A recent initiative led by the World Bank Group’s Trade & Competitiveness (T&C) Global Practice leveraged information and communications technology (ICT) to make government-to-business services faster and seamless, reducing the time and cost of starting a business and obtaining construction permits. In addition, critical information was moved to the cloud to improve disaster-resilience, ensuring that key data would be safe, facilitating post-disaster reconstruction and the restoration of business activities.
The project was initiated in 2010, in partnership with the International Finance Cooperation (IFC) arm of T&C and the Ministry of Industry in Nepal. The government continued its support for the project, notwithstanding the devastating earthquake in 2015.
A new online business-registration system was established at the Office of Company Registration (OCR), which works in close cooperation with the Ministry of Finance. This resulted in a 45 percent reduction in the amount of time it takes to register a company in Nepal. According to the World Bank post, the streamlined process has led to estimated private-sector savings of more than $5 million, and helped stimulate a 24.8 percent increase in the number of new companies being registered.
Processes at six government agencies were also simplified for faster approval of construction permits. Consequently, the time for issuing permits was reduced from 240 days to an average of 41 days.
This improvement helped inspire the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) to support the development of an automated “eBuilding Permit System.” Subsequently, the Kathmandu Metropolitan City made the online submission of construction permits mandatory.
To promote interoperability and data-sharing within the government, as well as in business-to-government (B2G) and business-to-business (B2B) information-sharing, the reform project supported the development of a government information infrastructure in which data is stored, not on hard drives or networks, but in the cloud, providing an easier, lower-cost method of storing, retrieving and sharing data. This is expected to reduce the average cost and amount of time needed for businesses to comply with government regulation by 25 per cent.
The cloud platform is also expected to have a positive impact on the government’s efficiency in delivering services to the private sector, such as processes for paying taxes; registering a business; and gaining a wide array of government-issued approvals, licenses and permits.
Going past the original scope of the project, about a dozen additional government agencies have chosen to use this cloud-based platform and more agencies intend to do so.
Online processes were further automated by deploying a system incorporating digital signatures and digital certificates. The ability to digitally affix signatures and authorisations onto electronic documents is vital for the online delivery of G2B, G2G and B2G services and it is critical to ensuring the security of transactions in the banking sector. Operationalising this capability is expected to result in an estimated savings of $6 million in compliance costs in Nepal. Moreover, it will help build much-needed public trust in G2B service delivery, as well as public confidence in the government’s ability to provide services with efficiency and security.
Birendra Kumar Mishra, Director General in Nepal’s Department of Information Technology has expressed hope that government agencies can now focus more on business aspects of their service delivery rather than be bogged down by having to worry about managing technology.
Read the article on the World Bank website here.