New Executive Board at PATA

… Jr., Chairman – Global Tour Ltd., Korea (ROK); Jennifer Chun, Director, Tourism Research – Hawaii Tourism Authority, USA; Oliver Martin, Partner …

Soon-Hwa Wong has been formally endorsed as the Chair of the e Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) Executive Board and replaces Dr. Chris Bottrill who was elected Chair in May 2018 and remains a member of the Executive Board as Immediate Past Chair.

On his appointment, Soon-Hwa said, “It is indeed an honour to be given the privilege to serve PATA members, especially in a time like this. PATA will celebrate a significant milestone, our 70th Anniversary, next year. We are embarking on a comprehensive organisation redesign that will transform PATA into an association that will lead the tourism industry into the post-Covid future and beyond. Together with our industry partners from both the public and private sector, we will commit to sustainable tourism development to benefit the economic well-being of the community at large. Come join us in our journey to build a safer and better world.”

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Top Row: L/R: Soon-Hwa Wong, Chair – PATA and CEO – AsiaChina Pte Ltd., Singapore; Hai Ho, Vice Chair – PATA and CEO – Triip Pte. Ltd., Singapore; Suman Pandey, Secretary/Treasurer – PATA and President – Explore Himalaya Travel and Adventure, Nepal; Dr. Chris Bottrill, Immediate Past Chair – PATA and Director – International, Capilano University, Canada; Andrew Jones FIH. CHA, Guardian – Sanctuary Resorts, Hong Kong SAR; Benjamin Liao, Chairman – Forte Hotel Group, Chinese Taipei; and Dr. Fanny Vong, President – Macao Institute for Tourism Studies (IFTM), Macao, China. Bottom Row: L/R: Henry Oh, Jr., Chairman – Global Tour Ltd., Korea (ROK); Jennifer Chun, Director, Tourism Research – Hawaii Tourism Authority, USA; Oliver Martin, Partner – Twenty31 Consulting Inc., Canada; Peter Semone, Founder and President – Destination Human Capital Limited, Timor Leste; Vinoop Goel, Regional Director – Airports & External Relations, International Air Transportation Association (IATA), Singapore; Maria Helena de Senna Fernandes, Director – Macao Government Tourism Office (MGTO), Macao, China; and Supawan Teerarat, Senior VP, Strategic Business Development & Innovation – Thailand Convention & Exhibition Bureau (TCEB), Thailand.

Soon Hwa has some 40 years of extensive experience in the Asia Pacific tourism and hospitality industry. After a long and successful corporate career, he founded Asia Tourism to provide advisory and consulting services to commercial and not-for-profit enterprises. He recently set up AsiaChina, primarily focusing on the two-way tourism flow between China and the APAC region. As part of paying it forward, he is also providing pro-bono services in mentoring start-ups and university students in his alma mater in addition to serving in several social committees.

He started the Hertz Asia Pacific office in Singapore in 1993. As Vice President – Asia, he built a comprehensive regional network, reinforcing Hertz ‘s position as global market leader. He spent 3 years in Shanghai from 2007 to 2010 and opened the first 100% foreign owned car rental company in China. After Hertz, as Regional Director – Asia Pacific, he helped Blacklane GmbH establish the APAC regional office in Singapore and built a service network covering some 80 cities. Blacklane is a new tech professional chauffeur drive service provider offering rides in some 300 cities and 60 countries globally. Prior to joining Hertz, he was Regional Manager – South East Asia for Air New Zealand.

A Bachelor of Business Administration graduate of the National University of Singapore, he is also a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Marketing UK and attended the Stanford Executive Program. Soon Hwa’s long association with PATA dates back to 1996 and he has served in various capacities over the years. Presently serving as Chairman of the PATA Singapore Chapter, Soon Hwa is also the recipient of the PATA Life Member Award in 2018 and PATA Award of Merit in 2008.

