Friends of Nepal Wireless Project

  • Sharebar

Commemorating the 50th Anniversary of the American Peace Corps

By Dave Carlson and Don Messerschmidt

For centuries the country of Nepal has suffered from a lack of communication.  Its isolation and challenging geography have often made it difficult for even neighboring villages to communicate effectively with each other.

In recent years telecommunication and Internet penetration have greatly expanded with service providers concentrated mostly in populated urban areas primarily in the eastern and southern parts of the country, while northern and northwestern parts of Nepal have few such services.

In 2002, at a time when there was little interest by the Nepal government and the private sector to bring information technology to the northwestern  hill and mountain villages, a grass-root project was begun by a teacher of the Himanchal Higher Secondary School named Mahabir Pun.  The project’s initial goal was to bring the Internet and telephone system to the school and small village of Nangi, in Myagdi District.  From that, the Nepal Wireless Networking Project (NWNP) was born.  In the last ten years the NWNP has expanded well beyond Nangi by building small-scale infrastructures using wireless technology and the Internet in over 100 other village communities.

Today, the NWNP promotes

educational opportunities,

health care, job creation, local

e-commerce, and general com-

munication locally and abroad.

The NWNP is now a move-

ment that leapfrogs the

traditional constraints of

isolated rural life by creatively

connecting villages to 21st

century information and com-

munication opportunities.

NWNP Communities Connected to

the Internet

The joint Friends of Nepal/NWNP Wireless Project

The Friends of Nepal Wireless Project was created in early 2011 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Peace Corps.  FON is a nonprofit membership organization of predominantly returned American Peace Corps Volunteers.  One of its goals is to promote development in Nepal while encouraging the return of the Peace Corps to the country.  The Peace Corps worked in Nepal from 1963 to 2004.  Now, together, FON and NWNP are partnering to further expand wireless connectivity in the rural mountainous areas.

Keshavtar, Tanahun District

In the central hill village of Keshavtar the project is creating a computer lab in the local high school and a community information center.  The lab will house ten computers and provide training on computer hardware and software applications for students, unemployed youth, teachers and women groups as a tool to promote career development. Village groups will be able

to participate with online interactive educational programs  such as the Open Learning Exchange and the Nepal Research and Education Network.  And a rich repository of learning/training materials will be available of a caliber not possible in any other way to this community

The Keshavtar Community Information Center is being supplied with four computers, a network camera, and a LCD projector.  It will be run and maintained by local women belonging to the village Mothers Group.  There, villagers will be able to exchange news and opinions, place advertisements to market products for sale, and engage in community affairs.  The center will provide national and international call services, Internet access, video conferencing, as well as photocopying, document processing and photography services.  This center will put local women at the heart of managing an important tool for creating changes benefiting the entire community.

Community Information Center                       Mothers Group

In order to make the facilities operational, a wireless networking link is being built from nearby Pokhara (30 miles distant) to Keshavtar.  The connection requires installation of dish antennas attached to tall trees, as well as relay stations, solar collectors and network servers.  It is estimated that this wireless link to Pokhara will be completed by June 1st.  FON will supply the many pieces of hardware required for this connection and through the supervision of the NWNP, many local villagers will complete the task.

Shikha, Myagdi District

Another mountain village to be linked into the system is Shikha.  The objective there is to build a tele-medicine center at an existing health post that will link with two hospitals in Pokhara and Kathmandu via a network camera.  FON will supply the network camera, two computers with storage batteries and other accessories to make this a

functional facility.

Tower Relay Installation

The Shikha project will provide medical assistance to villagers and health training to rural health workers through its video-conferencing capabilities.  In addition, the Shikha clinic will be available to address the health needs of villagers in the neighboring communities of Khibang, Swanta, Kindu, Dhosekhore, Paudwar, and Ghara.

In order to treat patients, health workers in the Shikha clinic will use the network camera to connect directly to doctors at the city hospital in Pokhara.  Doctors there will be able to view and talk to patients about health problems they are experiencing and the trained health workers at the Shikha clinic will assist the patients and follow up on the doctors’ recommendations.

An innovative but inexpensive project

What is remarkable about the Keshavtar and Shikha projects is that the entire effort will cost less than $18,000.  FoN members and supporters have already raised $7,000 and the community of Keshavtar has raised $4,000 on its own.  FON is now raising the remaining $7,000.

While the immediate need for FON is to obtain the remaining funding for the project, in the next few months the focus will change to a hands-on opportunity for our membership.  The NWNP has long encouraged and relied on the support of volunteers, from the initial design of the wireless system and its deployment, to the many opportunities that this Internet Communication Technology (ICT) now affords. As ICT becomes available to local communities there is an ongoing need for volunteer assistance in teaching villagers its many practical applications that can benefit their daily lives.

FON looks forward to having a long relationship of support for the NWNP as it continues to expand the network to the hundreds of mountain villages eager to join this movement.  In time, when the Peace Corps returns to Nepal, it will be welcomed into this partnership.

For more information on how you can support this project to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Peace Corps either financially and/or as a volunteer, visit the FON website at:

http://www.friendsofnepal.com/?page_id=690

Comments

You must be logged in to post a comment.