E-Networking Reseach and Development
Nepal Wireless Networking Project was informally started by Mahabir Pun as a team leader with the technical support of foreign volunteers in 2002. After 2005, the project is working formally with E-Networking Research and Development for implementing the project. It took almost one and half year for the project team members to learn how to build long range Wi-Fi link. It connected the first village in 2002 to the Internet using simple indoor Wi-Fi radio (Dlink 900AP)and satellite TV dish as modified antenna. The range of the first link was 40 km from the nearest city called Pokhara where the Internet connectivity was available. By 2005, the project had connected 22 villages to the network and provided tele-medicine services in two rural clinics by connecting them to a hospital in the city. Until the middle of 2012 the project has connected 140 villages in the 15 district of Nepal. The number of schools connected in those villages is 80 and the clinics is 10. It is expanding the Wi-Fi network to more villages and by end of 2012, there will be at least 175 villages connected in the wireless network and to the Internet.
The project at the initial stage was started without any funds. It was started with 4 simple Wi-Fi equipment donated by friends from the US. After the successful implementation of the Wi-Fi links in some mountain villages, people became more interested in the project. From 2004 to 2009 the project received some funding from Poverty Alleviation Fund Nepal, ITU, and APT to start pilot project on tele-medicine and to expand the network to wider areas. However, now the main funding for the project comes from the local governments and individual donors from the rural areas.
The project received a grant from ISIF in 2010 for building human capacity of the project. Using the support from ISIF, the project achieved the following goals
• It organized training in 7 districts of Nepal for the rural people on how to use computers and Internet and get benefit from it.
• It provided training to 30 rural wireless operators living in mountains to build and to maintain broadband wireless network
• It provided training in Nepali language - the common language in Nepal
• It developed manual in Nepali language to support operators and other communities for replicating broadband wireless network in different parts.
• It prepared documentation of the training and troubleshooting facts
Nepal Wireless Networking Project is not limited to connect the villages with wireless technology. It is also working hard to develop different application to provide useful ICT service for the rural people. It is also involved in research and development activities such as making simple ECG machine, developing poacher monitoring system in the national parks, and developing trekkers tracking system in the mountain trails using wireless technology.
Prior to the initiation of the wireless project in the mountain villages by Nepal Wireless Networking Project in 2001, no villager had any idea as what an Internet was or what a computer looked like. There was no telephone or electricity in the villages. The villagers had to walk five to eight hours to the nearest city just to make a telephone call. As a social worker, Mahabir Pun was involved since 1993 with several community development projects such as building schools, starting income producing programs, building health clinics in the villages, and being involved in nature conservation projects. In the absence of modern communication and transportation means, villagers had to use human messengers to send messages from one village to another, which is the oldest form of communication used in remote corners of the world.
Thus Nepal Wireless was born with the desperate need of a modern communication system for local use to help villagers communicate and run community development projects in different villages effectively and successfully. However, the political situation at that time was not favorable. Wi-Fi equipment had to be smuggled with the help of international volunteers. Different kinds of antennas had to be built by team members and tested at different ranges.
Because of lack of knowledge and lack of funding the project had to adopt cheaper solutions using donated Wi-Fi equipment, normal hubs and home built antennas including large recycled television satellite dishes. As for the power needed at the repeater stations, solar panels and wind generators were used to charge the storage batteries.
For the first year of the project Internet connectivity was provided through a dial-up proxy server based in the city of Pokhara. Five villages shared the dial-up Internet link. It was because there was only dial-up Internet service available in Pokhara city. In 2004, the Internet link was upgraded from dial-up to 64/64 kbps dedicated wireless link from the Internet service provider in Pokhara.
Nepal Wireless Networking Project has come a long way now. It has connected many villages and developed some applications useful for the villagers. However, there are thousands of villages that have no electricity, and no modern communication means. Although the mobile network of the commercial operators are reaching slowly to the rural areas of Nepal, there are many villages out of the reach of mobile services. Moreover, there are no Internet service available in most of the rural areas of Nepal. Because of the difficult terrain of the mountains, wireless networking is the only way and fastest way to connect the villages scattered in the mountains of Nepal and to make the lives of rural people easier and less miserable.
