privacy – not so third world problem?

Yes, developing nation like Nepal first needs food, shelter and clothing first. Then comes the health, education, and better society. Somewhere in the middle, what we need to balance are the three Ps  – privacy, piracy and plagiarism. I will write about “privacy” today. Remaining two will take some more time.

Privacy International 2007 privacy ranking map. Orange – Extensive surveillance societies. Red –  Endemic surveillance societies. Green – Consistently upholds human rights standards

privacy

what is privacy in Nepal?

Before anything, I would strongly suggest reader to know the variation in definition of privacy in Eastern vs. Western society.  Nepali culture as like many South Asian, has fair share of situations which might get misinterpreted as breach in privacy. We have pretty thin line in few too many situations where privacy in not so big a deal. However, there are limits, and we do have bigger issues, when privacy does get messed up. The lines of privacy when compared, are drawn in different places.

example – one usually does not own a private room in most of Nepal. the notion of your private space is probably at best only in bathrooms and toilets. Not many understand the luxury of  this a private space.

how private is Nepal?

Sure, In Article 22 of the Constitution of the Kingdom of Nepal 1990, the right to privacy was addressed as a fundamental right for the first time in the constitutional history of Nepal. The right to information was also included in this Constitution. The right to privacy was retained in the 2007 Interim Constitution, which remains in force today. Article 28 provides:

Except in circumstances as provided by law, the privacy of the person, residence, property, document, statistics, correspondence, and character of anyone is inviolable

However, individual privacy is something else. Privacy has rock bottomed for majority Nepali, part in due to the cultural dogma.  Although there is constitutional protection for the right to privacy, no law or acts have been made to protect this fragile right. However, the right to privacy is addressed by some laws, such as the following:

  • Postal Act, 1962 (Section 47 and 58)
  • Telecommunication Act, 1962 (Section 23 (a), 24 and 27 (b))
  • The Chapter on Court Procedure (Section 172) of Muluki Ain

In September 2012 right to information activists launched a public interest litigation seeking a court order that the government promulgate an Act specifically protecting the right to privacy as guaranteed in the Interim Constitution. The writ petition referenced measures taken by police to access individuals’ text messages while investigating the murder of Supreme Court Justice Rana Bahadur Bam. The petitioners requested the Supreme Court direct the government to promulgate the Right to Secrecy Act to protect the private communications of individuals from government interference.1

There is no government authority to receive complaints regarding violations of privacy rights, although people may submit applications and reports concerning violations of their privacy rights to the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC). However, to date, not a single application/report/case has been brought to the NHRC regarding privacy rights violations.2

my (personal) privacy related problems

  • Public Transportations – These have the worse privacy records for me. I usually travel through the battery powered three wheeler (aka. Vikram Tempo) in Kathmandu. Whenever there come a time to send in a SMS, or call someone, there are at least two pairs of eyes watching me dial/type in my mobile device. Somehow, they think its there to watch. I try to avoid bus and micro bus rides for this same reason.
  • Sod Casting –  next to my worse list on breach of privacy. Not to be  prejudice here, but there certainly is that demography of Nepali population cohort here, who could really learn something more about privacy. I do not want to hear Bollywood songs, especially those from 90s, and English Pop culture – from Justin B, and gangs. I regret that very few listen to Kings of Leon – Queen – Daft Punk – Bob Dylan genres that I am comfortable with. For the record, Indian remixes of PSY – Gangnam style is abomination to creativity.
  • Walking a busy street – One is sure to get hit by too many hands and shoulders. For women, it gets worse. This is more a problem of not having personal space, but all purpose intended, I consider this to be a privacy breach as well. Privacy of walking safely, and not banging to every other person. I strongly believe that, one can walk in a huge crowd of hundreds or even thousands, with least possible number collisions.
  • The telephone call conundrum – Growing up adolescent life meant one landline per household in Nepal. A friend’s call to a landline in the late 90s and early 2000s was a double edge sword. You could never leave with that short cord, and the cordless phone were usually listened to.

