Hi, I am Nischal Poudel—a Nepali student currently in a high school in the UK. This summer, I volunteered with Code for Nepal, a non-profit working to increase digital literacy and the use of open data. Our plan for the summer was to initiate projects of digital literacy and open data in Pokhara, a beautiful city in Nepal.

To finance these plans, I first organized a fundraiser. We were able to raise $290 (Rs. 31500), and I am really grateful to the donors who contributed online and offline. Then, I started to work.

At first, I went to two public schools (Shree Ram Jyoti Secondary school and Amar Jyoti Gau-Farka Secondary School) and had a session titled ‘Make the most out of IT’ with the class 10 students. The goal was to enable them to get the most use out of whatever technology they currently have access to.

In the session, we discussed how today’s digital offerings can break Nepal’s infrastructural limitations, and how the students could use technology for various purposes like:

  • learning a new skill or completing a full academic degree online from Western universities;
  • doing jobs remotely in the tech field;
  • operating a business and using technology to sell products locally and globally.

Next, I organized a mini-workshop on open data. At Code for Nepal, we believe that people need to have access to accurate data so that they can make better decisions. In addition to increasing access to data through https://nepalmap.org, we organize workshops as well to increase data literacy.

Titled ‘Open Data Pokhara: Initiating data-driven development’, the workshop was a success. It was organized in the ICT building of GBS (Gandaki Boarding School) thanks to the generous support of the school administration. More than 30 students and teachers participated. We looked at what open data is, how big a role it plays in our daily life, and how it can act as a catalyst in development.

We also looked at how we can find various business opportunities in statistics by having a practical session of looking at the most searched keywords in Nepal. Based on this exercise, we came up with business ideas that ranged from making simulation games along the lines of ‘Clash of Parties’ to manufacturing Motu-Patlu (a popular video series) merchandise.

We concluded the workshop with a session on data scraping: extracting data from the Pokhara metropolitan website, converting it to machine-readable format, and using various tools to visually represent them, while also experiencing lots of problems in the conversion process because of the way the data was published.

A total cost of Rs. 5500 ($55) was incurred to organize the digital literacy sessions and the open data workshop. The rest of the fundraiser money ($235) will be utilized to provide scholarships to students in various IT courses.

All in all, our plan was successful, and it was tons of fun.

But why did I do all of this? I was a high school student on his summer holidays. I could be comfortable spending my time eating momos and sipping cold drinks by the lake in Pokhara. (I did eat momos though.)

I did this because I believe in the potential of Nepal. Nepal can make a lot of progress by increasing access to digital technology and enabling people to make the best use of digital technology they already have. Digital literacy can bring about a big change, and address problems like brain drain, corruption, superstition, and gender and ethnic inequality in Nepal.

I had a great summer, and I am really grateful to my support system in Pokhara that comprised of Code for Nepal members, teachers, and my friends that helped me make this possible.

But I also realized that I need more time to make the level of impact I want to make. With the lessons I’ve learned this summer, I will keep moving forward, keep pushing Code for Nepal forward, and we will continue to deliver on our mission for a digitally literate and technically capable Nepal.

Are you a high school student interested in joining us or organizing a program like this? Send us a message via our Facebook page, comment below or email us at contact[@]codefornepal.org