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Can we do something?

Last week I got an email from Bishal. I had already received a clue about the mail from Saurav while chatting the day before. Well, the topic was not any new. We had been discussing such topics during college times. The topic is still under discussion and still could not conclude anywhere. It seems we need more thoughts and more brainstorming. Where else can I expect such thoughts, except this forum? Therefore I am posting it here.

In Bishal’s words, no body can disagree on the fact that only some people living in the cities are enjoying the benefits of the IT. However no such services are available in almost all of the rural areas of Nepal. Many people have not even seen telephone sets or computers. Using IT to improve their life is still far-far away!

Bishal wants to build the communication infrastructures for the introduction of information and communication technology in Rolpa, a remote district in western Nepal. The goal is not to bring simply Internet Connectivity in the rural areas but to provide multiple services that can be provided through the use of ICT to rural people. Some of the goals that this project aims to achieve are:

Communication: To increase the communication facilities in the mountainous area by providing the telephone services to the villagers through the Internet Phone (VoIP), to make available and spread the use of email/internet.

Education: With the help of tele-teaching program, the connectivity to telecom can increase the opportunity in the community school and overcome the shortage qualified teacher in the rural area.

E-Governance: the presence of government for such area is almost nill. With internet, they could start feeling being a citizen of the same country of which you and I are.

Job and Business Creation: telephone itself would create job for operators.

Health: the infrastructure would even help to establish telemedicine center in such areas.

Everything is fine but the main problem he got, as anyone would get, is the fund. He even visited INGOs and NGOs but did not get any response. His request was to make this project an EXAMPLE for the country.

Though the mail was written to a number of people, unless they replied in person, I did not find anyone replying to such a serious project.

My initial response is not optimistic either. The issues on this projects are:

Electricity as Fundamentals for IT: without power, there is no use of any switch, electic or electronic, that could probably turn on a bulb and spred the light of happiness around. Building IT project first before building electric grid would be like being prepared to give birth of a premature baby. Using Solar Power could be an excellent idea, however it might not be scalable enough.

VoIP is really a think that can make communication much cheaper in any area. And rural area will be most benefited. However, someone still needs to open Nepal Government’s eyes as it is still trying to reach the summit of poverty elimination without wearing proper shoes.

Once IT is linked to the rural areas, and after having rigorous training, benefits like health, education etc all could become minor. One might put computer at a remote village, one might put internet connection there, people might start getting dependent on computers in E-Governance; everything will look just great! But what if all of a sudden, a small lead at the front of the computer keeps continuing blinking and monitor forgets all colors other than darkness. This will start frustrating people. Maintenance cost will be unaffordable to those villagers. Therefore, sustainability of the project will still be a big issue.

Related to sustainability, ICT should start generating revenue for people. Unless a project is not creating monetary benefits, claiming it as poverty elimination tool will be a complete lie. It is not impossible. Probably opening shelters for tourist and putting local information to attract people can start generating revenue. But these things need to be properly analyzed.

Creating responsibility in villagers is another problem. If you get something for free, you never understand its value. Just like building roads in villages, villagers who spend their labor also create affection to the road as well. Probably raising certain percentage of fund from the community for this kind of project will make them aware of their responsibility and create awareness as well.

The problem is still not solved. A debate is still required to make any conclusion. Whatever the conclusion would be, the final issue will still be the fund. Probably by passing a night without drinking Royal Stag or Tuborg and contributing the money for such a noble cause will help a bit. What do you think?

24 thoughts on “Can we do something?

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  7. Can I think Big? β€œThe way I think the way I am. The way I am it’s because of my “SANSKARA” originated in my mother’s womb.” – Twitter

  8. It’s good to hear that todays youngster have that great vision for our country.As you know ,its not easy to bring or do good in our country.It would be better if you guys concerntrate in a single IT field,if you really want to upgrade our nation because it is not one man show. There are government and non-government organizaton who are working in IT sectors, go to the right path so that you can get help.

  9. What Mahavir Pun did is not a rocket science and to do things like that you do nto need to be a scientist or scholar, you need to have willingness and dtermination to do. I was amazed the way he was able to attract fund from different part of the world for his project. Thumbs up! When there is a will, there is a way. He did one thing that many of you can’t do. You guys are not going to pack your bags and go to your village after an advanced degree in foreign country. He did so. You all are just writing for the sake of writing and at the end of the day you blame “lack of fund” to your inability to achieve anything significant. Staying in foreign country and earning bread and butter for yourself is not something you can be proud of. Go east young people.

  10. yes thumbs up to mahavir pun. he’s really given back to the society. we need more ppl like him.

  11. I think Mahabir Pun has done something other than just thinking about the idea.
    Congratualtions Mahabir for Magsaysay award 07!

  12. first of all u need to render knowledge to the villagers . and u see,there is already a stagnant andfrustrating long line which presumably works on a FIFO basis,
    but this can be ok,when u make the whole system work in a LIFO basis,but again u cant look out for the base on the top of ur roof.

  13. For a project of this scale the goverment’s role is foremost.
    Electricity has to reach the remote areas.
    Solar, gas or electric, IT requires power πŸ˜‰
    Next IT shall require training and then it shall require internet (telecommunications).
    When I calculate the cost it appears to me that even to reach out to one single village the investment cost is very very high. What about the cost if we are to reach out to hundreds of thousand villages. MAN its expensive πŸ˜†
    But I dont think its impossible.
    How about creating groups and targetting different remote regions. When I say creating groups I mean willing people/companies working in teams in different regions.
    Show the remote people how they can earn through Computers and you will find some of the most willing people ready to make bucks.
    Show the ISPs and other major IT companies how they can benefit by supporting such projects and they shall be more than willing to sponsor.
    Things can take a shape if determined.
    I wont say we cant do anything πŸ˜›

  14. Thanks for all inputs. So far, the idea is under close scrutiny. We hope everyone’s critic-eyes would reveal unseen issues.

    Mr. Niwas, the project being in brainstorming stage we still haven’t worked out for financial details. And therefore I cannot exactly say how much money the project will need. At the same time, we are working to create a business sense in it so that it will be attractive for investments as well.

  15. How much money do you need? $50K to start with or more than that? Let us form a consortium and donate money for the cause. I can donate $1K.

  16. Geeta – what is wrong with you? Always negative? Let kids think and plan. They will do sth and only thinker and planner change the world, not those who act without planning. Did you forget lesson from the Geeta?

  17. I have a suggestion for you guys who plan to do a lot and end up doing nothing. I am not saying you are one of them. You could belong to that categoy if you do act today. Question then comes what to act on. Here is what: do not plan much just for the sake of planning, self satisfaction and post-drink discussion. Just do one thing – be rich first by learning how to create wealth. Only people who become rich first can change the world and can get to do what they want. Make a lot of money boy. Get so rich that you can afford to have a couple of plans executed as casually as you change you lunch menu. Be smart and get rich. Act more and plan less. Start now. Its not too late yet.

    Geeta – the Geeta Lover!

  18. It’s really good idea to provide it knowledge to rural people. I heard in joomla you can access internet. This shows something is really happening. Just needs some time and contribution.

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