Interviews

 

 

 

Bijaya Krishna Shrestha

Muni Sakya

   


The Pioneer of the Hi Tech in Nepal

 

Published in CORE, Sept/Oct, 1995

 

Hune Biruwako Chillo Pat

"I was interested in Science and Technology since my childhood. First thing that I designed and made was an electric motor. I had made even the laminations of the core myself by cutting the iron sheets. I used to do similar small projects involving electrical and electronics designs on my own", born in 1942, in Patan, Mr. Muni Bahadur Sakya, the pioneer in the Nepalese computer field puts forward his profound interest in the field of the science and technology.

 

He was equally interested in astronomy. He used to watch the sky all night long with the telescope he had made by himself, using his grandpa's lenses. He used to know all the planets and most of the stars. He would put his telescope in a wooden bench and let the people view the eclipse at a function held in Patan on the night of the eclipse. People were able to see the shadow move along the moon.

 

To add to the list of his boyhood achievements, is a radio receiver set that he had designed and fabricated to listen to the Radio Nepal. People used to make fun of him for the contraptions he had developed." They used to call me 'Radio Banaune Manche Ayo' when I pass by them", he recalls early days of his adventure in the field of electronics. He had designed coils to catch radio at various bands. That's how he gained his appetite for electronics.

    "I thought in order to satisfy my keen interest in the field of electronics, I should opt for engineering", said Mr. Sakya who acquired his Diploma in Radio Engineering from Calcutta in India in 1962. He started his career in the field of electronics from Radio Nepal as a technician.
 

Where there is a will there is a way

In 1970, Mr. Sakya went to UK on a British Council Scholarship and obtained the degree of C. Engineering." During that time it was very difficult to get any information in the field of science and technology in Nepal. I was able to find complete solution to most of my queries in UK. I found that it was easy to get any information that I was looking for and people were well versed in the practical as well as theoretical aspects.", he recollects his experiences in UK.

 

Upon his return from UK, he accomplished several design and fabrication works, such as laboratory type stabilized power supply, sine wave generator etc. " I used to give a lot of time and devotion to electronics", he reveals the secret of his achievements.

 

Muni Sakya into Computers

"I was interested in computers since I was in UK, but I was nowhere at that time." Muni had the opportunity to go to France in 1978 through RSS ( Rastriya Samachar Samiti) where he was working then. It was then he decided to switch to the field of computers. Muni Sakya worked at RSS from 1973 to 79.

 

He made microprocessor based controllers and video cards while he was doing the course in Communication, Digital Electronics and Computer Techniques in France.

 

The Historic Event

"In 1979, I made the first microcomputer in Nepal. It had 1Kb memory. I had made the power supply unit and the video card myself. I had bought keyboard from US and made the monitor from a Russian TV", Mr. Sakya speaks proudly of his greatest achievement in life.

 

In the South Asian Regional Conference on computers held at Blue Star Hotel in Kathmandu in 1979, in which 8 countries had participated, Mr. Muni Sakya had opportunity to demonstrate his microcomputer. That was a big news and it got a world-wide coverage.

 

Thirst to learn and to do more

It was the thirst to learn more in the field of computer design that Mr. Sakya on his own went to US in 1981. Even India had not done much in the field of microcomputers at that time. " I was lucky as well as brave enough, I would say, that I was able to work in research related projects in US." He was involved with the company in designing computer cards. He worked in the development of floppy disk controllers with 900Kb (quad density) storage space when Apple computer was using only 80Kb per diskette.

 

"Seagate had made 5Mb hard disks but there were no I/O card for them. After I came back from the US, I made the I/O card required for that hard disk which was put in use in Agricultural Development Bank", Mr. Muni Sakya, the Executive Director of Hi-Tech Pioneer (Pvt.) Ltd., talks of his indigenous works. He has also designed microprocessor based traffic controllers in Kathmandu.

 

Muni Sakya and Computing in Nepalese Language

"I did my first demonstration of computing in Nepalese language in a microcomputer with the display of Nepalese National Anthem in Devnagarik in 1983. It was on a CP/M based computer. That was quite a news even in the outside world. Even India had not been able to do it at that time." Credit of introducing computing in Nepalese goes to none but to Mr. Muni Sakya. He got the Science Award in December 1983 for this work.

 

"It was not easy to program in Nepalese. There were only a handful of programmers. Because of the difficulty in the programming part, computing in Nepalese was limited to word processing. However, in 1985, Agricultural Development Bank started the data processing in Nepalese in a minor scale. Now the picture is different. We have newer fonts, and tools which can be used for data processing and professional desktop publications."

 

Muni Sakya has recently developed a software package complete with all the Nepalese characters. It has been developed with the consultation of experts of Sanskrit and Hindi. The certificates and cheques were printed in Nepali language in Capital Market (NIDC) using the same. Demonstration of the product has been done to the various potential users viz., Malpot and  Napi Departments. "Now we are capable of developing professional Nepali packages in Nepalese language. There were limitations in the past but no more now", Muni Sakya sees the scope for the further development of computing specifically in Nepalese language.

 

Talking about the marketing of the product Muni Sakya says that he plans to give the complete professional package free of cost to all of his hardware customers.  

