An interview with Ravi Bhandari, Head of International Relations and Development Affairs, Gandaki University, Nepal.
Keywords: Higher education, science and technology, entrepreneurship, rural enterprises, innovation, sustainability, circular economy.
Please can you briefly introduce yourself?
I am currently working as the Head of International Relations and Development Affairs at Gandaki University, Nepal. Gandaki University is the first provincial University of Nepal located in Pokhara Valley surrounded by the magnificent Himalayan range of Fishtail and Annapurna and is supported by Gandaki Province Government. It was established in 2019 to provide world-class education in interdisciplinary subjects involving student-centered pedagogical approaches. Gandaki University has the vision to develop the human resource capacity of Nepal, especially in Science and Technology along with other disciplines considered vital for improving the quality of life of the people including Information Technology and Management Sciences.
Before joining Gandaki University, I worked as a Program Manager for Nepal Innovation Technology and Entrepreneurship Center (NITEC) at Pokhara University. This was the start of my entrepreneurial journey where I worked for six years. NITEC was started in 2015 as a joint program between Pokhara University (PU) and Handong Global University (HGU), the Republic of Korea which was supported by the Republic of Korea’s Ministry of Science and ICT to provide Science and Technology assistance for developing countries.
What work have you been doing to support rural enterprises in Nepal?
NITEC intended to foster the appropriate technology-based manufacturing industry and spread local business models to other communities in order to enhance their economic self-sufficiency. Developing appropriate technology based on local needs into sustainable profit-making businesses, and promoting community-specific regional development to resolve the problems of poverty was the main objective of NITEC.
Through NITEC, I was involved in various research and development projects developing Green Technologies for rural enterprises in the mountains of Nepal. I have been directly involved in the development of more than 35 community-based enterprises in the most remote parts of Nepal providing them with entrepreneurship training and technologies with the aim of transforming the livelihood of rural communities in the Himalayas of Nepal.
After joining Gandaki University, my role has been focused more on reaching out to the international forum and developing different kinds of collaborations. However, I have continued the activities of fostering entrepreneurship in Nepal by lecturing, coaching, and teaching Innovation, Entrepreneurship, and Sustainability to students via various platforms. Gandaki University has also established its own Invention and Innovation Center and is the first University in Nepal to do so. And I am working on some projects utilizing the facilities of our Invention and Innovation Center. I am reaching out to interested Professors and Researchers abroad to join us in bringing innovative evidence-based solutions to solve issues related to people and communities.
Picture Credit: Gandaki University, accessed 18/11/22, <www.gandakiuniversity.edu.np/photo-gallary/>.
How is the university collaborating with other organizations, in Nepal or internationally, on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)?
Being an academic institution, Gandaki University’s ultimate goal is to promote Quality Education. Apart from that, the University aims to contribute to the National economy through innovation and entrepreneurship. The creation of a platform for decent work and economic growth which ultimately helps in eradicating poverty in Nepal is one of the targets of the University. These aims cannot be achieved alone, hence support from various National and International organizations is required.
Gandaki University is working with various national institutions in developing academic programs on Sustainability and Circular Economy. New programs such as Innovation and Entrepreneurship, Artificial Intelligence, and Data Science are being developed with the support of various Universities abroad. Furthermore, Gandaki University is involved in some international projects related to Climate Actions and Green Economy. Most importantly, the University is trying to open the Department of Continuing Education for the general public and returnee migrant workers. This department is intended to provide short courses for skill development and capacity build-up to create jobs or enhance productivity.
How are you involved in this agenda as the Head of International Relations and Development Affairs?
I am very much involved in the planning of the proposed programs. I have been working on developing various projects aligned with these goals. But my main role as the Head of International Relations and Development Affairs is building networks and connectivity. We are a newly established University; our team is capable enough but we still need some guidance and support. We want to develop this University as the hub for research, innovation, and development where scholars from various parts of the world can join and contribute.
In your opinion, which of the SDGs are most important for the future of Nepal?
A 25- 30% of our economy is dependent on remittance and the attraction for foreign employment among Nepalese youth is ever-increasing. We are unable to create good opportunities within the country resulting an economic imbalance. So, the most important SDGs for the future of Nepal are Economic Sustainability, Decent Work and Economic Growth, Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure. Building an entrepreneurial mindset among the youths of Nepal would be the most important task for attaining sustainability goals.