During the PATA Board Meeting held virtually on Monday, October 12, 2020, PATA also elected six new members to its Executive Board including Hai Ho, CEO – Triip Pte. Ltd., Singapore; Suman Pandey, President – Explore Himalaya Travel and Adventure, Nepal; Andrew Jones FIH. CHA, Guardian – Sanctuary Resorts, Hong Kong SAR; Dr. Fanny Vong, President – Macao Institute for Tourism Studies (IFTM), Macao, China; Oliver Martin, Partner – Twenty31 Consulting Inc., Canada, and Peter Semone, Founder and President – Destination Human Capital Limited, Timor Leste.

Other Executive Board members include Benjamin Liao, Chairman – Forte Hotel Group, Chinese Taipei; Jennifer Chun, Director, Tourism Research – Hawaii Tourism Authority, USA; Vinoop Goel, Regional Director – Airports & External Relations, International Air Transportation Association (IATA), Singapore, and Henry Oh, Jr., Chairman – Global Tour Ltd., Korea (ROK).

Hai Ho and Suman Pandey were elected as the new Vice Chairman and Secretary/Treasurer, respectively.

Hai Ho said, “Being one of the youngest elected Vice Chair at an important organisation with a deep history like PATA is the biggest honour I have ever received. I take on this role to contribute my part to both PATA and the global sustainable travel movement which is growing with strength and resilience around the world. I am mindful that we are still living in a COVID-19 world where our fellow tour guides, travel agents, hoteliers, etc. are fighting against all odds to keep travellers safe and sound.

I am mindful that the world we are living in now, will not be the world we will live in tomorrow. Therefore, I remind myself every day to waste no time and seize any moment to learn from other PATA members, so that I can utilise my energy and knowledge to help our industry in any way I can contribute.”

Hai Ho is a high-impact entrepreneur and head of Triip, an unrivalled travel-cum-tech company incorporated in Singapore. He has 12 years of experience in high-growth firms building a range of tech products like payment gateway products, social networks, wearable hardware, community apps, and eBook apps to name a few. Hai’s experience in start-up creation and understanding in the global travel industry led him to create Triip.me, a platform that at its core is a network of accommodation and personalized tours made available to a broad audience of millions. The network’s competitive advantage is its ability for anyone around the world to create, execute and be paid for a tour using Triip.me. Through Triip’s tech-centric positioning and expertise, Hai has launched a first-to-market blockchain network called the Triip Protocol. Hai and his team are crafting a cryptocurrency that will enable travel service providers to connect directly with travellers in a new, decentralized marketplace that will drive down costs of both client acquisition and travel itself. Through the firm, Hai has advanced a sustainability-driven business philosophy of at the core of its vision. In four years, it’s created jobs for locals in 100 countries, which have made it a darling of a financial coverage in publications including The Wall Street Journal, CNN, Forbes and The Next Web. Triip was also one of 512 members of the World Committee on Tourism Ethics – a programme by the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO).

Suman Pandey is a well-known figure in Nepalese Tourism and President of Explore Himalaya Travel and Adventure, a well-known name for diverse and innovative operations. He is also the CEO of Fishtail Air, a Nepalese helicopter company; Director of Summit Air, a fixed wing operator catering to tourists going to the Mt. Everest area; Director of the biggest business complex in Nepal, “Chhaya Centre”, a multi-faceted Mega Complex that includes a five star managed by Starwood under the “Aloft” brand; President of the Himalaya Academy of Travel and Tourism, an academy imparting tourism related vocational trainings, and President of Himalayan Pre- Fab Pvt. Ltd, a company specializing on making eco-friendly prefabricated homes. His remarkable contributions in the Nepalese Tourism Industry have made him eligible for various titles and decorations including “Suprasidha Gorkha Dakshin Bahu” from the King of Nepal in 2004; “Tourism Icon” by the Nepal Association of Tourism Journalists in 2018; a “Lifetime Achievement Award” by tourism publication Gantabya Nepal in 2017; “Tourism Man of the year” by Gantabya Nepal in 2010; and a “Lifetime Achievement Award” for contributions in tourism by the “American Biographical Institute” (ABI) based in Raleigh, North Carolina, USA in 2008, to name a few.