 

A dream come true : Sun Moon Computer Industry Pvt. Ltd.

"It was my dream to start a computer industry in Nepal. After I came back from the United States, I made computers on my own and explored my potentials and confidence in establishing the industry." Mr. Sakya opened the first industry to manufacture computer cards in Nepal in a joint venture, 'Sun Moon Computer Industry' early this year.

 

"When I went to the Department of Industry to get license to open the industry to manufacture computer cards in Nepal, I had a tough time in convincing the authorities. It took me 3-4 years to get the license." Muni Sakya had some bitter experiences with the government. However, he appreciates the government for the reduction in taxation on the computer parts and components by 5% compared to the computers.

 

The call of the time

"Many ways I could say yes I am what I wanted to be. Because personally I have achieved most of the things that I had once dreamed of. But when I look at countries like Taiwan, Singapore, Malaysia etc. who have developed because of the development in the field of computers in their countries, I feel sad. Nepal declares itself as a 'Krishi Pradhan Desh'. It is next to impossible to improve our economy with that policy", Mr. Sakya thinks that the computer industry is the potential and viable industry for the rapid development of Nepal.

 

"I have been through Panchayat, Congress, and UML government. But none of their government ever realized the importance of this field. They always took computer as a luxury. It is not a luxury item and should not be treated as a luxury. Computer is an inevitable and versatile educational tool."

 

Talking about the limitations he says, " I have profound interest and understanding in the field of electronics and computers. But, for the development of the country, unless there is positive attitude and a solid funding from the government for a project, one can not work any further."

 

Nepalese Computer Industry : past, present and the future

" History of computers in Nepal is very short. It started from IBM 1401 from NCC and the Apple in the mid seventies. Apple even the CP/M based, was very much in use during the eighties. That was a good start for Nepal", Muni Sakya recalls the past of Nepal's computer Industry.

 

" I feel glad to see the recent development in the field of computers in our country. Computers are now used in every day life in schools, NGOs, INGOs etc. Within the five years span computer sector has grown tremendously. Now the scene is that, the software packages are available in Nepal as soon as they are released in the world and the Nepalese are upto date with the technological developments in the world. However, computer is a highly complicated tool and its optimum use is not widespread even in developed countries, not to mention about Nepal." That's how Muni Sakya evaluates the present scenario of the computer industry in our country.

 

Future of the computer industry looks pretty bright to Muni Sakya. He says, " People of the young generation who have gone abroad to pursue studies in the field of computers will definitely bring new things and ideas. There are so many things that can be done in Nepal, both in software and hardware. There is notable brain in software development. Though the prospects of hardware industry is risky at a glance, there are ample of opportunities for Nepal in this area as well." 

 

Muni Sakya sees the prospect of export

"In order to export software to the international market, know-how of the product of international standard is required. So, the nation must give opportunities for the people to get exposed to the outside world and also attract people who have gone abroad for studies and stop the existing problem of braindrain", Mr. Sakya highlights the problems in the export of software.

 

"Hardware and software should go hand in hand. There is higher degree of competency in the export of the hardware product in order to meet the universal component standard. In a Joint Venture like mine, partners will always be cautious in the production quality product. However, it is cost effective to manufacture hardware parts in Nepal even when the cost of the two way freight is included. But the lower profile in the market and the comparatively less profit of the hardware business makes it less attractive to Nepalese at present. However, the government should encourage the interested entrepreneurs", Mr. Sakya shares his feelings.

 

He feels the need of a governmental policy to attract foreign and Nepalese investors by providing special benefits, such as loan and tax holiday. 

 

Indigenious Works of Muni Sakya

Mr. Muni Sakya has been primarily interested in designing systems that can be operated in the Nepalese language.

 

Voice Recognition System

This system consists of a computer, trained with the personalised voice and command through microphone, to control various outside world devices such as water pump, radio, fan, music system etc. It can also be trained to understand Nepalese language.

 

Voice Dictionary

This system gives the English word typed on the keyboard of the computer to be spoken out in Nepalese language.

 

Computer Aided Education in Nepal

This package helps the school goers learn the basic mathematics through the computer and simplifies the learning process..

 

Actual Nepalese to English, English to Nepalese dictionary.

22900 words. (Windows based)

 

Radiation Monitor :

This system monitors the alpha, beta and gamma radiation level and sets the alarm on if the radiation is above the safety limit.

 

Nepalese Sub-titles Display

This system will display Nepalese sub-titles for various TV programs broadcasted in other languages.

 

Nepali Multimedia

Animation with synchronized pictures of Nepal and sound is developed. This could be a new opening for artists, musicians, writers etc.  

 

Udeshya ke linu udi chhunu chandra eka

Muni Sakya thrives for total computing in Nepalese with Nepalese menus and commands so that people can work with computer without the knowledge of English language, just like Japanese, Chinese operating computers without the knowledge of English.  

 

Message to the young generation from the Pioneer

ďAll those who have gone abroad for studies in this field, please come back to your country and work for any engineering project or start one on your own. You may be underpaid or might have to struggle hard in the beginning, but you will ultimately gain satisfaction, since your contribution is vital for the development of this nation."

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