“Who is? TA or T?”

  • If there was a call for me, the first question my mom would put – “Who is? TA or T?” Literally “Ta” meant short for K-ta, which is basically “a boy” and “T” meant short for K’T, meaning “a girl”. I kept things at minimum, usually didn’t pick up any call at all.

what is privacy?

Privacy can simply be defined as the right to be left alone. ‘It is a comprehensive right and it is the right most valued by a free people. It is a fundamental human right.  A society in which there was a total lack of privacy would be intolerable; but then again a society in which there was a total privacy would be no society at all’ (the is a balance needed).

Privacy is the right of people to make personal decisions regarding their own intimate matters, it is the right of people to lead their lives in a manner that is reasonably secluded from public scrutiny, and it is the right of people to be free from such things as unwarranted drug testing or electronic surveillance (from Answers.com http://www.answers.com/topic/privacy)

‘Privacy’ is a broad, abstract and ambiguous concept

UN Declaration of Human Rights.

The UN Declaration of Human Rights defined Privacy as this:

No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honor and reputation. Everyone had the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.

what if there were no Privacy?

Without privacy life would be hell. It would mean that you would be highly vulnerable to the control of others, you would lose your freedom which may lead to inhibition and tentativeness and you may be less spontaneous and you would be more likely to be manipulated. Given below are four aspects of privacy that I think are important, in Nepal.

privacy I: the internet

Yes, because I am a tech enthusiast, I made sure this was written in the beginning. The Internet threatens privacy in a number of ways, partly because it is possible to record everything that you do on line (IP addresses remember?).The governments of developed nations and few developing countries regularly monitor electronic communication as do commercial companies such as Google, and Microsoft. Nepal Government may not have so much a control over its netizens, but since India has already initiated a tighter control; I won’t be surprised if Nepal did the same thing. In any manner, If there is communist government in Nepal, internet will be watched even more so ever, including this post (“read as a political satire, please don’t arrest me”)

Info Graph by – 1984 in 2013: Privacy and The Internet via HostGator

privacy II: medical?

Since August 2009, when the USA government regulated that any breach affecting more than 500 patients be publicly disclosed.3 Nothing sort of it is in Nepal, as far as my understanding goes. Medical privacy breach is rising in the world, and we in Nepal, have very little or no clue about this. As a student we are taught not to speak of our patient, and there is a tremendous effort put into making a Case Report (or any other Medical Journal article/s) anonymous.

My personal experience has given me the glimpse of complete lack of data privacy in most of the Nepali Health Setting. There is privacy screened from the public eye, but within the medical fraternity, be it a doctor, nurse or a paramedic; or within a hospital/clinic/health post setting there aren’t even rules or contingency plan in case of privacy breach.

Legally, Nepal has prominently recognized the confidentiality of medical records. But there are some major systemic loop holes.

privacy III:  for women?

Legally speaking, men and women in Nepal are equal. But there still remains a deep rooted caste and cultural divide. The existing hierarchies that does not let these two gender have equal footing. This is true for every aspect including the privacy related to the following three things.

Ask your self, if we need privacy for

  1. family planning,
  2. violence against women, and
  3. women empowerment.

The former two require privacy to be neglected for the benefit of a woman, while in latter case may require a stronger support. In any case, I definitely would love to read more before writing anything else. From what I think, I have already written absurdly in the last few sentences, better keep mum till I know more. In the mean time, I would like to share here a wonderful passage from Martha C. Nussbaum. (web link). A very intriguing article where the author talks about privacy being bad in few cases – which are elaborated in detail.

