Hiking for E-mail

mahabir pun

For six years, Mahabir Pun trekked long distances to check emails in Nepal. Until he brought the Internet home to his remote village. PHOTO: Hiking for Emails, Vimeo

In India, there exists this dwindling practice of writing letters to the Editor. Of publications. Most people write on current affairs, some write to highlight issues that range from a lack of streetlights to dissent. Some write in to commend actions, public campaigns. A handpicked bunch of these are published in a column titled Letters to the Editor. Mahabir Pun of a remote village in the mountainous country of Nepal wrote to BBC, asking for help to bring the Internet home.

For six years, Mahabir Pun made monthly two-day treks from his village in Nepal’s remote Annapurna region to the city of Pokhara, the nearest place with internet access, so he could check his email. Then, in 2001, he started imagining what it would be like to have an internet connection closer to home.

In a short film by Austrian director Clemens Purner, Pun says that when he first started talking about bringing a wireless network to his village, Nangi, “nobody in Nepal believed that it could work.” At the time, only about 15% of the population (pdf) had access to a majority of Internet access points. (Today, just over one third of Nepal’s populationis believed to have Internet access—still mostly in valley cities such as Pokhara and Kathmandu.)

Pun is now interested in finding ways to attract tourists to the region and provide opportunities for the region’s youth, who often lack accessto relevant job training and information. Among his ideas: a possible cable car, a vineyard, and even a whiskey distillery. Nepal would benefit hugely from a boost in tourism right now as communities and the economy struggle to recover from two devastating earthquakes which killed nearly 9,000 people last year.

Read more here. And do watch his inspirational story here.

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