Creating Smart Village, Smart Design through Community Engagements
An Integrative Approach and the Role of IT
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 fight and cope against the poverty in many dimensions: finance, health, education, and the environment. (See the following organigram.). In addition, introduction of sustainable technologies to these villages could also change the lives of the people.
Nepal Study Center at the University of New Mexico is developing ideas to bring together various elements of this concept. In the Summer of 2009, UNM undergraduate students went to Kathmandu under the Himalayan Study Abroad Program to study the Bagmati River (in comparison with the Rio Grande of New Mexico). They also undertook some community engagement activities: visited kiva micro financed village, distributed smokeless stoves, and went to a shool in Dalchoki village (southern Kathmanu valley) to build rain harvesting project to provide water to students and teacher. This community engagement program --Nepal Service Corps-- jointly develop by NSC and the UNM Service Corps is developing ideas to implement e-learning in that village (computer lab in collaboration with INTEL). The Kathmandu University (UNM's MOU partner) is a collaborator along with some local grass-roots organization.
Finance and Economic Development: Large projects and the growth oriented macro policies are essential to provide infrastructures to create economic foundations. Sometimes it takes years for macro events to have a micro effect for millions of poors who live in the rural areas. Information technology (IT) is changing our approach to development strategies. Microfinancing has revolutionized lending pratcices through the use of IT. People2People microfinance scheme championed by the Kiva organization has pushed the envelop one step further.
Health: Use of information technology has been revolutionalizing the field of medicine known as telehealth. The University of New Mexico's telehealth program has done wonders in Latin American countries, and some discussions are underway to emulate it in Nepal. But, the challenge is to improve healthcare access, status and services through some economic incentives and microfinance can play a major role. (see links below)
Environment: Creating awareness among the children through the environmental educational program in schools can be very effective in making the environment as a part of our complete living. A private-public school partnership aided by the environmental community groups has produced a very successful educational curriculum that keeps track of the ecological health of Rio Grande in Albuquerque. The data collected by the students get fed into the University of New Mexico's research laboratory. An effort is being made to emulate this program in Nepal through some international partnerships. Again, successful experiments are being carried out around the world to actually promote suatainable environment through microfinancing.
(see links below.)
Education: Fight against poverty helps in the development of education.
A South American microfinance support organization, FREEDOM FROM HUNGER, has established a system combining lending with an educational program targeting the poorest. Educational benefits may come in various forms: public health awareness, skill training, and nutritional awareness. A reduction in poverty as a results of microfinancing can also directly increase the children's school enrollments, and help reduce child labor. (see links below.)
It is clear form above that 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.
Numerous articles and project reports presented below have studied these phenomena in details.