Despite its commitment to sex equality, Indian constitutional law increasingly relies on the concept of privacy in matters of sex and family. This concept, traditionally conservative and associated with “family values,” has long been criticized by feminists as a bad way of gaining rights for women. Feminists typically make four criticisms of the privacy right: the concept of privacy is unworkably murky; the privacy right protects male bad behavior; protecting important liberties under the rubric of privacy unfairly discriminates against those who perform the same acts in a space denominated “public”; and privacy is simply irrelevant to a number of important liberty interests that need explicit protection.

privacy IV: Organizations

Here are some of my suggestions on what should be guiding principals on privacy in Nepal. I do not know, if its already written somewhere in Nepali, but most here are compiled (and no original ideas). I am listing some that is in my mind.

  • Only collect personal information that is necessary for performance of functions.
  • Use and disclose of personal information only for the primary purpose. Use for other secondary purposes should have the consent of the person.
  • Organizations (or anything similar) must be open about how they handle personal information.
  • Individuals have a right to seek access to their personal information and have it corrected if it is inaccurate, incomplete or out-of-date.
  • Individual option of not identifying themselves when entering transactions with organizations (if its would be lawful and feasible) should be present.
  • Sensitive information must require consent when collected and higher levels of protection should be afforded. These includes information of – caste, ethnical group, political views, religious views, criminal record, professional association, etc.

conclusion

I read a a total of seven web articles and three papers, but this was not enough. I could write more about the Internet privacy breach and its threat, and probably could lay out some ground work on how to stay secure on one of my next post. I definitely  need to read more with privacy concerning the social aspect (focusing on women).  I am not, at the moment, interested on the medical privacy breach (despite being a doctor). May be some day.

references

  1. Newspaper Article – Secrecy right Act sought. web link.
  2. Web Article – Privacy International Report – on Nepal. web link.
  3. Journal Article – Roger Collier. Medical privacy breaches rising.  CMAJ. 2012 March 6; 184(4): E215–E216. doi:  10.1503/cmaj.109-4116. –  web link.
  4. Website – Privacy International

more reading (highly recommended)

  1. Web Article – by Seema Dhami – Balancing Individual Privacy with Press Freedom. Nepal Monitors. 2008. web link.
  2. Web Article – by Martha C. Nussbaum – Is privacy bad for Women? – Boston Review. 2000. web link.
  3. Book Read – by Martha C. Nussbaum –  Women and Human Development: The Capabilities Approach (The Seeley Lectures). Amazon.com. haven’t read it myself but would love to if someone gave  it as a gift.

Tune in Next Wednesday for –

where did the cotton go? Bangladesh, China and Nepal

barriers concerning standards and interoperability

mHealth in Nepal (part II of IV)

