textbook and the lectures only. With the initiation from the NREN, students and lecturers are able to share their lecture classes within the member institutions and can have access to the world-class universities and research institutions. Beside this, they are also capable to share ideas to international forums by organizing the regular conferences with the different institutions and the trainings program organized by the professors, IT professional, and the students.
ICT is helpful in creating, constructing, capturing, managing, and sharing information and knowledge. Provide dedicated Internet infrastructure between and among universities, research institutions and other educational and public service organizations. Such networks have been established in over 90 countries and are optimized to meet the needs of their members’ research, teaching, learning, clinical, service and outreach missions. E-Infrastructures are crucial for enabling virtual global research communities, which are drivers for social and economic well-being. Furthermore, the combination of ICT-based resources and associated tools and services allow new ways of collaborating and sharing resources independently of the researcher’s geographical location.
A strengthened and enhanced cooperation on ICT research within institutions, nations and continents is required for international, cutting edge research to solve the challenges facing organizations. Competitiveness of Research and Educational Institutions are strengthened through strategies which emphasize economic diversification, development of new competences, and the exploitation of available economies of scale. Information Technology has a positive impact on the socio-economic transformation of the developing countries like Nepal. The changes can only be achieved by making education system stronger this is possible only with introduction of ICT and collaboration with the research frontiers of advanced countries.
A strengthened and enhanced cooperation on ICT research within institutions, nations and continents is required for international, cutting edge research to solve the challenges facing organizations. Competitiveness of Research and Educational Institutions are strengthened through strategies.
Developing countries like Nepal have poor infrastructure in education system, and they have not focused on the higher education though there are four universities, altogether around 400 affiliated colleges and more than 100,000 secondary level schools in the country. Most of the colleges in the urban area have their internet connection and might have access to the students which is only limited to the basic internet facility or only limited to the administrative purpose. Even though they have internet connection, the speed is not enough to stream online radio smoothly. Students from the college and universities are only focused on the text books referred by the curricula which are not sufficient to broaden their horizon of knowledge and understanding. The unemployment rate of the graduates is increasing, and to solve this problem, a group of academicians and IT professionals have started this project to boost up education by introducing ICT. To utilize the available resources and get involved with the international research activities they started to become a member of the research and education network. This network has been expanded to major cities of Nepal and where the broadband internet service infrastructure is available. The cooperation with Nepal Wireless made NREN to expand their network easily to the rural community schools, hospitals, and health clinics. Though they are only facilitator of the R&E network, they also provide the technical training for local ICT practitioners.
Private sectors are only focusing on the urban areas but even the teachers and educational materials are not sufficient. Private institutions are attracting students showing their quantity of pass number in final exam taken by the examination board but if we see the unemployment rate (46% in 2008) then we can assume that educational institution are producing unqualified graduates. But the government is not able to take proper action on improving the education sectors through revising policy, introducing new program. This scary situation can be solved by restructuring the education system or introducing the new teaching advance methodologies by sharing resources with the leading institution to the lagging institution.
On the other hand, well facilitated hospital and doctors are only available in the urban areas but 80.72% of total populations live in rural area. To provide some basic health services and consultation to those people NREN has started to support Telemedicine services with the help of Phect Nepal and Nepal Wireless. Phect Nepal is organizing regular health consultation by their experienced doctors on network where ANM, HA play the middle ware with doctor and patient. And the another important of this telemedicine network is ANM, HA are also taking training, case presentation from experienced doctors and also consulting with experienced doctors so that they can treat and advice their patient effectively.
Creating knowledge base network to make reachability in education and health with no boundaries
Research activities and sharing its result and experiences with the university students is one of the key secrets of NREN. Most of the academic institutions are not able to purchase conferencing equipment from their regular budget, which is the key turning point to explore the open source conferencing tools to connect them and make the project successful other than giving access to R&E network. VLC (High Bandwidth connection), BBB (Low Bandwidth connection) like open source software are used for streaming and video conferencing with high quality video which is very suitable and cost effective application. This application is highly useful in the case of the high and low bandwidth connection. But for the incompatibility with the proprietary devices like Polycom, member institutions need to gather in same NREN conferencing room. And few institution are now able to host this kind of program regularly but for the rest NREN supported to upgrade network infrastructure of member institutions by providing basic network equipments i.e. Router, Switches received from institution like Network Startup Resource Center, USA.
Telemedicine is another exciting project by the NREN with the collaboration of the Phect Nepal to provide the basic health advices, and services to the remote clinics, and health centers. This project is expanded to major hospitals of cities to share their medical cases they diagnosed in their respective hospitals. Through telemedicine, the benefits of specialist’s consultation can be provided online to patients in remote. This telemedicine service is not only being useful to the patients but also being useful to the doctors who are servicing in the remote area. They daily Prepare and presents different cases and getting necessary consultation from their seniors.
NREN is not only focused in the activities in education and telemedicine but also it is providing the opportunity for the researcher in the field of climate change in Himalayan region.
IT Professional and Private Sector Support
The major role for successful implementation of R&E network is due to the support of IT professional and internet service providers. In many countries internet service provider and R&E network are like enemy with each other, but in case of NREN, it might be the mutual sharing between them.
Expanding to the Rural Area
By collaboration with Nepal Wireless and the local communities, NREN is successful to create the network between the secondary level schools. Digital contents have been provided by the OLE Nepal and collected by NREN itself. Students were practicing on wall magazine to post their creativity, after connecting with other schools they are very excited to create and post their articles and education materials on their own portal. This platform has been supposed to shape their future from the beginning. Schools are also sharing their classes with other schools to exchange their ideas, and make competitive environment among the communities by using BBB conferencing system. Due to very interactive and user friendly features of this application students and excited to take their classes in the absence of their subject teachers and leisure period from other schools.
This research and education network is generating their revenues from the membership fees which is almost negligible (NRs 6000/month ), which is not sufficient to run the office smoothly.
Though this project is not innovative and new to the world, it changed our education system dramatically. Students, teachers, and even the management committee are talking with their neighboring institution to share their content even though point to point link in rural area. According to NREN secretariat, usually more than 2 schools contact to make connection or provide the technical solution to connect their nearby school/college which is positive aspect of this network. From the perspective of private sectors and individual, they are also influenced to support educational institution to make high speed public information highway without considering instant profit.
This project has started to join the almost all academic institutions to create e-learning environment to create knowledge base society and provide aid for deficit of teachers, and teaching backwardness to the rural areas. But this project is now in major cities and within the Nepal Wireless network. And also the institutes who are connected this network are not able to share their classes upon their interest due to dependability to NREN technician.
Limitations of this project are as follows:
• Readiness to the Internet in education
• Government Policy on education
• Lack of Research oriented curricula and interest in introducing ICT in their class room by lectures
• High technology cost