Unlike many community wireless networks, Nepal Wireless was not started by a NGO or INGO or the government at the beginning. It was started in grass root level. Most of the funding for building the network comes from the rural communities itself. Nepal Wireless is connecting the villages to the Internet in remote areas, where no other commercial service providers go for financial reason. Also Nepal Wireless is not only focusing in providing Internet to the people for communication purpose. It is focusing more on e-education. e-health and e-training areas. Moreover, Nepal Wireless is focusing on to provide technical and training support to as many rural population as possible on wireless networking so that people can replicate the network in many more villagers. Starting from scratch in 2001, Nepal Wireless has now connected over 140 villages of 15 districts of Nepal and it is working on to link. Moreover, Nepal Wireless is doing research and development works such as building simple ECG machine for clinics, deploying poacher monitoring system in national park and implementing Hospital management system in the hospital. These are some of he reasons why Nepal Wireless deserves award.
The goals and objectives of the project have evolved over time. At the initial stage of the project, the goal was to connect just a few mountain villages and provide communication services such as IP telephony and email communication. We did not know what other purposes the wireless technology could be used for. New objectives and services have emerged after 10 years of experience and collaboration and interactions with similar community wireless networks. The objective now is not to bring only the Internet and computers in the rural areas but to maximize the benefits of wireless and information technology for the rural population in remote areas. Nepal Wireless is trying its best by introducing useful applications and services in the field of education, health, communication, e-commerce activities and climate change monitoring activities. Using the wireless technology, we hope to make the life of rural people easier and bring some socio-economic transformation.
Besides, the long-term goal of Nepal Wireless is to become one of the biggest rural Internet Service Providers in Nepal to help bridge digital gap narrower. The followings are the objectives of Nepal Wireless Networking Project now.
1. Education: Increase better educational opportunities in the rural communities by creating tele-teaching and tele- training program, and by making e-learning materials in local language available to students, teachers and villagers through e-libraries.
2. Health: Connect rural health clinics and health workers to city hospitals in order to provide quality medical assistance through a tele-medicine program and make available highly needed healthcare in rural communities by virtually bringing medical doctors to villages.
3. Communication: Increase communication facilities in rural areas by providing telephone services through Internet phone system (VoIP), make Internet available for email communication, and help villagers to discuss by using Nepali language bulletin boards for community discussion.
4. Local e-commerce: Help villagers to buy and sell their products in the local market and international market through local intranet and Internet.
5. Job creation: Create jobs in the rural areas for younger generation through ICT related services such as communication centers, VoIP phone services, remittance services, and virtual ATM machine.
6. Research and Field Testing: Help researchers of climate change monitoring projects to collect data remotely and provide real time weather information about air routes in the Himalayan valleys during bad weather and the monsoon season for airlines. Do research onmaking cheap ECG machine, poacher surveillance system and trekkers trekking system
At the beginning stage, Nepal Wireless Networking project did not have any funding to buy equipment for building wireless network. It had to use mostly used equipment including wireless radios, switches, power sources and computers donated by individual donors. Now, the network has grown bigger and better equipment and applications have been added as mentioned below.
Transport Technology Used:
A considerable amount of resources have been dedicated over time to the network infrastructure and management. This includes wireless devices, network servers and associated software, and power generation systems at the relay stations. The transport devices that are being used in the network are long range backhaul radios, access points and cheaper client radios that are available in the market, directional and Omni directional antennas with different capacities, routers, manageable switches, normal switches and IP phones. Some of the Omni directional antennas were built by our volunteers and staff. Thus the wireless network has used a variety of wireless devices to maintain connectivity between the nodes.
Conceptually, the network has been divided into two parts, as follows:
1. Network backbone, which connects base stations in Pokhara or Kathmandu to a series of mountaintop repeater stations
2. Client connections that connect villages to the relay stations. In some cases, a connected village has also acted as a relay station.
Devices made by Alvarion and Motorola Canopy at 5.8 GHz bands are used for the backbone connection due to the need of high reliability, robustness, and to avoid signal interference. However, several brands of low cost 802.11b/g radios such as smartBridges, EnGenius, Ubiquity, Deliberant, Mikrotik and TP Link are being used for the last mile connections due to their compatibility between manufacturers. All the wireless equipment including backhaul radios, access points, client radios and wireless routers installed by Nepal Wireless use de-licensed frequencies of 5.8 GHz and 2.4 GHz.
