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Digital trade, standards and Nepal

April 24, 2019

Returning to Nepal after a four-year break was always going to be a little challenging. After living in Kathmandu for an extended period, I had gotten to know the city’s intricate alleyways, local food vendors and importantly, how to haggle with the local taxi drivers. The strikes, dust and confusion of navigating the back streets of local neighbourhoods were all everyday challenges and success was a series of small victories.

In April 2015, a massive, deadly earthquake occurred in the Kathmandu valley and had a devastating impact on the community. Stories of the resilience of the Nepalese cannot be exaggerated and while the physical scars of the earthquake can still be seen, life goes on.

Having not been back to Nepal since the earthquake, the opportunity to visit in my new role as an International Engagement Manager made me feel very excited and fortunate, but also a little apprehensive around returning somewhere I was once at home, after such a long time.

I was part of the Standards Australia’s International Engagement Team that visited Kathmandu in March as part of the broader Indo-Pacific Digital Trade Standardisation Initiative.

Digital trade is a broad all-encompassing term and can be quite confusing! Not only is it about the buying and selling of goods and services online, it also includes the flow of information and data across borders.

For example, you can essentially buy whatever you want on ebay, but the share of information is needed, for your order to end up on your door.  If you want to read more about digital trade, I found this SBS News article.

And back to Nepal - We were there seeking to identify opportunities for standards that would support the Nepalese digital trade sector and to assist our local counterparts, the Nepal Bureau of Standards and Metrology in their standards development processes.

We conducted a needs analysis with the Nepalese standards body and their digital stakeholders. This brought industry, government and technical experts together, so we could identify and discuss their digital challenges and the solutions that can be found through using international standards. Some challenges that were brought up included low internet quality, protection of personal data and a lack of secure payment platforms for a digital marketplace.

After two days of lively and passionate debate, a clear set of priorities to address these challenges have been set out, forming the capacity building activities our team will conduct in Phase 2 of the project. Watch this space!

The passion and enthusiasm I saw these meetings was a huge reminder of the lively, welcoming and strong-willed people I had known here previously, and apparently a reliable characteristic of the Nepalese.

Personally, being able to return to Nepal and contribute to the ongoing development of their country in my capacity with Standards Australia is enormously rewarding, and allows me to continue working in a city I love, with smart, committed and passionate people.

While both Kathmandu and I have changed in the last four years, the energy of the city and its inhabitants remains constant. And luckily, my taxi haggling skills remain first-rate.

Further information can be found on the Indo-Pacific Digital Trade Standardisation Initiative page.

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