This week on the podcast we have the usual look at people and technology but this time it's all in Nepal. I visited with mountain villagers, small town mobile phone shop owners and the number one mobile operator in the country to find out more about how Nepal explores communications.
The owner of a local electronics store talks about sales to villages.
First a stop in Surkhet in the West of Nepal. I had a chat with the owner of an electronics shop. Though he sold fans and televisions, watches and radios, his number one area of sales was mobile phone handsets. He had quite the array of models in his shop and noted that his best seller was Nokia. The phones are manufactured in other countries like India and China, travel in through Kathmandu and are then sold from Surkhet to people who live in the surrounding villages.
Christina Hobbs of the World Food Program talks mobiles with young villagers
So the villagers have mobile phones but what do they do with them and how are they charged? I met with Christina Hobbs of the World Food Program. While music played out of the handset of one of the young villagers, we talked about getting credit on a phone in a place where there is barely food to eat and how to charge a phone when your power source is a solar panel.
The World Food Program also uses technology to connect from remote places. Bhanu Limbu was conducting field monitoring, asking villagers about their crops, food scarcity and requirements.
Using a PDA with the questionnaire software loaded and a satellite phone, he can make sure that the data he collects face to face with the villagers is available in Kathmandu in real time so that vital decisions can be made about helping those who need it most.
Photo: Bhanu takes notes on his PDA and uplinks via the satellite phone.
Aigers Benders - NCell CTO and Sanju Koirala - Communications manager
Getting a mobile phone connection in Nepal seemed to be easier than I had expected, especially in rural areas. However, the main mobile signal providers are working hard to extend their reach in some of the most challenging landscapes. The Kathmandu Post recently reported that NCell was the number one provider across Nepal, so I chatted with Aigers Benders about transporting masts on animals and how to make a 3g signal work on Everest.
- Shreedeep Rayamajhi
NCell is one of the companies working on getting broadband across Nepal too. It's no mean feat in a country that is prone to power failures and other issues of infrastructure and support. Being online also brings the usual problems of opinion and response. Shreedeep Rayamajhi has been an outspoken blogger on social matters in Nepal and he was physically attacked after receiving threats via email. I talked to him about safety online and how he hopes that Nepal's technology sector will grow in ways that will help the country's development.
Leaders of the Kathmandu Google technology users group
Nepal has some familiar activities happening in Kathmandu. While in London or in America it might be hard to miss the constant updates from meet up groups, there are fewer in Nepal. Bhupal Sapkota, Bhuwan Pokharel and Bibek Raj Dhakal kindly met with me to talk about their freshly established Kathmandu Google Technology users group and their hopes for a distinctly Nepal flavoured future for services and applications.
Thanks to everyone who took time out to talk to me all over Nepal. It's been exciting to learn about a place where the web feels different and the issues related to getting online are so varied.
I'm back in London for next week's show so do drop a line and let me know if you are up to something we should be sharing in relation to your web life.
Until next week!