In today’s ever-changing world, it is increasingly important for businesses to keep abreast of trends in connectivity. Speakers opened the day by expounding on the role of communities and businesses in enhancing national, regional and global connectivity. Open government partnerships, equitable business solutions and inclusive growth were noted as models to move ahead to foster connectivity in the region. The opening session set the stage for subsequent sessions under the connectivity mandala of air, earth, fire, space and water.
Session I: Towards Air Connectivity
Air connectivity is key to unlocking a region’s growth potential as it enables the region to attract investments. To enhance air connectivity in the Himalayan region, it is important to expand on existing air travel networks and improve related infrastructure. Speakers in Session I discussed on the role of smart infrastructure, efficient airports and enhanced clean technology in expanding air connectivity for sustainable future of the aviation industry. Session I also saw discourse on ways to lift Nepal from the EU ban on Nepali airlines and pathways to lift the ban, to foster the aviation industry and the tourism industry per se. The Nijgadh airport being built in the southern part of Nepal was remarked to enhance connectivity of China and Nepal making it a regional hub for aviation industry of the region.
Session II: Mainstreaming Clean Energy
Session II underscored the benefits of clean energy, and ways to move towards a clean and sustainable future. Speakers expressed concerns on aspects like energy security, black carbon, natural hazards and climate change and stressed that mainstreaming clean energy ensured sustainable economic development. In addition, introducing energy mix in the national energy supply, introducing power trade mechanisms and expanding the distribution system was considered the way forward to achieve a clean and sustainable energy future.
Session III: Exploring Water Solutions
Water is at the core of sustainable development and human survival itself, yet managing water resources is a complex and challenging task. Various approaches to tackle water resource management in the Himalayan region were discussed in Session III. Awareness on water usage between communities, percolation of technical research to young scholars, knowledge sharing in the region regarding shared water vulnerabilities, rainwater harvesting system and payment for ecosystem services some of the models discussed to achieve sustainable water resource management. In addition, community engagement in the process of designing water solutions was echoed to be crucial in application of these models.
Session IV: Quest for Sustainable Earth
Session IV explored the need of smart infrastructure to promote exports and connectivity in the Himalayan region. The benefits of organic farming for people, communities and the environment were also discussed in the session. Organic farming was noted to increase the income of community and provide employment to youth reducing emigration. At government level, market regulation and financial subsidy were noted as tools for incentivizing farmers to embed organic farming in their practices. In addition, knowledge sharing on innovative technologies was considered to help farmers combat negative impacts of climate change.
Session V: Connecting Spaces for Connected World
Asian cellular technology is revolutionizing banking and allowing payment and financial systems to reach even the remotest of villages. Session V entitled “Connecting spaces for connected world” explored ways on how technology has decentralized point of contacts for the people of the Himalayan Region. Panelists reiterated that digitization and mobile banking offer financial solutions to reach out to people in hard to reach areas of the Himalayan region. It was pointed out that in case of Nepal, digitizing banking and financial sectors would particularly help migrant workers in reducing the cost of remittance. Panelists proposed the need of establishing a migrant information resource center that would create awareness in aspiring migrants as well as reduce the cost burden of dealing with intermediaries. It was acknowledged that connecting people through digital technology has a huge market potential in the Himalayan region but building trust on digital technology was noted to be a key challenge that require regular intervention from different parties.
Parallel Session: Youth Forum
Himalayan Consensus Institute’s founder, Laurence J. Brahm, started the discussion highlighting how the young generation can create newer solutions through modern technologies and ideas to allay the impacts on climate and environment. Panelists focused on the need of functional connectivity between product, people and processes. The discussion delved into how the misconception of youth needing empowerment and getting things right the first time is killing innovation; when all they need is the courage to make mistakes and learn from them. They pointed out the misguided mindset about seeing youth as mere employees, rather than innovators and entrepreneurs. Leveraging exponential technology to tackle issues of climate change was a major theme of the discussion. There was also a cry for help from government and investors into turning innovative ideas into reality. Panelists vocalized how connectivity is not just about connecting physical infrastructure; it is about connecting voices and ideas to unleash the collective voice of the youth.
Overall, the session summed up with a need to create more platforms like innovation workshops for youth to unleash their potential through the power of advanced and exponential technology. The speakers all agreed upon need of more attention from government and investors towards funding and mainstreaming new ideas and startups.
The forum closed reiterating the need of consensus between individuals in the nation as well as countries around the world to ensure equitable sharing of resources that would be achieved by good governance and rule of law.