Furthermore, Maria Helena de Senna Fernandes, Director – Macao Government Tourism Office (MGTO), Macao, China and Supawan Teerarat, Senior VP, Strategic Business Development & Innovation – Thailand Convention & Exhibition Bureau (TCEB), Thailand have been appointed to the Executive Board as non-voting members.

The new Executive Board members were confirmed at the PATA Annual General Meeting held online on October 14, 2020.

Khalti wins FIF

KATHMANDU: Khalti, a home-grown financial technology start-up in Nepal, has won Fintech Innovation Fund (FIF) from the United Nations. The fund …

KATHMANDU: Khalti, a home-grown financial technology start-up in Nepal, has won Fintech Innovation Fund (FIF) from the United Nations.

The fund was jointly launched by the United Nations Capital Development Fund and the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific earlier this year. Along with Khalti, a total of 10 companies from across Asia-Pacific region have won the innovation fund, as per a press statement.

After being announced the winner for the Fintech Innovation Fund, Khalti is rolling out a special project within July.

The project will support women-led micro, small, and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) in 12 different districts across the nation, from Sankhuwasabha in the east to Darchula in the west. Women involved in dhaka weaving to allo processing and weaving to food processing will be supported as part of this project.

With this project, Khalti aims to solve gaps between production and sales of goods produced by 3,500 women involved in MSMEs in Nepal.


A version of this article appears in print on July 05, 2019 of The Himalayan Times.


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Policy on artificial intelligence

Is now the right time for Nepal to start addressing artificial intelligence? Back in 1998, the Asia Regional Office of the International Telecommunication …

Apr 28, 2019-

Is now the right time for Nepal to start addressing artificial intelligence? Back in 1998, the Asia Regional Office of the International Telecommunication Union was pressuring the just established Telecom Regulatory Commission of Sri Lanka to put its limited resources behind telecentres. As director general of Telecom, I said no. In 2005, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) regional office offered funding support to LIRNEasia, just as it was being established as a regional think tank, conditional on pivoting to internet governance research. The legitimacy that would come from UNDP support was valuable, but I declined. We needed to get people connected at least to voice telephony before taking on internet issues. By that time, LIRNEasia was conducting research on telecentres, including those just established in eastern Nepal. Telecentres merited our attention in 2005, but would have been a distraction when we were struggling to stabilise the nascent competitive telecom sector. LIRNEasia, which said no to internet research in 2005, now does substantive work on the subject. Can today’s governments choose to pass on artificial intelligence or connected devices (also known as the Internet of Things)?

Why policy?

Today, a Nepali with hearing disability (or even those who are not so disabled) can use Google’s Live Transcribe, recently introduced in over 70 languages including Nepali. This allows the person who cannot hear to read on her smartphone what the other person is saying in real time. Live transcribe is based on artificial intelligence. The person using Live Transcribe would have to be literate, possess a smartphone, have some kind of data connectivity and possess awareness of, and the ability to download, the free app. Nepal has the highest penetration of smartphones in South Asia (52 percent of the population between 15 and 65), but the other preconditions are more challenging as shown by a recent nationally representative survey conducted by LIRNEasia.

Among the disabled, around half have never been to school and may be presumed illiterate. Data connectivity is rare outside the Kathmandu Valley and not perfect even within. Half the persons with disabilities who did not own mobile phones (almost 70 percent in the 15-65 age group) saw no need for a phone, indicating lack of awareness about the enormous potential of smartphones and of apps such as Live Transcribe.

