Mahabir Pun is well known in Nepal for his extensive work in rural villages in fields of health, education, and awareness programs by connecting those remote areas through the internet using wireless technologies. Born in Nangi Village, Myagdi District which is in the Himalayan foothills of western Nepal. Although it takes 7 hours hard climb to reach Nangi and not even a presence of telephone line, Mahabir’s determination to connect his village to the rest of the world has succeeded by using wireless internet technology.
Pun who had difficult times during his childhood for getting an education in Nangi, his father moved their family to Nepal’s lowlands (Chitwan) so that his son could get educated. After finishing high school Pun started teaching in a local school for 8 years and finally got a scholarship to complete his bachelor’s degree at the University of Nebraska at Kearney. After finishing his bachelor’s he didn’t settle in the US but returned to his village Nagi after almost 20 years to help the local youth to get a better education.
At that time Nangi’s leaders will be establishing a village high school and in which Pun happily got involved and once a month he had to travel 2 days to the nearest town of Pokhara to check his e-mail and contact his friends abroad and asking for little help for his village. Finally, in 1997, a donation of four used computers from Australia arrived, but there was no electricity to run them. After Pun’s initiative, they generated enough power to run the computers from small hydro generators run from a nearby stream and he started teaching computer classes at Nangi high school. After this success, more computers followed but they were not connected to the internet, and was impossible to get a telephone connection from Pokhara.
To solve this, Mahabir e-mailed the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), asking for ideas to help connect his village. In 2001, the BBC publicized his dilemma, and within a year volunteers from Europe and the United States were helping him set up a wireless connection between Nangi and the neighboring village of Ramche, using TV dish antennas mounted in the trees. Small grants along with the volunteers soon led to the construction of improvised mountaintop relay stations and a link to Pokhara and by 2003 Nangi was online. This was big news on the World Wide Web and a group of backpacking volunteers along with many donated computers, parts, and equipment were carried up into the hills. Pun expanded the wireless network to 12 villages and distributed ninety used computers to the local schools and communication centers, connecting them to the internet, teaching teachers how to use them, and then troubleshooting until everything worked.
Now by the help of the internet people from Myagdi are learning through Pun’s “tele teaching”, good teachers in one school now instruct students in others. Local health workers use Wi-Fi to consult the specialists in Pokhara, students learn global skills by surfing the net, and villagers e-market local products such as buffaloes, cheese, honey, and teas. Also, they are drawing more trekkers to their houses by offering them internet services. Similarly in parallel projects, Mahabir has helped villagers to use solar power for energy needs, people of Nangi have added a library, health clinic, and new high-school classrooms.
Even after these contributions to society Mahabir has a lifelong vision for improving rural Nepal. He states that “I believe that visions will only be wishes if we don’t share it and work on it”.
His first vision is to “set up vocational training schools for rural people so that the young can get better jobs in the national and international job market”
The second vision is to “help people start income-generating programs in rural areas that are viable there to create the local economy and to create jobs locally”
The third vision is to “bring information and communication technology to the remote villages of my country and use it for educational, medical, commercial and communication purposes”.
Mahabir’s work has been recognized by:
Mahabir Pun was elected Ashoka Fellow in 2002 by Ashoka Foundation, USA, which is the global association of the world’s leading social entrepreneurs. The foundation recognizes people from around the globe, who have “innovative solutions to social problems and the potential to change patterns across society”.
Global Ideas Bank
Mahabir Pun was given the Overall Social Innovations Award for 2004 by the Global Ideas Bank (aka the Institute for Social Inventions) based in the UK.
The Ramon Magsaysay Foundation of the Philipinnes awarded Mahabir Pun Ramon Magsaysay Award 2007 for Community Leadership. Established in 1957, the Ramon Magsaysay Award is Asia’s highest honor and is widely regarded as the region’s equivalent of the Nobel Prize. It celebrates the memory and leadership example of the third Philippine President and is given every year to individuals or organizations in Asia who manifest the same sense of selfless service that ruled the life of the late and beloved Filipino leader.
University of Nebraska, USA invited Mahabir Pun for a winter commencement speech and was awarded Honorary Degree, Doctor of Humane Letters in December 2007 for his outstanding work for his country, Nepal.
Mahabir Pun in the News:
- Village in the clouds embraces computers – BBC Exclusive Feature
- Wi-fi lifeline for Nepal’s farmers – BBC Exclusive Feature
- Praise for ‘inspirational’ web pioneer – BBC Exclusive Feature
- The 2007 Ramon Magsaysay Award for Community Leadership – Magsaysay Official Site
- And The Magsaysay Goes to Mahabir Pun, the ‘Wireless Man’ of Myagdi – United We blog
- Innovating a new Nepal, Kunda Dixit
- Interview with Dr. Mahabir Pun
- ICT for rural community development: Interview with Mahabir Pun
- UNK alum gives back to native country
Follow Mahabir Pun
- Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Mahabir-Pun/43662749774
- LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/pub/mahabir-pun/1a/1ab/312
- Twitter: https://twitter.com/mahabirpun
For more information:
- Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mahabir_Pun