Information and Communication Technology for Development (ICT4D) is a well established research area in both academia and practice. The research is trying to understand the instrumental role of ICT in development process. However, the process by which ICT may foster development, in the context of developing countries still remains a much debated issue.
The remote communities in the mountains regions in developing countries are among the poorest, most-remote and most-excluded in the world. They are socially, politically, and economically excluded. This has widened educational, healthcare, information and communication gap. Studies show that availability of information and communication technology (ICT) in a remote community is significant to facilitate the flow of information and knowledge that can provide an opportunity to connect them with the main streamline of development. To explore the role of ICT in socio-economic development of the Mountain regions, we conducted a case study in two villages of Myagdi District. In this study, we have explored how Nepal Wireless Networking Project (NWNP) may help to overcome these shortages. There is a great deal of optimism, exemplified by one villager from Tikot who stated that:
The Internet cannot help us with plowing, sowing, and harvesting. But by using the Internet, we can engage in a lot of other educational and financial development, I believe.
We argue that the NWNP provides a promising opportunity to create social, human, physical, financial, and political capital. People may access data resources and they are offered training to improve their competence. Social networking may also be facilitated. Now they no longer have to travel long hours to make a phone call to their relatives. Due to the NWNP, people living in the villages have better access to medical competence. Transaction costs are reduced and there are some promising opportunities to empower marginalized groups, especially women, through training programs.
The NWNP has provided several opportunities to the Nangi and Tikot communities. However, in order to realize the macro level socio-economic impact, the community people should not only be able to access and assess the information; they should also be able to convert it into relevant knowledge, and to make decisions. At the same time, they should be able to generate local content that can be used for revenue generation activities. In the content development and revenue generation program, this project is still in its infancy. They need to work on local content generation. Although they started local bulletin and eCommerce services, this information is still not exported to the outside community. Access to local data and information by external market is important in order to generate revenue and long-term sustainability.
Overall, the NWNP has created a positive wave in the Nangi and Tikot villages. The extension from what were initially two villages to currently more than seventy indicates its importance. Despite some challenges, the NWNP is an important example of an ICT for development (ICT4D) project in remote areas in a country which is rarely discussed in the ICT4D literature. Conducive government policies, infrastructure development, and public-private partnerships may support the replication of the NWNP across other mountain villages in Nepal. Further development of business models to attract eco-tourism, and to sell cultural and agricultural products through the Internet may generate revenues and further add to the socio-economic development in the long run.