Reflecting on the journey and bidding farewell to Code for Nepal community

18 Jun 2021 - Nikesh Balami

I remember the exact date, it’s October 17th, 2016 - A day when I landed into the AskNepal initiative while doing random online research; a day when I casually message one of the founders of Code for Nepal, Ravi Kumar, expressing my interest in leading and contributing. Looking back, it’s difficult for me to summarize the journey in words; almost 5 years went by within the blink of eyes.

When I started, I wanted to be focused on leading one initiative, which was AskNepal; but as time progressed I remember volunteering for so many interdisciplinary projects, programs and positions. Unfortunately, this awesome journey will come to halt this April 2021, as I step down and bid farewell to Code for Nepal community. So yay, I might not be actively engaged in the community activities and projects from April onwards.

Taking this decision to bid farewell wasn’t easy for me but a year-long pandemic has made my personal and professional life a little messy; forcing me to take some major decisions to collect life back to normal. Also, I believe 5 years is a long time and this is a good time for me to move on; so other volunteers can utilize the community platform and get a similar opportunity to contribute and prove themselves.

I still will be wondering and struggling in the field of data and technology. So, if anyone wants to reach out; my email will be always open for collaboration. The aim is to make sure that everyone has free and open access to the key information, empowering themselves to be able to make decisions about their own lives based on the information that wasn’t available before.

Reflecting on the journey

Shaping AskNepal initiative - my project plan to reboot the entire initiative was a complete flop, but we made some progress in terms of further enhancing the project. We successfully brought the project under the joint partnership of Open Knowledge Nepal and Code for Nepal, to ease its implementation. Also, with the support from OKN colleagues, Sagar Ghimire & Shubham Ghimire, we improved the user interface. We also were able to localize the platform in the Nepali language, many thanks to the volunteers of Kathmandu University and the guidance of Saroj Dhakal. Unfortunately, we were never able to acquire dedicated funding to support the outreach activities of the project. The good-looking project proposal remains in my Google drive. If someone is still looking to support, feel free to reach out.

Organizing #DigitalNepal conference - In the midst of tragic events and strike at province 2, we successfully organized the Digital Nepal conference at Janakpur, which was one of the biggest out of Kathmandu valley technology events. A little nervous, a little excited; I remember my friend Avinash and I, taking a flight from Kathmandu. It was all worth it and many thanks to Pratap Adhikari, who then was a member of the Association of Youth Organizations Nepal (AYON), for making it memorable, by helping us explore the entire Janakpur. You can read my take on the Digital Nepal conference, the event was full of enthusiasm with diverse audiences.

Building civic tools - Something I love, crowdsourcing the idea and converting it into impactful projects with the help of wonderful volunteers. Out of many, one of the memorable projects was the Election Nepal portal, although the portal wasn’t sustainable for a longer period. I have shared the journey of online collaboration in building the portal with the Open Nepal team, feel free to read. The source code and datasets are also openly available for everyone to reuse. Another project is Visit Janakpur, I wasn’t involved in the development of the project, but helping the team organize the “Digitizing Janakpur Workshop” was fun. At the end of the three and half days workshop, we built 542 map points, 55 plus 360-degree imageries and 12 video stories. You can read more details regarding how we helped improve the digital footprint of Janakpur from my [blog]

Hosting local and global events - In the span of 5 years, I remember helping in the coordination of many events, that too in various parts of the country. Some of them include Smart Cities Workshop, in partnership with Global Peace Foundation; AngelHack Hackathon with support from ING Group, DataHack 2019 to map the districts affected by the monsoon in Nepal, 2019 Digitizing Janakpur Workshop to map the street of Janakpur on OpenStreetMap and Digital Literacy Training at Sindhupalchowk.

Improving NepalMap portal - When I first joined Code for Nepal community; NepalMap was already a thing with a very good user base. I feel very grateful that I got an opportunity to work with both teams who developed the old pre-federal and new federal version of NepalMap, especially with Clifton McIntosh, who despite being non-Nepali got such a deep understanding of Nepal. In the pre-federal version, I contributed the local elections and business data. Adding business data was fun, where I spent quite some nights understanding its patterns, you can read my experience regarding the understanding of the business data pattern. Which gave me confidence in coordinating the development of the federal version. Many thanks to Clifton McIntosh, Amit Chaudhary, Nitesh Rijal, Pratima Kandel, Ishan Dangol and Nirmal Rijal; without whom the development of NepalMap Federal would not have been possible.

Launching fellowship - Helping with the launch and coordination of the different fellowship programs was also one of the memorable parts of the journey. Recent activities include the launch of the Hawkins Fellowship and Data Fellowship program, where we aim to build data skills of over 500 Nepalis globally. If you are someone who is looking for any opportunity to kickstart the carrier in the field of data, feel free to apply.

Final note

As I previously mentioned, my focus will still be in the field of data and technology, so if you are someone who works in a similar field, we definitely have a higher chance of meeting and working again. In the end, I would like to thank Ravi Kumar for his mentorship; without him, this phase of life could have been boring.

See you all on the other side 👋