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Tag: Public-Private Partnership

OP-EDs and Columns

Need a unified data repository


The opinion piece originally appeared in The Kathmandu Post on 11 August 2023. Please read the original article here.

The digital age represents a transformative era characterised by the extensive use of digital technology in various aspects of human life, including politics, economy and social interactions. It is driven by incorporating and assimilating cutting-edge digital technologies, such as fifth-generation (5G) mobile networks, the Internet of Things (IoT), cloud computing, artificial intelligence, big data analysis and robotics. This signifies a transition from a hyperconnected world to a realm of digitised economies and societies. These developments blur the distinction between digital and traditional economies and foster disruptive technologies that fuel growth and innovation, shaping what economists call a “digital economy”.

Initiated in the 1970s with the advent of the microprocessor and personal computer, the digital revolution, driven by information and communication technologies (ICTs), has profoundly transformed our lives. At the core of this transformation lies a techno-economic paradigm (TEP), a framework guiding innovation and investment. Many view the digital revolution as a new TEP, with data propelling the digital revolution forward. The application of data within the digital revolution will remain the driver for economic growth and innovation in the future.

Data access and sharing

Data access and sharing can yield substantial social and economic advantages of three kinds: Direct, indirect and induced. Direct benefits primarily serve the data provider, increasing revenue and productivity; indirect benefits extend to suppliers and data users, fostering the creation of new products and services; and induced benefits reach the broader economy, fostering enhanced innovation and productivity. The extent of these benefits depends on the specific sector, the nature of the data and the method of sharing.

Nevertheless, numerous studies have demonstrated significant benefits. For instance, when it comes to public-sector data, enabling data access and sharing has shown the potential to yield social and economic advantages equivalent to 0.1-1.5 percent of GDP. For private-sector data, the benefits of data access and sharing have been found to account for 1-2.5 percent of GDP, with some studies suggesting even higher figures, up to 4 percent. Data access and sharing benefit innovation, decision-making and efficiency. Sharing data enables governments, businesses and organisations to access new ideas and insights, leading to the development of innovative products, services and processes. It also improves decision-making by providing deeper insights into the economy, customers, markets and competitors.

Weak digital foundations

The fundamental pillars in Nepal necessary for ensuring resilient digital service delivery are not very robust. The United Nations e-Government Development Index ranks Nepal 132 out of 193 countries. This ranking reflects a low standing due to significant weaknesses or absences in crucial elements of the digital government ecosystem. Insufficient infrastructure capabilities, such as limited capacity and resilience of government data centres, hinder public and private service delivery.

Additionally, there are issues related to poor coordination among government agencies, constraints in institutional capacity, inadequate funding and deficiencies in foundational elements like identification and digital signatures. Building a solid foundation on these issues will be crucial for Nepal to graduate to a middle-income country, as it aims to transform a knowledge-based economy with ICT playing a pivotal role in driving its growth.

Data centricity and API

Nepal must recognise the significance of data centricity, ensuring that data is accessible, usable and actionable at all levels of government. Governments should strengthen public trust by openly publishing data sets, free for public use, in formats that prevent information manipulation. This commitment to open government data aids in enhancing transparency, combating corruption and bolstering public sector accountability. The growing interest in open-source software is also contributing to development efforts. Leveraging open application programming interfaces (APIs) will further streamline access to public sector information through user-friendly applications, benefiting citizens.

The world is witnessing a surge in API development and the prominence of open data. Integrating online public data with mobile applications will become more commonplace, and open APIs play a vital role in this process, especially with the digitalisation of back-office operations. This advancement ensures government agencies can efficiently offer access to core information and transactional systems via accessible interfaces.

Private sector collaboration

The government can collaborate with private sector entities like GivingbackAI, which aims to create publicly available databases and information ecosystems from various government levels. Currently in its initial stage, GivingbackAI is focused on providing reliable data and making them accessible through its portal. They have introduced the OpenSourceNepal API, explicitly focusing on maintaining data repositories. The API has already been released for administrative units and economic data such as remittance, forex reserve, import and export. It is crucial to adopt these APIs and dashboards to avoid duplicating efforts. Various stakeholders like governments, businesses and researchers can build custom solutions using this API.

GivingbackAI aims to maintain publicly available data to facilitate evidence-based, data-driven decisions in Nepal, addressing local development issues. When the data is available on the GivingbackAl platform, policymakers and the general public can understand how current policies are successfully implemented or how the government can efficiently allocate resources to implement the policies at the grassroots level. The government can leverage technology to bring cutting-edge solutions to complex engineering, business and societal problems by supporting such innovative businesses.

