by Nischal Dahal
Published on: Jan 6, 2005
Type: Opinions

Finally, the Electronic Transaction and Digital Signature Act (ETDSA) — 2061, popularly known as the cyber law, has been issued by His Majesty’s Government (HMG) through an ordinance a few months ago. The Ministry of Science and Technology (MOST) had drafted the bill, which had remained frozen in the dissolved House of Representatives. The previous cabinet too had endorsed the bill related to the ETDSA Act but it could not materialize after the government was dissolved. Irrespective, the law is yet to be exercised. The law has been considered by the experts as a landmark in the Nepalese Information Technology (IT) history. Following the introduction of the cyber law, all transactions and signatures carried out via electronic means receive legal recognitions. On the other hand, rendering cyber criminals to severe punishment for their wrongdoings. The act is also expected to bring about changes in the markets of software and hardware industries by dragging them under the taxation system.
Cyber law encompasses laws relating to:

-Digital Signatures
-Computer Crime
-Intellectual Property
-Data Protection and Privacy
-Telecommunications Laws

Digital Signatures are growing as the new and modern standard for authentication of electronic records, E-mails, Electronic transactions etc. Exclusive laws are required so the uniformity in standards and methods can be established. The exposure to and dependency on computers and the internet has increased our susceptibility to internet crimes and internet threats. The recent cracking of the websites of the police headquarters, mercantile communications, National Planning Commission and other private websites has already revealed the threat of poor network security. The crackers, though were found, couldn’t be punished because of the absence of the cyber law at that point in time. Now that Nepal has implemented the cyber law, such crimes can hopefully be brought under justice.

For instance, the copyright law of computer software, software source code etc; trademark law of the domain names; semiconductor law of protection of electronic circuit design and layouts; and the patent law of the computer hardware/ software are the key issues that are currently dealt with by the cyber law in Nepal. These aside, meanwhile, telecommunication systems also fall within the ambit of cyber space and therefore would form an integral part of cyber law.

Meanwhile, some countries have enacted legislations that specifically deal with computer crime, data protection and privacy within their jurisdiction. It is pertinent to note that due to the nature of the internet and the amount of information that may be accessed through it, such legislation is critical to protect the fundamental rights of privacy of an individual.

The cyber law is expected to fill the vacuum of such law in Nepal. The point to be noted regarding the cyber law in Nepal is that it has a strong penalty for the wrongdoers. Theoretically, such law should play a vital role because the dependence to ‘insecure networks,’ such as the internet, grows further.
As has been observed, the said cyberspace does not only include internet and computers, but also affects where two or more cables or wires can meet. But the point to be considered is that a good draft of any law is merely a small part of good governance. Rather, the key issue is the best implementation of the good law.

Nepal is still considered to be novice in the Information Technology (IT) sector. Both the infrastructure and the IT professionals are under development and have not yet reached up to the mark. On the other hand, the computer literacy among general people can’t be considered as satisfactory in any way. The cyber law aims to legalize the e-transactions but our administrative staffs hesitate even to accept a document in the English language. We have a long way to go practicing the electronic document and signature authentication in governmental offices.

We have to accept the fact that the security threat to the electronic documents is far more than to the paper documents, we have to produce more network security experts among those who are being educated, the formal and the informal computer education in our country. There is also a provision of an appellate judicial body that listens to the problems and other cases arising out of the implementation of the cyber laws, the judiciary should also be prepared for the cyber offences that it should hear probably in the near future. The point to be considered is the cyber law fundamentally deals with the mass of highly educated and skilled people; therefore the law enforcing bodies should be more alert to enforce the cyber law than to enforce any other law.

There are plenty of other challenges, which we have to face in preparation of effective implementation of the cyber law. But, the ability of the leadership will decide the direction of the future of Nepal. The ‘brain drain’ that our country presently faces is a very awful sign for the growth of IT in Nepal. However, things can improve for betterment if IT students return back to the homeland. For that we need to promise them a secure future in Nepal itself. We have already lost a lot of the precious opportunities in various fields that could have healed the wounds of our country.

The cyber law may prove a milestone that might be the first step towards prosperity. Let us take it as the beginning of the new era in the IT field and begin the preparation for a boom before it is too late.

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