Muni Bahadur ShakyaNepal's ICT (information communication technology) sector has no dearth of genius people. Muni Bahadur Shakya is such a figure whose innovations fetch pride and kudos both at the national and international levels. Known as Bhismapitambah (a famous character in the Mahabharat epic) in the sector, Shakya has pioneered in several IT genres.
Microcomputer (1979), development and integration of devanagari (Nepali scripts) into computer (1983), development of basic input output system (BIOS) (1982), establishment of computer manufacturing plant (1995) and Nepali-versioned super computer and robots (2006) are among his innovations.
When he made super computer last year, a large number of people especially young students, made a beeline at his factory that displays his new inventions. All the day he had been busy briefing about them.
"Everybody wanted me to tell about the super computer and I really enjoyed in furnishing the curiosities of the curious students," Shakya recalled the people's attraction to his discoveries.
He made a super computer by combining memory and speed of 16 computers.
"It takes half an hour to complete a task that a general computer takes 8 hours," he says.
It costs around Rs. 1 million to make a super computer.
Talking about the benefits of super computer in the Nepalese context, he says that it is highly useful for the banking sector and weather forecasting.
"In both areas, people have to process a large number of data that a general computer is unlikely to function effectively," he adds.
He says that the Meteorology Department badly needs super computer for an accurate forecasting.
"There are about 24 satellites active in space and send million of data to the earth. If the department has a powerful and efficient computer to analyse such data quickly, it can predict precisely."
Not only the weather forecast, he said, it is equally important for the financial forecasting.
He says, "They cannot buy time in computing where the things should be done within an allotted time."
Asked about the response on his innovation, he maintains that concerned people have realised the need of super computer but they complained about the lack of sufficient budget.
One of the factors behind not adopting the super computer is the inadequate priority to new technology and lack of know-how, he said.
"My objective is to highlight the importance of research and development (R&D) in the economic development. It is up to the government and the private sector to adopt the new technology to expedite works fast and efficiently," he said.
A few years back the government planed to import a super computer from India for the Department but the plan was never materialised. According to the sources, it did not accept the Indian offer of super computer as donation as it was an old model and would prove a white elephant because of its high in maintenance and repairing costs. This super computer is a big in size and consumes much electricity.... (More inside)
He said that the US-based IBM Company had manufactured the biggest super computer known as IMB Gene/L that has memory and processing power of a combined 65,536 computers. Its speed is 138.5 teraflop. One teraflop contains 1,000 gigabits.
"The concept of super computer is a relative matter. The super computer made in 1960 had less capacity than a desk computer of today," he added.
Dwelling on his robot innovations, he said that artificial intelligence (AI) and automation are the key two inherent qualities of robots.
Students of Pulchowk Engineering Campus also made robots but they operate on manual basis and lacked automation and AI.
"These students are also doing well but they lack the proper know-how on incorporating the elements of automation and AI," he said.
A veteran IT expert, Muni is not satisfied with the government's ICT policy.
He shared his bitter experiences during the years when he took initiatives to establish the first ever computer plant in Nepal.
He said, "If the government had provided as much facilities as it gave to set up factories of cigarettes and alcohol, my computer factory would have developed into full-fledged one by now," he said.
I asked the then finance minister Dr. Ram Saran Mahat to grant certain concession in the import of IT spare parts but he was not positive about my request, he said.
"If the government offers concessions to you, everybody will line up to take the benefits," he quoted Mahat as saying.
With its entry into World Trade Organisation (WTO), Nepal announced zero tariffs in the import of computer accessories.
"However, the government has not still brought tariff to zero per cent," he noted.
He said that his plant had capacity to produce 50,000 computers annually if it operated fully.
It uses about 40 per cent home made products in manufacturing computers.
"Nepal annually needs 50,000 computers, which my plant can meet," he claims.
Established in the collaboration of Taiwanese national, the factory that offers jobs to 20 people is now struggling for survival.
"I could not develop it as per my concept in the absence of proper atmosphere," he admits.
When Muni developed and integrated Nepali devanagari into computer system, India had not done so. Indian experts used to come to his residence for the know-how.
"About two decades back, Nepal and India ranked same but now India has gone far ahead in the ICT field largely due to its policy to promote the sector. What we need is the visionary leader to take the ICT into new height," he said.
When he returned Nepal in 1979 after completing his study in France, the officials at the Tribhuvan International Airport searched his bags thinking he must have brought some expensive foreign items but in vein. Muni had really brought one precious thing with him. It was hidden in his brain, not in his bag. It was his great concept of microcomputer that was just invented in the world.
He became first person to make microcomputer in Nepal.
Muni now runs High Tech Pioneer Private Limited that provides variety of services such as hardware, software, ISP and networking to the customers.
Last year he won the RONAST Award for his contribution to the sector.
By Ritu Raj Subedi