Problems and obstacles are meant to be in our way. It depends upon us if we take them as excuses or opportunity. Very few are able to overcome and grow with it.
A social entrepreneur, Mahabir Pun of Myagdi, Nepal, is a widely renowned personality for introducing wireless internet technology remote areas of Nepal, called as Nepal Wireless Networking Project. He has made great contributions to fill the bridge between rural and urban areas of Nepal using internet.
Grown up in Nangi, a remote village of mountainous western Nepal, Pun had a dream of connecting his village to the outer world with the internet. Also, he wanted to improve the socio-economic status of his village. But it was really a big challenge.
His early school days were difficult since there were no good schools and lacked basic facilities in his village. He hadn’t had pencil and textbooks until he was in eighth grade. He completed his high school as his family moved to southern plain of Nepal for his education. And then he started teaching and continued it for 12 years. He got chance to go USA for further study which was not less than a miracle for the people of village. He was graduated in Bachelor in Science in 1996 and got Master’s degree in 2001 from University of Nebraska. He returned back to his own native village after graduation with the vision of working for his own country.
The village was lagging behind in many aspects. Establishment of Himanchal High School was his first step to uplift the educational status in village. During his study in USA, he realized the importance of information and communication technology. So, he thought to develop the rural areas using technology. For this, he arranged a campaign for donation of used computers from countries like Japan, Malaysia, Australia, Singapore, and USA which was successful. He started teaching computer classes to the students and teachers in the school.
There were no telephone connection and internet facilities. So he asked the help from BBC and the response was positive. In 2001, doners and volunteers from USA and Europe helped him to establish a wireless connection between Nangi and its neighbouring villages, using small handmade TV dish antennae. People of the village had access to internet through wireless connection by 2003. He extended the wireless connection of Internet to other villages too.
Unlike cities, people of rural areas are deprived of different educational opportunities and other facilities. So he wanted to make maximum use of internet in order to fulfill this gap. Since there were no qualified teachers in the village, he introduced distance learning education system which was quite effective. He arranged the computer training courses to other teachers in Pokhara with the help of international volunteers. In addition to e-education, he worked on e-health and e-market in the rural area. Local health workers as well as people could consult with the doctors in Pokhara. The marketing of local products like cheese, honey, teas through internet improved the economy of the villagers. By now, there is free WiFi in the Myagdi district.
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For his great contributions for the rural development of Nepal, he is honoured with different awards. In 2002, Pun was elected Ashoka fellow by Ashoka Foundation, USA, which is the global association of the world’s leading social entrepreneurs. He received “Overall Social Innovations Award” for 2004 from the Global Ideas Bank. He was the first Nepali to receive the Ramon Magsaysay Award(2007) for community leadership, which is considered to be the Nobel prize of Asia. University of Nebraska, USA invited him for winter commencement speech and awarded Honorary Degree, doctor of Humane Letters in 2007.
Mahabir Pun is a person with great vision who connected a small rural village, Nangi to the rest of the world using wireless internet. He has been working on various projects related to rural development because he believes development must start from remote areas to bring the change in the country.