Nepal needs own Silicon Valley-like hub of innovation, entrepreneurship

By Roj Dhakal ,The Kathmandu Post/Asia News Network

The spate of innovations emerging from the U.S.’ Silicon Valley, Beijing’s Zhongguancun district, India’s Bangalore or any other technology and creative hub — which promotes entrepreneurship, competition and knowledge sharing for innovation — is proof enough of the model’s success. Many countries have attempted to replicate Silicon Valley, a dream place for innovators, inventors and tech entrepreneurs. Such bold dreams seem to be missing in the context of the Nepali economy, its planning and budget allocation. Due to the centralized nature of our economic activities and planning, we have yet to realize the vision of such “Special Economic Zones for Ideas,” where the best and the brightest come together to create and innovate. This article argues why planning and investment in such Special Economic Zones for talented individuals is a must if we are to push our economy further, provide hope for young entrepreneurs and talent who see a better future abroad and restore faith among others in the future of this country.

The Value of Hubs Let us succinctly discuss what makes Silicon Valley so special. As argued in the paper, “Social Networks in Silicon Valley,” one of the many key qualities that makes the Valley so special is its network. In a network, ties between two actors have both strength and content. The level of trust in a tie is crucial in Silicon Valley, as it is elsewhere. A dense network with many connections that share a vision to create new products, change the world or any other noble goal makes it easy for one’s reputation and product to spread. Ties act as a social glue for mutual support, promote collective learning and provide opportunities for cross-institutional collaboration within close proximity. This makes it easier for genuine, aspiring entrepreneurs to advance their vision. Now the question is, “Is there such a place in Nepal?” Is there a support system for people to test out their ideas among networks with the required expertise, farsightedness and shared goals? As an entrepreneur who has spent four years working and promoting various ventures in Nepal, I would be quite pessimistic in my answers to these questions. Furthermore, has our collective psychology evolved from favoring unhealthy competition? The story of “pulling another’s leg” rather than pushing their back is often illustrated with the story of a jarful of hard working Nepali ants being taken to South Korea for a test. Each jar from another country had a lid to prevent the ants from escaping. For Nepal, as the story goes, the ants needed no lid. If any of the ants attempted to escape the jar, others would pull its leg and thwart the attempt. It is very unfortunate that this story is cited so often in many discussions. Such an attitude may not be limited to business but can also be traced to politics as well. It could very well hold us back from achieving our true potential.