The government does not have to authorise a Nepali person with hearing disability to use Live Transcribe. Short of blocking Google or the Play Store, there is nothing the government can do to prevent its use. That also means that there is nothing to stop data from that person’s conversations from being used to ‘train’ the artificial intelligence that powers the app that helps a disabled person understand what is being said. The more the Nepali app is used, the better trained will be the underlying artificial intelligence.

Over time, real-time transcription in Nepali will improve. The point is that artificial intelligence is seeping into our lives whether a strategy is in place or not.

A country needs an artificial intelligence strategy to proactively adopt artificial intelligence in its business processes, to position itself as a supplier of artificial intelligence technology to other users, or both. Even now, Nepali firms must be considering how to use artificial intelligence to improve business processes. But there is little incentive for most businesses and the consultants who advise them to talk about the skills needed to optimise the value of artificial intelligence in organisations.

This has historical parallels. We first talked about adopting computers back in the 1980s; it is later that we addressed the supply side. Now, many countries have adopted national strategies on how to increase export earnings from information technology and information technology enabled services. But with one of the youngest populations on the planet, many with information and communications technology credentials, can Nepal afford to wait?

Artificial intelligence refers to machines that show some behaviors that mimic human intelligence. These days, what we have is narrow artificial intelligence in specific domains. It is based on deep learning wherein the software is trained on massive amounts of domain-specific data. Artificial intelligence can make decisions/or advise those who are making decisions on creditworthiness or diagnose medical conditions faster and with fewer errors. Artificial intelligence has been used to generate Tang dynasty poetry by a Sri Lankan data scientist. The possibilities are endless.

The rules by which the software reaches its conclusions are opaque, so the results have to be verified against ground truth. Issues of bias or error have to be addressed. What works in California may not necessarily work in Nepal.

All these elements could be addressed through a well-formulated national strategy. Before artificial intelligence, big data and data analytics were the buzzwords. It was possible to ask a consultant to, for example, run a company’s customer records through a ‘black box’ proprietary software to identify the most valuable customers, predict the ones most likely to defect and so on. Today, these things are likely to be marketed as artificial intelligence. Data cleaning would most likely be necessary. Because analysis would be done in-house, data protection issues were unlikely to crop up. It would be good to have a data scientist on staff, but not essential. Though the underlying software would be open source, the consultants would have little incentive to open the black box unless the company or the in-house data scientist insists.

Things would get more complicated when the company starts working with external data sets, such as when it seeks to gain insights for marketing. Here, issues of representivity (does the data accurately depict the target population?) and also limitations, if any, on how the data may be used. If the former, patterns can be identified, even if the individual cannot be. There would be a greater necessity for domain knowledge and possibly also for in-house expertise in analytics. For artificial intelligence, training data is critically important. Many experts believe that China will lead in artificial intelligence because of the greater availability of training data (China’s digitalisation is highly advanced, for example, in payments and facial recognition). Europe is likely to lag because of excessive restrictions on data use and consent requirements.

Supply side

Barriers to entry are low in most information technology domains, including in artificial intelligence. Given the need for training data and skilled artificial intelligence engineers even on the demand side, it makes sense to also explore the opportunities of becoming suppliers of artificial intelligence solutions and artificial intelligence-infused products. Now, as many governments are considering data-protection legislation, the time is right to discuss artificial intelligence strategies. Otherwise, Nepal may find the many opportunities of artificial intelligence foreclosed by short-term considerations associated with doing business with Europe.

Developing policy requires resources and skills. When both are scarce, prioritisation is even more important. Unless the conversation is started now, it may be too late for Nepal’s youth and businesses.

Samarajiva is the chair of the ICT Agency, the apex body for ICT within the government of Sri Lanka, and founding chair of LIRNEasia

Published: 28-04-2019 08:05

WorldLink to expand their internet service all over the country.

WorldLink has already selected Juniper Networks to build 100 GB internet backbone infrastructure. They believe the high performance of Juniper’s …

WorldLink, the leading Internet Service Provider in Nepal has announced to expand its internet services throughout the country. As a target, they have set 2022 as the year to provide internet in all local levels. They have also announced to install 10 thousand public Wi-Fi across Nepal. Read more of WorldLink’s plan for internet service expansion.

