Connectivity and quality access to ICTs is essential for survival in this era of digital revolution. Mahabir Pun foresaw this in 1997, when due to his immense efforts his mountain village of Nangi in Nepal first embraced computers. A simplistic website connected his village to the digital world bringing along a large number of foreign volunteers to support his cause. The project had a humble beginning with donations of used computers from Australia, Singapore and Malaysia and several design topologies for wireless connectivity being tested, details here (all with help of volunteers). The computer was assembled into a wooden box integrating the discrete components. This was the beginning of digital age for students in Nepal.
By now, his initiative has evolved into Nepal Wireless Networking Project which has connected around 42 villages in rural Nepal through wireless technologies, creating new opportunities of education, agriculture, Tele-medicine and E-commerce for the villagers providing them with an opportunity to trade goods from live yaks to handicrafts. Numerous institutions and technology firms such as the Donald Strauss Foundation, the International Center for Applied Studies in Information Technology at George Mason University, the World Bank, the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), smartBridges, Pacific Wireless, and others provided support in this endeavor.
Nepal wireless project is working with Open Learning Exchange for developing educational content in line of the national curricula. The main goal is to use the network for live teleteaching transmitted from one school to other schools in remote areas to overcome the shortage of quality teachers. Another aim of project is to link the health workers to the doctors and even doctors directly to the patients.
“We are using the wireless network for health, providing telemedicine services to the remote villages,” said Mr Pun.
The project is also helping establish communication centres in the Villages to enable the villagers to have VOIP calls for communication to other villages. The project has been replicated under the name of Makawanpur wireless networking project. A detailed report of the project is available here. The vision of Mahabir has inspired many people and now Himanchal Education Foundation is working to use the school as a community centre. Connected school through the wireless project would mean a connected community through connected school.