Creating Smart Villages
Proposal for Creating "Smart Villages" in Earthquake Hit Gorakha, Dhading and Sindhupalchok Districts of Nepal
1. The social challenge:
For generations, more than 80 percent of Nepal’s total populations have been living in rural villages, without access to proper education, roads, modern technologies and communication systems. The combination of traditional knowledge and resourcefulness ensured their self-sustainability, but the needs and demands of the rural populace have changed in recent decades because of the gradual reach of globalization and development of new technologies.
Since 2002, Nepal Wireless has been building broadband networks in rural Nepal to bring ICT services, connecting more than 175 Nepali villages with wireless Internet. However, the devastating 7.8 Richter scale earthquake of April 25, 2015 caused a huge loss of life and property, including the loss of 9000 lives with 95 foreigners, full destruction of 15,000 school buildings, 500,000 houses, 269 hospitals and a majority of our broadband infrastructure.
This destruction is extremely tragic, but also presents us with an unique opportunity to rebuild these traditional villages into ‘smart villages’, ensuring the access to relevant modern services - including broadband internet and ICT (e-learning, e-health, e-commerce, e-agriculture) services - that many in rural Nepali villages are eagerly waiting to experience. We hope to implement this ‘smart village’ model in two districts affected by the April 25 earthquake - Gorkha and Sindhupalchok.
2. Solution to the identified problem:
Building on 12 years’ experience pioneering rural broadband Internet in Himalayan villages, Nepal Wireless will create ‘Smart Villages’ models to introduce and integrate internet-driven tools and services in rural Nepal. At the core of our model will be the Rural Innovation Labs, for local villagers to create and implement innovative solutions to local community challenges. Our goal is to create:
• Smart rural schools through online interactive e-learning, e-teaching for students and e-training system for teachers.
• Smart rural health centers connected to city hospitals for tele-consulting and tele-medicine services for patients; e-training services for rural health workers, with autonomous drone services - in villages without access to nearby hospitals - to deliver small packages of medicines and to collect diagnostic samples of patients for lab testing.
• Smart agricultural cooperatives and local businesses connected with each other and to commercial banks for remittance, branch less e-banking and mobile banking services
• Smart trekking routes by using broadband Internet along the existing Himalayan trekking trails and running ATM services, e-tracking services and emergency communication services
• Smart e-governance system in collaboration with local and district governments, and provide online e-services including early landslide warning system in disaster prone areas.
3. Key enabling technologies that will be used to solve the problem:
Because of complex Himalayan terrain conditions, majority of rural Nepal do not have access to proper road or electricity, and access to 2G/3G services. According to a recent Nepal Government report, the internet penetration rate is 40.37%, with majority of internet users living in urban areas and relying on 2G/3G for internet services. In other words, about 60% of Nepal’s populations (about 17 million people) have no access to internet or ICT related services. In such a situation, Nepal Wireless proposes to build ‘smart villages’ by leveraging the following technologies and applications using,
a. unlicensed Wi-Fi and TV White Space (TVWS) bands to build a broadband infrastructure for high speed wireless internet network, with public Wi-Fi hotspots for villagers get better broadband access to the internet and Internet of Things offerings. TVWS band is available and is the best frequency suitable for the difficult terrains of Nepal.
b. mobile applications for e-learning, e-health, e-commerce, e-agriculture and remittance, which we have created in local languages in collaboration with our partners.
c. a local innovation lab at the core of our model, with access to relevant tools (IT shop, gizmo hub, community maker space) and services, both to help better integrate ICT services locally and offer a space where villagers can collaborate to design inventive solutions to community challenges.
4. Tentative Cost and Request for Support:
We have worked tentatively on the total cost that will be needed for creating smart villages in earthquake hit Gorakha District and Sindhupalchok districts. The tentative cost that we have estimated is approx. US$800,000 to US$1,000,000 to build the infrastructures for bringing broadband Internet and for building smart villages. Therefore we would like to request for support to build smart villages in Nepal.