Addressing a Press meet in Kathmandu, WorldLink announces its future plan in the program. WorldLink has already set up free Wi-Fi in public places of Kathmandu, in partnership with KMC (Kathmandu Metropolitan). They have also expanded such free WiFi to popular heritage sites, Airports, Restaurants, and more public places.

Fiber in all Village bodies

WorldLink has targeted to provide the fiber internet (FTTH) in all village bodies (Gaupalika) within the year 2022. They also informed that their fiber internet reached to 70 districts of the country.

10 thousand Wi-Fi hotspots

Right now, they say they have around 3 thousands such public Wi-Fi across the country. They have made a plan to increase the number of Public Wi-Fi by 7 thousand to make it 10 thousand in total, within a year.

Karnali Project

NTA had awarded a contract to WorldLink to expand broadband internet in the districts of Karnali province. WorldLink terms it as Karnali Project which has two packages. First package (Pack A) covers Humla, Jumla, Mugu, and Dolpa whereas the second package aka Package B covers Kalikot, Rukum, Jajarkot, and Rolpa. As per them, the works in Package B has been already completed. Similarly, the company mentions that 52 percent of the Package A works have been completed so far.

ALSO READ:CG partners with LifeCell for Digital and Telecom services

It is the remoteness and the heavy snowfall that hindered the fast deployment works in the mountainous areas. Such broadband expansion includes connectivity through optical fiber and wireless means.

Third position!!

WorldLink’s MD Dileep Agrawal claims their position in the Internet Service provider to be the third after Nepal Telecom and Ncell. As known, they have contributed Rs 1.1 billion (Arab) annually as a tax to the government. Similarly, they provide employment to 3 thousand people, 65% being technical and 35 % administrative.

WorldLink is already the top ISP in the country with 2.8 lakh subscribers for internet and TV services.

Internet in Annapurna base camp

WorldLink is also working on a separate project to provide internet service in Annapurna base camp through the optical fiber. They believe this will help people to share the beauty of the place to others via the Internet. The broadband connection in such famous tourist/trekking place will help to enhance the tourism sector of the country.

Wire management

WorldLink has also been doing the wire management works in Kathmandu valley. They have already managed the wires from Tripureshwor to Lazimpat. NTA has separate works in plan for the cable and wire management in Kathmandu. Read here.

Gigabit Internet

WorldLink has already selected Juniper Networks to build 100 GB internet backbone infrastructure. They believe the high performance of Juniper’s routers and core equipment will build a stable and secure network to address the demand for fixed broadband in the country.

Participate in Spectrum auction!!

In a separate note, WorldLink’s Chairman Dileep Agrawal has expressed their interest to participate in the spectrum auction for telecom services. He also asked the Government to also let ISP’s to participate in the spectrum auction process. Currently, NTA had called for the spectrum auction of residual frequency in 900 MHz, 1800 MHz, and 2100 MHz. For which, Nepal Telecom and Ncell had participated. As NTA has plans to allocate other spectrum bands through the auction process, WorldLink expects NTA to let them participate in the upcoming spectrum auctions.

Although they have been providing internet services mostly through the optical fiber, they seek for some frequency spectrum to provide internet plus telecom services through wireless means.


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Blockchain in real estate: A radical revolution

But actually, blockchain is a decentralised network consisting of blocks, … So every detail is recorded transparently in the distributed ledger, without …

With the evolution of the blockchain, we are now on the edge of a radical revolution. Even in the absence of a bank or other financial institutions, we can share value through technology alone

Illustration: Ratna Sagar Shrestha/THT

First things first. Blockchain itself is not illegal in Nepal or any other country, but with regard to cryptocurrency, it’s considered illegal. If you ask ten people about blockchain, nine may define it in terms of cryptocurrency. But actually, blockchain is a decentralised network consisting of blocks, which are groups of records containing information in an encrypted and secure manner.