Developing efficient and effective public data can enhance transparency, accountability and user empowerment. Moreover, GivingbackAI also has an education component known as Givingback AI Education, offering free hands-on courses on how to use its API, data visualisation etc., which esteemed software engineers train to produce the next generation of tech leaders in the country. GivingbackAI adopts a two-way approach, working with governments to shape AI development and with grassroots economies to empower local communities. The goal is to achieve sustained equilibrium for prosperity and inclusive growth.

More digital infrastructure

Nepal is well-positioned to improve its digital infrastructure and climb the development ladder. Economic Survey 2022-23 findings indicate that 95 percent of the total population has access to electricity, while internet usage is reported at 130.64 percent of the total population. The Internet is essential for Nepal’s digital economy, and the country’s technology and communication sector has grown significantly. The government is testing 5G technology alongside existing 3G and 4G services. The country has already shown great success with digital adoption, increasing mobile and Internet penetration. This is higher than many other developing countries in South Asia, and it is predicted that Nepal will have the highest Internet penetration by 2025.

Nepal’s future relies on digitalisation and digital governance, and this requires investing in digital infrastructure and promoting digital literacy. While there has been some progress in data sharing, there are efficiency issues that need to be addressed. The government launched initiatives like the Digital Nepal Framework 2019 to make Nepal a digital hub. To materialise the DNF, heavy investment in infrastructure, such as broadband internet and data centres, is needed to maintain a central data repository for informed decision-making, tracking development progress, and assessing development results. Leveraging open APIs and collaborating with private sector entities like GivingbackAI can further enhance data accessibility and streamline access to public information, benefiting citizens and promoting transparency.

Research Commentaries

NRC0012 – Enabling Factors for Public-Private Partnership in Infrastructure in Nepal

Enabling Factors for Public-Private Partnership in Infrastructure in Nepal

Nirnaya Bhatta


The fanfare with which the Third Nepal Infrastructure Summit was organized during 11-12 September indicates a realization that public infrastructural goods unequivocally contribute to national development. Public-private partnership is gradually being considered as the modality of choice to implement large infrastructure projects in Nepal, as evidenced by the recently passed Public Private Partnership and Investment Act, 2018. Although, it is essential to understand the state of the enabling conditions that in are in place currently that could either contribute or hinder effective public-private partnership in infrastructure in Nepal. The EIU Infrascope Index that measures a country’s capacity to implement PPPs in infrastructure is a good reference point in this regard. This RC draws lessons from common literature on the subject that Nepal could consider in terms of improving its enabling environment to implement PPPs in infrastructure.

PPP in Infrastructure in Nepal

There is an increasing consensus across political parties, the civil service, the private sector and the donor agencies that Nepal needs to urgently make strides in its infrastructure development. Further, to operationalize implementation of infrastructure projects, for the right reasons, Public-private partnership (PPP) is gradually being considered as the right modality to achieve these ends. After all, developing nations such as Brazil, China, India, Malaysia and Indonesia, to name a few, have managed to upgrade national infrastructure through the effective applications of PPP arrangements.

Any development in promoting PPPs in infrastructure in Nepal must be lauded. Consider the direct relationship between investments spending and raise in gross domestic product (GDP). For instance, “the International Monetary Fund estimates that an increase of 1% in investment spending raises gross domestic product (GDP) by approximately 0.4% in the same year and by 1.5% in 4 years after the increase” (IMF, 2014).

The increased importance given to PPP in Nepal is further attested by its importance underlined during the Nepal Infrastructure Summit held last week, which comes after a month of the first India Nepal Logistics Summit. Further, the Federal Parliament passed the Public Private Partnership and Investment Act, 2018, which only demonstrates there is a growing realization among major policy stakeholders that Nepal needs better infrastructure as a start to also support the tourism, education as well as industrialization.

It is useful to closely look at the enabling as well as disabling conditions in Nepal that would affect implementation of PPPs in infrastructure. For instance, how willing is the private sector in Nepal and foreign investors to invest in Nepali infrastructure? And more important, how capacitated is the Nepali public sector to bring relevant parties on board? Considering the low number of PPPs in infrastructure in Nepal, as compared to most of Asia, it does seem like Nepal still needs to get some fundamental factors in place. Although, the new PPPI, 2018 Act that seeks to establish a PPP Unit within the Investment Board, Nepal, is exclusively mandated to oversee PPP infrastructural undertakings.

Infrastructure Ranking of Developing Asian Economies, 2017–2018

Source: World Economic Forum. 2017. Global Competitiveness Report 2017–2018

Why PPP in infrastructure?

