[Part I] Mahabir Pun, The Internet Era and..Nepal

Photo Credits[HERE]
[This is two part series looking into ways for to internet accessibility in rural Nepal. I will have a link up[HERE] when part two is out]

This is how my normal workday starts:
I wake up, take my phone to the bathroom, put on the weekday podcast from pri.org[HERE], do my petty little business(s), head out, get something nice and crunchy, drink a bit of that left over rum and then ask google the all important question; 

What's the weather like outside.

Then, I take the early morning stroll to my lab, boot up my lab computer and spend the rest of the day on an inter connected network of computers that has practically been my source for, well lets just say, everything.

Everything. 

Photos? Cloud. Questions? Forum. ChitChat? Kakao. Emails? Well, they are called emails for a reason. Shopping? Gmarket/Alibaba. Lab Fitness? Youtube. Conan? Youtube. Beer? RateBeer. Arsenal? Arseblog.

Everything I seem to do, everything I seem to want to learn about something, it's strikingly clear where my vectors are all aligned to. It's not the library anymore for information or your friend of friend to help you learn how to cook or an institute to learn how to code.

It's the internet. Fast stable internet. That's what's fueling my graduate work. That is where I am learning about coding, cameras, processors, space, beer, whatever. It is an controlled explosion of all information that humans would want to share and somehow, somewhere, in some crazy place, some crazy dude is consuming that very same information...for his/her good. 

One could talk about ethics and misuse of such technology; porn for instance or even how extremists have been able to use social media for recruitment. But for me at least, the pros just stamp out the cons the hulk way. There is no comparison to how much the internet has affected people like me who rely on self learning rather than institutional learning to make sense of the space around them. 

It is an amazing, digital place to be in. But that's because I am in South Korea. 

Let's just do that back to roots thingy shall we?

Nepal

I come from an upper-ish middle class family in Nepal. While I didn't used to have the luxury or the money I enjoy here, my family does pretty well. We eat well, we sleep well and most importantly, we have a computer with an internet connection. 

In other words, I am one f**king lucky bastard. A bastard with an internet connection which had a top download speed of 50kBps. Since I had a friend circle who are well off too, they had a similar internet connection back home and could watch the internet play keepy-up with the super-fit videos on youtube. For most applications we used to torrent the shite out everything while going back to sleep for 8hrs only to find our favorite show downloaded halfway through.

Well that was at least 4 years ago, don't think much has changed now. And let me remind you again, that's the story of me. For most people living the rural nepal, which is about a staggering 81.8%[HERE], internet is still an abstract concept. A recent report on Nepal's electricity situation by the worldbank.org[HERE] states:
"30 percent of the population have no access to electricity and the rest have to bear with load shedding of up to 12 hours per day"
So one could assume if electricity itself is scarce, access to the internet is a thing of dreams.

Think so? well think again. This is where Mahabir Pun comes in.

Mahabir Pun

I will let this video speak for itself. Click on the full screen to get a better picture or head straight to youtube or vimeo.


Like how he ends the show talking about alcohol. You little alcoholic you.

Mahabir Pun, for a Nepali who remains aware of what's happening around him/her, needs no introduction. The man came through very very humble beginnings to placing himself in the internet hall of fame. What he simply did was bring wireless connection to his village but that changed everything.

Someone who has not been to Nepal, it's hard to imagine how the landscape is. I remember standing top of district headquarters in remote Bhojpur and in front of me I saw one mountain(strictly in korean terms) after the other after the other after the other as if they were these massive, monstrous fences aligned one after the other. Makes life very difficult, let me tell you that.

Imagine having to walk straight through these natural fencing
Photo by Micheal Foley
Having an internet connection, in these remote parts of Nepal, can really be a practical solution to lack of doctors, lack of educators and lack of digital resources. Not only does it open door to the world around them, but allows people from outside to have a sneak peak at theirs.

Problem, Solution.

So here's the deal. All of you who has had a taste of the inter-connectivity, webby, muddy internet will agree that in a digital age that we live in, internet has become a basic need. Like Pun's village, internet can bring in tele-medicine, distance learning, self-learning, e-commerce. It's not as simple as it looks like, but it is clear that internet does solve of a lot issues in remote Nepal.

Now let's reverse engineer a bit. For internet, you need what? a computer yes. Or even a smartphone which has basically everything you need to be able to stream data. With Raspberry Pi releasing a $5 zero which has ethernet capability, you can really see a shift in how we can make cheap computers a reality. Hook it up to an lcd module with touch, and have an ethernet connection with a linux running on board and you wallah you have a computer with internet capability. Or invest on a cheap, mass produced smartphones[HERE] which cost about $70.

Yeah, $70 is still steep though.

The current issue then boils down to two things then:
1) Investment on wireless infrastructure
2) Investment on stable, reliable source of electricity

I will leave the blog to that, in Part II, I will look into how cheap infrastructure on wireless internet connection can go and how Nepalese, frustrated with the government, are making their own zero energy houses.

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