Access Technology Used:
Before the wireless network was built for Internet connection, most of the computers at the schools were assembled in wooden boxes using used computers parts brought by volunteers coming to Nepal. Now access to the IT services is provided through desktop computers and laptops. With the addition of an Internet telephony system, the project added a number of network telephones in the villages. The addition of Internet telephony equipment has enabled phone users to make international phone calls at cheaper rates.
The most relevant activities of Nepal Wireless Networking Project are as follows.
1. It is bringing Internet in the remote villages of Nepal, where no commercial service providers have reached in order to help narrow down the digital divide and to provide ICT related services to the rural people
2. First is focusing focusing mostly in education areas. It is helping students, teachers and villagers how to use computers, and Internet in order to get benefit from it. The goal is to decrease the digital illiteracy of the rural people. It is also using the technology to provide education contents useful for the students, and the villagers. It is planning to provide online teachers training for the teachers and health workers as well through video conferencing.
3. The second area it is focusing on is in health sector. It is providing some tele-medicine services through video conferencing between the patients in the rural areas and doctors in the city hospital. So far it has connected 10 rural clinics in the tele-medicine network. It is very helpful for the villagers, who can't afford to come to city hospital to get service. Also the video conferencing system has been used to provide health training occasionally to the rural health workers by the city doctors. We have found that the fastest way to provide health services to the people in the remote areas is through wireless networking.
4. The project is also providing opportunities for the college students to learn about wireless network and its benefits for the rural population. Every year the project gets many university students from Nepal for internship for two months in the project. The students get opportunity to build wireless network in different villages and develop different applications that are useful for the villagers.
5. The project is running ongoing training program for the villagers, students and teachers in more and more villages with the expansion of the Wi-Fi network.
The most relevant outcomes of Nepal Wireless Networking Project are as follows.
1. By connecting one village through 40 KM long range Wi-Fi link in 2002, it has now connected in 140 villages to wide area network in different parts of Nepal and has brought Internet. No commercial service providers have reached in those villages.
2. The project has now base stations in Pokhara and Kathmandu that are running a web server, a proxy server, a network management server, an Internet bandwidth management server and an audio/video streaming server.
3. It has provided IT services through different applications such as e-learning, tele-medicine, tele-teaching, tele-training and e-commerce in different villages.
4. After the successful implementation of the wireless networks in 22 villages, the team members of the project lobbied very hard with the government in 2006 asking government to de-license ISM bands in 2.4 GHz and 5.8 GHz. The government of Nepal de-licensed those ISM bands in September 2006. This is the most relevant out of Nepal Wireless Networking project. Prior to that, the Wi-Fi users had to pay an yearly license fee of about $50 to the government.
5. Also the team members of the project became able to convince Nepal Telecommunication Authority, the telecommunication regulator, to bring down the ISP license fee for Rural Internet Service Provider to Rs.100(USD1.25) per year. Nepal Wireless Networking Project now has the same rural ISP license and recived it by paying Rs.100 a year. Before that, the license fee was very expensive.
The work of Nepal Wireless Networking Project has been disseminated many places in Nepal. The project has itself connected 140 villages and it is
going to connect at least 20 villages by the end of 2012. Moreover, other people and NGOs have started smaller wireless network in the periphery of urban areas to get internet in their villages.
The project runs wireless networking training program occasionally to teach interested people how to build wireless network and bring Internet
in the remote villages.
Moreover, Nepal Wireless has been helping Digital Empowerment Foundation in India for wireless networking training and for building wireless network in
Chanderi, Baran and Guna, which are the rural areas.
The team leader Mahabir Pun has been invited from the US, Japan, UK, Natherlands, Switzerland, Malaysia, Thailand etc to give presentation about the project and share knowledge with people around the world. Nepal Wireless is always open to help people around the world to build wireless network and
Mahabir Pun, Team Leader of Nepal Wireless Networking Project has received several awards and distinctions from around the world for his work in rural Nepal. He has received the following awards and distinctions. 1. Elected as a Fellow by Ashoka Foundation USA in 2002 2. Received "Overall Social Innovation Award 2004" from Global Ideas Bank UK. 3. Received "Ramon Magsaysay Award" from the Philippines in 2007. 4. Received Honorary Degree, Doctor of Humane Letters from the University of Nebraska, USA in 2008 5. Received "Ujwal Kirtimay Rashtradeep" medal from the President of Nepal Moreover, he has received lots of appreciation and honors from many organizations for his work. 5. Received “Hembahadur Malla Award 2008” from Public Administration Association of Nepal.