This is part two (of four) of mobile health series, which I am sharing after completing an online education on mHealth. For those who would like to read the Part One – its here.
The following are some of the concept we discussed in online class, and google group. I think this is very reasonable to developing countries like Nepal. Most of the barriers are specifically from mHealth Africa, but I have here tried to include my nepali perspective as well. Here are few of the barriers that I think I see in Nepal concerning standards and interoperability on mHealth.
  1. Language – Nepal despite being a small country, has a huge demographic variability. The mountains and hill terrain has made number of spoken language (culture) variation. “Nepali” is the official language, and English (UK) is taught from primary and secondary school. There are about 123 spoken languages (in 125 different community) and many who still do not speak or understand English at all.
  2. (limited) Mobile Technology – Most of the mobile handsets used in Nepal are under NRS.4000 (rough estimate USD=50  Euro=40). These are not Google Android OS phones, but Java based technology with proprietary OS from local market (mostly – China and India). There are about 5-6 different mobile company that have stronghold in budget feature phone in Nepal. The only technology similar (standard) in these feature phones is Java. However, almost all have Facebook (Java Application) installed in them. Facebook being number one Social Network in Nepal (at the moment).
  3. Lack of Government Initiatives – There is no standard Government based protocols regarding mHealth in Nepal. Although, Nepal Government has recently begun a trial phase of mHealth program in few districts; there is no details about this in government websites (This is something I  am considering to write for my first assignment also).
  4. Internet (Availability and Cost) – Internet access through mobile handheld is expensive; and this hasn’t reached throughout Nepal. As with mobile network, the mountainous terrain in most of the country is hampering the WiFi (WiDi, or WiMax, or LTE) rollout from Government and Private Initiatives. There is considerable progress, but more need to be done.
  5. mHealth education – is very new to Nepal. Health providers have very little knowledge about mHealth. Data Mining and Research are at its infancy in Nepali Health Community, very few if any are interested in mHealth (for this purpose) at present. Medical School (Doctors, Nurse, Health Assistant, Health Volunteers) do not have curricula to teach mHealth. Courses that offers technology (mobile or any) teaching is in Public Health related education. This education is concentrated in Data Entry, Evaluation and Analysis, but not in Health Education. I am a recent medical graduate and I had no proper formal education on Medical Technology. Most of the course work was limited to using MS Excel (2003) and SPSS (v11)
  6. Lack of (active) Open Source Community – There is a huge gap in programming education in Nepal, that most are financed/taught by proprietary holdings like Oracle and/or Microsoft. Most of the health initiatives related to technology are in the form of Outsourced Code writing by multinationals.
  7. Technical Infrastructures – present today in various Public and Private Health institute are scattered, rudimentary and closed source. Many hospitals and health care institution have both handwritten documents and e-records. Most of the time, its the physical documents that gets used, and the electronic records are forgotten. Most of the times doctors, nurses (or any other health worker) does not know how to use the electronic record. There is no inter portability between any two health care givers (both e-records or physical records).
  8. Lack of Adherence – Health providers do not seem to adhere to e-health technologies. Partly due to the lack of electricity or lack of proper motivation, or knowledge, electronic recording is seldom done in Nepal.
what can i explore for my next part?
well there are Ncell and NTC. and there network. There is Ministry of Health and its working, plus community members who love mobile. keep watch.

how religion keeps me sane, although I don’t believe in god.

Christmast ball - Hinduism
Christmast ball – Hinduism (Photo credit: nabeel_yoosuf)

A year ago, I embarked upon a reading spree on Richard Dawkings and Christopher Hitchens. To me, they became both inspiring and revolutionary. Their writings were somehow capable of twisting my religious outlook. My family lineage are among those that believe in Hindu Religion (being Nepali gives me some understanding of Buddhism also). Yet, for better or worse, the present me does not completely believe in the existence of God. I now view Religions as a way of life, rather than believing in the almightily power.

am I atheist?
After spending most of my childhood believing in God, celebrating their birthdays and their great accomplishments, visiting temples, watching and listening to God associated preachings, and reading the epic books of both “Mahabharata” and “Ramayana”, I can firmly say that – Religion is a progressive culmination of a way of life. I can firmly establish (for myself) that, Hinduism has NO fix list of good or bad things to do. Has no hard and fast rules, and no established order of political intervention on my way of life. My answer – I believe in Hindu way of life, but do not believe in the existence of god, but love going to temples. Let me elaborate.

1. no political intervention
Four Thousand years of refinement has made a religion that stays out of my political life. Hinduism, as I see it, does not demand political interventions. I can be a capitalist, a socialist or a communist and still be a Hindu. I do not have to follow laws made by religious figureheads, and what ever laws broken does not entail me to get beaten, burned or buried. However, may be because of its maturity, has tons of examples on good governance. Both the above epic plays has something to teach – something to suggest – but nothing to enforce. It gives me the choice of being right or wrong.

2. not one God/Goddess, but many
I can choose a persona of one particular god/goddess and follow it. Hindu mythology has one of the most elaborated sets of mighty powers. The number of gods in this mythology is said to be “tettis koti” which literally means 33,000 gods and goddess. There are tons of named demons and evil beings also, whom, time and again (as per mythology) have shown greatness and kindness. There are multiple persona (God/Goddess) for every personality type. I can literally choose my favorite powerful being, that I can most relate to. For the record – I love Lord Ganesha. The obese God with an elephants head, a broken tooth, who has a mouse as his trustworthy companion. A God that loves food, well literate, and who loves his parents very much. Kinda like superman and batman of the yesteryears. It even has Goddess of Wrath (Kaali) and somewhat Womanizer God (Krishna).

