Mahabir Pun, a Nepalese teacher, social entrepreneur, and activist better off known for his substantial work in applying wireless technologies to develop the remote areas of the Himalayas, also known as the Nepal Wireless Networking Project. A renowned figure in Nepal, which initiation has been appreciated globally and recognized by the Ashoka Foundation, the Ramon Magsaysay Foundation, University of Nebraska, and Global Ideas Bank. A true inspiration for all.
Born on 22 January 1955 in Nangi, a remote village in a mountainous district, i.e., Myagdi District of western Nepal and having raised there, Pun spent his entire childhood grazing cattle and sheep and attending a village school with no stationery or qualified teachers. But his life took a good turn when his father, who was then a retired Gurkha, took the unprecedented step of migrating the family to the southern regions of Nepal. They invested their entire savings for his son’s education and future. After completing high school, Pun worked as a teacher for about 12 years in four schools, supporting his brother’s and sister’s education along with that. In 1989, after submitting numerous applications to UK and US universities, he succeeded in gaining a partial scholarship to the University of Nebraska at Kearney, where he graduated in 1992 with a bachelor’s degree in Science. After graduating, he returned to his native village after twenty-four years of living there as a child. He recognized the critical need for sustainable education in Nangi, then began to formulate his goal of creating a high school to serve as a model for local educational and economic development. He founded the Himanchal High School with a prime motive to develop computer education and other programs relating to income-generating capacity. But it was quite difficult for him as there were no telephones and modern communication systems of any kind in that region, so he was bounded to walk for several hours from one village to the next, to communicate with people. He thereafter returned to the University of Nebraska to pursue a master’s degree in Educational Administration, which he completed in 2001.
In the United States of America, Pun recognized the potentiality that information technology holds to transform the education system to extreme betterment and contribute to the economy of his village. He took complete courses to accentuate the skills needed to assemble, renovate and use the computers. Soon after returning, he successfully campaigned to donate the used computers from Japan, Malaysia, Australia, Singapore, and the US. He powered them with a return favor two small hydro generators, which Singaporean climbers donated on their way to Mount Everest installed in the nearby stream. Pun embarked on teaching computer classes to both students and fellow teachers, but the major priority was to establish a telephone and internet connection to the nearest city, Pokhara. He then e-mailed the BBC, asking for ideas. The BBC then publicized his dilemma, in which volunteers from Europe and the USA showed keen interest. In 2001, he got immense aid from donors and volunteers to rig a wireless connection between Nangi and the neighboring village of Ramche, using small handmade TV dish antennae mounted in trees.
Similarly, small grants received soon led to improvised mountain lop relay stations and a link to Pokhara. In 2002, Pun was elected Ashoka Fellow by the Ashoka Foundation, the global association of leading social entrepreneurs. The Foundation noted Pun’s contribution to overcoming the geographical isolation of many of the communities he works with, with a new idea that could replicate in other geographically isolated areas with few educational and economic opportunities. By 2003, Nangi had a wireless connection to the internet. They distributed more computers donated from abroad to other schools in other villages, and they began developing a wireless distance-learning project supported by income-generating ventures.
Additionally, Pun’s work on online educational services constitutes the first attempt in Nepal to address the scarcity of qualified teachers through technology. He then took drastic steps to ensure the success and growth of his projects to attend the computer training course in Pokhara, start economic projects to fund student’s expenses and teacher’s salaries, and attract hundreds of international volunteers with wide-ranging skills. He has built a new cultural center that developed communication links for the yak farmers and new ventures to international trekking and tour groups. In 2004, Pun received the Overall Social Innovations Award from the Global Ideas Bank, aka the Institute for Social Inventions. They further said, “Using an inspired mix of solar power, tree-based relay systems, and wireless technology, the project is helping yak farmers stay in touch, families communicate and, with an expansion into distance learning, children to gain the education.”
In 2007, he was awarded Magsaysay Award in recognition of “his innovative application of wireless computer technology in Nepal, bringing progress to remote mountain areas by connecting his village to the global village”.The Pun is the only Nepalese to receive the Magsaysay Award for community leadership. Later in 2007, the University of Nebraska awarded Pun an honorary degree as Doctor of Human Letters for his outstanding work for his country, Nepal. Mahabir Pun led the initiative to register a nonprofit named “National Innovation Center” in 2012 with a primary objective to foster research and developments for the economic development of the country. He has caught public attention by donating land for the National Innovation Center. Representatives inducted Mahabir Pun in the Internet Hall of Fame in 2014. The same year, he was awarded the Jonathan B. Postel Service Award by the Internet Society. Since July 2016, Mahabir is running a crowdfunding campaign to fund National Innovation efforts to build a 10MW hydropower station, which according to the initiative, would sustainably support the running cost.
He has, therefore, succeeded not just in creating an autonomous educational system but also a range of new economic and social enterprises to support remote communities.
- “Mahabir Taught 5 years in Himanchal Higher Secondary School”. Himanchal Education Foundation. 2016-09-06. Retrieved 2016-09-06.
- ^“Villages Should be self dependent”. Story Cycle. 2014-07-28. Retrieved 2016-09-06.
- ^“Mahabir donates his own land to make Innovation Center possible”. Kantipur Network. 2016-08-01. Retrieved 2016-09-06.
- ^“Village in the clouds embraces computers”. BBC News. 2001-10-22. Retrieved 2010-11-01.
- “Internet dream becomes a reality”. BBC News. 2008-11-05. Retrieved 2010-11-01.
- ^ Jump up to:ab c d “Mahabir Pun – Ashoka.org”. Ashoka Foundation. 2002. Archived from the original on 2010-07-06. Retrieved 2010-11-01.
- “National Innovation Center, Innovating New Nepal”. My Republica. 2016-08-10. Retrieved 2016-09-06.
- ^“NIC Nepal Concept Paper”. National Innovation Center. 2016-08-31. Retrieved 2016-09-06.
- “Internet Hall of Fame Inductee”. Internet Hall of Fame by Internet Society. 2016-01-16. Retrieved 2016-01-16.