The World Bank defines PPP as “a long-term contract between a private party and a government entity, for providing a public asset or service, in which the private party bears significant risk and management responsibility, and remuneration is linked to performance” (World Bank, 2018). There may not be a better way to cover the infrastructure gap than public and private sector working alongside each other. PPPs “have been an effective conduit to channel private capital and funds to address a broader development agenda” (Deep, Kim, & Lee, 2019).

The increasing preference of availing PPP is easily understood, as “Lee et al. (2018) projected that doubling PPP investment from 0.5% of GDP in 2015 to 1% generate additional 0.1 percentage points to GDP growth per capita across Asia and the Pacific” (Deep, Kim, & Lee, 2019).

Further, while the public sector has the capacity to be the guarantor and can mobilize the state apparatus, the private sector provides readily available capital, operational efficiency, innovation in project implementation, and managerial and technical skills. Most importantly, the public sector could afford to consider the welfare implications of projects proposed under PPP.

The Infrascope Index provides an immediate reference point for evaluation:

The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) provides a very handy and insightful tool known as the Infrascope Index which Nepali policy makers can immediately consider using as a guide to improve the countries enabling environment. The Infrascope index is a benchmarking tool that assesses a country’s implementation capacity to execute key infrastructure sectors through PPP in transport, electricity, water and solid waste management. Hence, it allows policy makers to quickly identify major hindrances “unlock the power of PPPs and support the broader development agenda”.

Unfortunately, Nepal is not included in the index as of now. Although, on the bright side, the index exclusively studies countries where the American agency Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) works in. As Nepal is one of the beneficiaries of MCC, it is likely that Nepal will be considered in this index after MCC’s projects start the construction of “313-kilometre-long 400 kVA high-voltage transmission lines and three high-capacity substations, including building 1,039 transmission line towers across the alignment, and build different road projects with a total length of 305 kilometres.” (The Himalayan Times, 2019)

Does Nepal’s public sector have the capacity to effectively implement PPPs?

While it is useful to explore if the public sector of Nepal is adequately competent to implement effective PPPs, it is also fair to question whether the private sector is. An excellent report by Asian Development Bank, that compares PPP in infrastructure across Asian economies states that, “Among major factors supporting PPP implementation, the following features are critical: coherent policy, public sector capacity to manage PPP appropriately, public sector willingness to have mutual relation with private partners, and leadership” (Deep, Kim, & Lee, 2019). The challenges to apply PPP in a large scale pertains to it is a complex system; requires specific and sufficient knowledge of financing structure, risks allocation, contract management, and disputes resolution; and the transaction process usually takes a long time to conclude” (Zen, 2018).

In Nepal, investments in the infrastructure sector are often misunderstood to mean merely construction. The actual work continues after construction has concluded, including how the infrastructure is managed and maintained, and identifying different collaborative mechanisms that would engage the private and public sector together. This points to the extraordinary role that the public sector needs to play as the private sector could not be expected to take primarily take the role of a custodian.

As per the index, the following indicators can be used to evaluate Nepal’s readiness and capacity to implement PPPs in infrastructure into five components:

  • Enabling laws and regulations
  • The institutional framework
  • Operational maturity
  • Investment and business climate
  • Financing facilities for infrastructure projects

Policy Implications

Considering that the public and private sector have usually functioned in silos in Nepal, an environment of mitigating suspicion between the two needs to be created. While the public sector needs to regard the private sector as an equal partner in any PPP-based project; the private sector needs to take advantage of the fact that the public sector can indeed leverage massive resources, not limited to economic, but also the state apparatus to implement projects run under PPP. Huge profits can thus be generated.

Finally, the public sector should be under no delusion that PPPs will get off the ground by merely passing legal instruments and organizing glamorous summits. Traditionally, the public sector has been reactive in terms of putting relevant policies in place to address any issue, so when it comes to PPPs, it should be at the vanguard of initiating and ensuring all stakeholders are brought together. After all, the mandate to ensure welfare of a country is with the public sector, and not necessarily with the private sector that is not compelled to consider welfare implications.


  1. Deep, A., Kim, J., & Lee, M. (2019). Realizing The Potential Of Public–Private Partnerships To Advance Asia’s Infrastructure Development. Manila: Adb.
  2. IMF. (2014). World Economic Outlook: October 2914: Legacies, Clouds, Uncertainties. Washington, DC.
  3. The Himalayan Times. (2019, August 08). MCA-Nepal projects to start from June 2020. Retrieved from The Himalayan Times: https://thehimalayantimes.com/business/mca-nepal-projects-to-start-from-june-2020/
  4. World Bank. (2018, 02 06). What are Public Private Partnerships? Retrieved from Wolrd Bank PPP LRC: https://ppp.worldbank.org/public-private-partnership/overview/what-are-public-private-partnerships