Op-Ed: Digitally Disadvataged

Digitally Disadvantaged

A report realeased by the World Bank says that Nepal has slipped in global Information Technology ranking; placing 131st out of 138 surveyed.The report considered three factors-overall business environment, regulatory structure and existing infrastructure, to evaluate nations.

For Nepal to be ranked near the bottom is unfortunate. Our political system has been paralyzed for years now. This environment of chaos and lack of policy consistency is impeding growth and development across the board-from technology to education, agriculture, social services and anything in between.

While rest of the world is galloping away in information technology super highway, Nepal is stuck in digital middle ages. There are no national guidelines or laws on vital issues such as data security and privacy, digital rights management and media ethics.

Private and public businesses are eagerly embracing latest technology and tools to attract new customers and please existing ones, but lack of proper laws and safety procedures is forcing them to operate in a technology black hole.

Misadventure experienced by a national daily of repute exposes the pitfalls of working in such an environment.

As there are no accepted guidelines or laws to regulate user privacy and online data management , a huge controversy erupted when an unsuspecting user’s public tweet was published-without prior notification or consent.

The newspaper did publish a public tweet, it is free information; but the way the entire episode was handled has exposed major flaws regarding how our media organizations use and view online information.

The most glaring omission on the media organization’s part was their failure to recognize that even if a public tweet is public information, publishing it without prior notification or consent is intrusive. Especially so because the person here is not a public figure and their tweet did not pertain to matters related to national or international interest.

Twitter, Facebook and other social networking sites are increasingly being used by journalists around the world and also in Nepal. But unlike in the US or in Europe where media houses have established code of conduct regarding online information gathering and usage; our newspapers are operating in a vacuum.In this vacuum, it is easy to ignore privacy concerns and venture into ethical minefield.

This episode may not have caused huge public embarrassment to this media because majority of the debate and critique happened online and internet access is still a luxury few can afford in Nepal. Still it has left a stain, however minor, on their reputation.

If there were laws on online privacy and media access, or if the media house itself had taken the initiative to establish a guideline, this mis-step could have been entirely avoided. But such is the general lack of acceptance that data privacy important, that even our most reputable news organizations don’t bother to look into it seriously.

Misstep of this media organization readily came to public attention, what about questionable situations happening in banks, financial institutions, offices where new technology is being used without proper safeguards?

For instance, online banking banking is fast gaining poprlarity in Nepal. It is convenient and also provides cost benefits to the bank; but how safe is the user’s data? There are no laws on online data fraud and identity theft. Most of the major banks offering online and mobile banking have little information on privacy and data safety policy publicly accessable by the users. They also offer very little instructions to the users on avoiding data and identity theft.

As our tech-legal black hole grows, the system remains paralyzed, unable to deal with evolving technology and demands of the people. This inability to embrace advancements and mold existing structures to suit the changes poses severe risk to Nepal’s growth possibility-not limited to technology.

Bhumika Ghimire

One thought on “Op-Ed: Digitally Disadvataged

  1. Pingback: Op-Ed: Digitally Disadvataged | Nepal Blogs | Today Headlines

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