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Smart Village: Using Information Technology to Fight Poverty in the 21st Century

Pioneers like the Grameen didn't bring people to a bank, they brought a bank to the people. This simple yet most powerful reorientation in thinking is what developing countries need more than ever before. But, development after all is meaningful and can be sustained when different components of it work in an interactive and integrated fashion. The proposed idea here, for example, is to do just that by incorporating information technology and P2P microfinance mechanism to integrate education and skill training, finance, health, and the environment.

"The World Bank estimated in 2004 that there were over 7000 microfinance institutions worldwide, serving over 16 million poor people. The combined turnover of these institutions was estimated at US$2.5 billion." (Source: Global Education) Information technology has become a bedrock of these initiatives, which has created a massive spillover effect in knowledge sharing and dissemination. Technology that you take for granted can make a difference for those millions who strrugle to survie on $1 a day.

(Photo courtesy: BBC and Grameen Foundation)

Smart Villages and the Role of IT and Microfinancing Building Smart Communities: Some Examples of Potential Models for IT-based Microdevelopment
Information is power, and the new innovation in internet technology and the wireless communication has changed the lives of many villagers all across the globe. Technologically savvy smart villages can better fight poverty by encouraging and making use of the following.

Foundation: Energy, IT, Financial Resources, Ideas, & People
»SOLAR SISTERS: A Brighter Future for Himalayan Communities
»Nepal Wireless Networking Project: bringing broadband to a cluster of villages in the Himalaya
»IT-based initiatives around the world
Himalayan Volunteer Initiative

A Success Story:
Nangi Village: Himanchal Education Foundation

Other Possible Profiles:
»Upper Bagmati River Sundarijal Region

»Melamchy Valley

1. Finance: People2People microfinance (see the link.)
2. Health: telehealth, microfinance investment in healthcare access, status, and services
3. Environment: environmental education and monitoring, green microfinancing
4. Education: skill training, increased school enrollment for children, reduction in child labor, public health education
The IT and wireless communication network are essential in creating a network of smart villagers. It is especially important for the communities living in isolation all across the spectacular and yet rugged terrains of the Himalayas. It is also important to note that the use of microfinance and informationa technology has become an effective tool to improve health protection and services, increase children's enrollments, spread public health education and awareness, enhance job skill trainings, and promote green micro investments.
An Experiment: the Nangi Cluster Collaboration  
Nangi school and its mentor Mr. Mahabir Pun in the western Nepal near Pokhara, a tourist hub popular for Annapurna trekking circuit, have created a network of several villages using the wireless Wi-Fi technology. Surrounded by beautiful forests, valleys, and mountains, these clusters of villages have provided us with an opportunity to initiate collborative programs like:

• Telehealth,
• Environmental data collection and research,
• Telemicrofinancing, and
• Internships and field research

Please check back with us for further developments and opportunities. (Preliminary discussion stage and link.)
Useful links on e-Development
»e-Development: Rural Telecenters situation in Nepali villages and elsewhere
»Microfinance, and its linkages with information technology, health, education, and the environment: useful links, papers, and microfinance training videos.

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