By Nicoletta Metri
Recently, the Federal Parliament of Nepal introduced two pieces of legislation: the Individual Privacy bill, which deals with online privacy and data protection, and the Information Technology bill, which aims to replace the existing Electronic Transaction Act and has a broad scope. The Internet Society Nepal Chapter, in partnership with the Center for Law and Technology (CLT), aims to review these draft bills and to provide a platform for a wider range of stakeholder participation in order to ensure international standards and best practices of ICT (Information and Communications Technology) Policy Environment are followed.
According to the Nepal Chapter, these bills affect a number of fundamental rights, including the right to freedom of expression, information, association, and the right to privacy. For example, the new law requires social media to be registered with the government and imposes a high fine for publishing anything barred by the law. The proposed fine (around USD 15,000) is fifteen times the average income of a Nepali citizen (USD 1,000).
The one-year project, supported by the Internet Society Foundation and its Beyond the Net Grant Programme, will analyze the bills, organize consultations with stakeholders, and forward recommendations to parliament and government agencies to ensure an open and sustainable Internet for the benefit of the community. The Chapter is not only working on the bills but also the policy process, such as monitoring the Digital Identity Card project of the Nepal government and trying to build a public discourse on ICT issues.
The project started in August 2018 with a preliminary review of the draft bills, based on International standards and fundamental rights protection guaranteed by the Nepal Constitution. The Chapter shared its review with stakeholders. Afterward, a policy brief was presented in consultation meetings with policymakers and senior bureaucrats.
On 17 March 2019, the Nepal Chapter President Santosh Sigdel made a presentation during a meeting held by the Society of Parliamentary Affairs journalists and the ICT Journalist Development Forum, with the participation of Gokul Baskota, Minister of Communication and Information Technology. An interview with Santosh Sigdel was published on 22 March 2019 by the Naya Patrika, a national daily newspaper, explaining how this project is engaging with policymakers. It included concrete recommendations for the benefit of all Nepalese citizens.
The whole set of activities will help to change the problematic language of the bills and encourage a multistakeholder approach for a better ICT legal environment. This project is an opportunity for the Nepal Chapter to engage with policymakers with concrete recommendations for the benefit of all people – while paving the way for the Chapter involvement in future legislation processes.