Into the Unknown!
Monday, November 25, 2013 at 5:30AM
Matt B

I said before I left England that one of the biggest challenges I would face would be logistical, and so far this has been true enough..

Although Dhawa only sits at around 900m in altitude, it takes a good couple of days to traverse the 130km dirt track that winds its way from Kathmandu. Some outstanding driving brings lorries full of people across the mountainous terrain. But even the best drivers can’t avoid the occasional mechanical malfunction, and unfortunately for me this affected 2 out of 2 buses! The second of which became terminally ill and had to be abandoned (at night). Meaning that the 11 bags of valuable equipment (PCs and so on) also had to be abandoned. Not ideal, but there remained a 2hr night march over hilly terrain to get to the village and there was little else I could do.

And of course the language barrier, lack of torch and hordes of people etc make for a better tale than I am telling here, but to cut a long story short, I arrived at the village without anything – and just as Nepal's 2nd biggest festival, Tihar ("Festival of Light") began, which was a marvellous introduction to the country and family I am staying with.

Soon after, it was The Election. Apart from the whole thing being extremely interesting, it is worth pointing out that a 10 day transport ban enforced nationwide by Maoist anti-election campaigners made travel extremely difficult. It also caused everything to be closed, including the schools nominated for network facilities, as these were used as local pol stations (and therefore also as small temporary army camps). So with no possibility of progress I took leave for a small holiday, managing to escape just before the ban came into force (see attached - Annapurna Base Camp).

But festival’ing and politics aside, my time has not been without interesting developments on the network side.

I was fortunate enough to meet the venerable Mahabir Punn; a pioneer in RF communication in Nepal.  He is known for his extensive work in applying wireless technologies to develop remote areas of the Himalayas, and in 2007 was awarded the Magsaysay Award, which is considered by some to be the Nobel Prize of Asia. After following his case studies closely on the internet, I was keen to meet him. He is the only one so far to have successfully built a wireless internet protocol communication system in remote areas of Nepal, and now holds celebrity status due to his growing list of accolades.

Although my project sits outside his sphere of expertise, his input and support will be vital. He is very influential (successfully lobbied parliament to de-license wireless technology and remove high customs levies on the equipment, in order to facilitate its adoption throughout Nepal) and has agreed to provide my network with a source connection (his internet connections are cheaper as he circumnavigates the monopoly on the re-selling of internet services in local areas by bouncing the internet directly from Kathmandu). But perhaps more to the point, he has confirmed that:

The Dhawa Wireless Internet Project will be the first community owned Internet Service in Nepal (!!)

Ground breaking stuff, and publicity towards the project is growing.

So it doesn’t need a marketing expert to tell me that DWIP isn’t very catchy! Therefore DWIP shall now be known as Dhawa Net (for which I'll be setting up a portal and intranet at

This will be the first community owned internet service in Nepal (and will also be also the first fully functional rural ISP).

My job is to install the hardware, connect up the local schools, install a local proxy server and train local talent to maintain it. I'll also be helping the community to form a local company, obtain a government licence, and acquire the bandwidth at non-commercial rates from Kathmandu. A lot to do - and now that all votes have been cast, the country can return to normal. – watch this space.

Article originally appeared on learningplanet (
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