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. The video below, one of Vimeo’s recent “staff picks,” chronicles Pun’s successful effort to make that happen.
HIKING FOR EMAILS from Clemens Purner on Vimeo.
In the 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 population is believed to have Internet access—still mostly in valley cities such as Pokhara and Kathmandu.)
Pun appears in the film to have been just as surprised as the naysayers were when he actually pulled the scheme off, and he comes off as a humble man in general. But his entrepreneurship was necessarily bold. He appealed to BBC News to get exposure for his idea, which ultimately attracted the resources that would help him. He also didn’t stop at simply gaining a wireless connection—subsequent projects included a school and the introduction of telemedicine to Nangi.
Pun is now interested in finding ways to attract tourists to the region and provide opportunities for the region’s youth, who often lack access to 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.