3. a situational religion that can morph as per time/place/person
Hinduism over so many years got elaborated to fit into every possible culture and society with many geographical variations. A religion that has a set of guidelines (not so rigid) for men and women of all ages. It acknowledges and identifies with third gender, which is still a hot debate in most part of the world (and Nepal too, in recent years). It has provisions for being alone or with family; among society or separated from society; for travel; for happy and sad moments, and well almost all the emotions that I can think of.

4. a culture that gives you options
The best thing about this is, it gives me options. I am not obliged to believe in god. I can be a devil/demon worshiper and still be a Hindu. Somehow will not get kicked out of the Religion, although may be demoted of my social status. For better or worse, there are good amount of Hindu priests who are somewhat negative vibe followers (the evil Tantric stuff). A small clarifications that, there are good Tantras and stuffs too, but I have little or no knowledge on either. Even the demons and devil of Hindu religion worship the Hindu Gods, gain some mystical power, and then go on war with each others and Gods themselves.

oh.. but it’s not all white either
Over the years, with the gradual development and expansion of this religion over our way of living, there have been numerous wicked twisted interpretations as well. Almost every religion seem to have it, and Hinduism is no difference. As I see it, the biggest negativity which developed over the years are – the caste system, and gender inequality. I will write more on these bad habits in due time, but here is one example, which we (me and my wife) are facing recently concerning the gender issues.

example – of gender issue with my religion

(my small personal experience)
I have a small sister, a year and half younger. All our life, in any religious events, as a Hindu unmarried girl, she was (still is) given an utmost respect. She (and all the unmarried Hindu girls) get respect, loads of pooja money, every body bows before them. Girls is treated as Goddess incarnations and it is believed that by pleasing them, one appeases the Goddess of Wealth, Health and Education (among many other stuff).

This was similar to my recently wed wife also, until we got married. As soon after we were married, somehow, the twisted religion breaks this high spirit (which got groomed for years and years) and puts her husband on top. Somehow, I am getting most of the attention these days. An girl never bows down in front of anyone (except may be her elder sister) before she marries, and after that, strangely she has to bow down in front of her husband. what strange culture is this?. Think of the ego that gets hurt.

As a boy/male of the society, I bow down to my parents, my sisters (younger or older) and any other elder, out of respect. Given the dates of festivity, like “Dashain” and “Tihar”, I literally touch my sisters feet with my forehead. And since I have been doing this for as long as I can remember, and since it does not hurt or humiliate anyone, I am glad and know that I will do it for a long time to come. Obviously, her feet should be clean, and with no malodor.

Switch it to my sister’s case who will get married soon (or may be few years later) or my wife’s case who recently got married, they had always received this honor. Suddenly, after this marriage, there is a strict rule, that they must bow down and never receive this honor again. Weird. A girls parent now must respect and appease their son-in-law more, she herself has to touch his feet again and again, she has additional feet-touching-work to her husband’s parents too. It’s difficult to imagine from her(wife) perspective, and as a brother difficult also to imagine from my sister’s perspective. They are two people who were given respect, treated as Goddess avatar all their life, and suddenly post marriage become no one. There ought to be a huge mental disturbance here.

Yes, for all the written complains here, I do not want my wife to touch my feet. I am lucky, that my parents are among those few, who want respect and love not from religious gimmick, but through proper family values. I can proudly and boldly write here, that Dr Aditi has not bowed down to touch my feet after we got married, and neither has touched my parents feet. But, yes, we do love each other, and there is a deep understanding, love and respect from her side to my mother and father. what is my relation with my in-laws?. – this needs another post. A hint – it’s a happy one.

PS – happy Nepali new year – 2070 BS