Blockchain is a technology. Bitcoin is a currency, a cryptocurrency which runs on blockchain technology. From the legal point of view and from many other perspectives, these two are completely different. Technology itself is never illegal, the use of it is. For example, if a person uses Facebook to blackmail someone, his act is considered illegal not Facebook.

In the same way, the use of blockchain in other sectors like data sharing management, real estate marketing, regulating supply chain in business and any other legitimate affair is not considered illegal.

What I am trying to imply here is using blockchain in the Nepali real estate. The real estate and housing market have started to pick up in Nepal after the recession period. Since the market price is expected to increase with new investments, the country stands on the edge of an investment boom. However, Nepal is still doomed by something that discourages investment and makes it less convenient for both domestic as well as foreign stakeholders.

Since the start of the property business, some notable scams have put the credibility of the Nepali real estate market at stake. So will it be rational for the government to consider using blockchain technology to improve the real estate market? Or should we keep relying on old vulnerable institutions and endure more problems?

Let’s take a hypothetical sample to see how the blockchain works in the real estate business. A resident from Pokhara planning to buy some land in Kathmandu sees an advertisement for a piece of property. Immediately he opens the blockchain ledger on his computer and verifies if the property is registered in the government record.

He also finds the entire details about the land, including authentic owner, tax information, land title documents, government approval and other required information. He then contacts the owner, negotiates the price and gets ready to buy the land.

Now he adds his bank to the blockchain network, the bank approves the loan after going through the property document and title history. The documents about the sale get signed digitally, and the payment is released to the seller’s bank account. So every detail is recorded transparently in the distributed ledger, without any risk of fraud. This hypothetical scenario can be the future of the Nepali real estate if the government were to encourage blockchain technology in the land business. However, the real scenario while buying a small piece of land begins with the brokers, sellers, loan providers, lawyers, bureaucrats land registry office, all at constant risk of being cheated. It’s actually a long, hard and insecure deal.

American economist Douglass North in his 1991 paper defines institutions as “humanly devised constraints that structure political, economic and social interactions”. Throughout history, institutions have been devised by human beings to create and order and reduce uncertainty in exchange. Going with his idea, institutions like a bank are a tool to minimise uncertainty, so we can exchange value in a systematic and secure way.

With the evolution of the blockchain, we are now on the edge of a radical revolution. Even in the absence of a bank or other financial institutions, we can share value through technology alone. Blockchain is a public ledger that indicates who owns what and who performs what transaction to whom.

Similarly, this technology could also help traders by cutting off extra inspection costs, registration and loan fees as well as property taxes; all will be done by smart contracts. Today the Nepali real estate procedure is highly dependent on the slow inefficient bureaucracy and paperwork.

Adopting the blockchain in the real estate business can shepherd the investment dream of the prime minister by creating a flexible model to connect potential land investors with likeminded sellers on a very secure platform. It will also end the doomed fate of the low-functioning institutions and corrupt bureaucrats by replacing the system with smart contacts (a computerised transaction protocol that executes the terms of a contract). Additionally the government will also benefit from increased tax revenue because of the easy property tracking mechanism in the blockchain.

Under the blockchain system, property of any kind can be liquefied and exchanged like stocks, as any trader can sell part of the share of a particular property and need no single buyer. Amid such a system, people with weak financial potential can also enter the investment business.

Blockchain is on verge of revolutionising the future of real estate transactions in the same way the Internet did in information sharing. This technology offers an opportunity to revisit our crippled system, ranging from improving the institutional procedure to risk management. Its benefits include transparency, accessibility, security and easy traceability. They will solve major issues and make Nepal a flexible investment hub for both domestic and foreign stakeholders.


A version of this article appears in print on February 28, 2019 of The Himalayan Times.


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