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Story of a rookie computer engineer who brought digital entrepreneurship and wireless technologies to his tribal village in India to connect people living in remote areas through community networks

“I used to attend Award functions organised by Digital Empowerment Foundation (DEF) where innovators from across the world participated. There I came across Magsaysay Award winner Mahabir Pun from Nepal who worked in the field of connectivity. I got motivated and thought I should do something in Gadchiroli because if a company from outside does business here, they will be more interested in profits rather than development,” expressed Nasir Hashmi in an exalted manner.

It was after the training in Chanderi village of Madhya Pradesh, in 2008, that Nasir Hashmi, an ISP (internet service provider) franchise owner, started a digital centre providing digital services and established the first wireless mesh network in Kurkheda block of Gadchirolli – a tribal area, bordering Chhattisgarh and Andhra Pradesh, which is also heavily infested by Maoists. Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd (BSNL), an Indian state-owned telecommunications company, was the only telecom provider then, reaching the district office till 2015.

The training in the weaving town of Chanderi was conducted by Mahabir Pun who was the guest of honour and a keynote speaker given his experience and exceptional expertise in the field of community networks at one of DEF’s annual award ceremonies. With an overarching goal of creating a common platform – for all kinds of digital interventions aimed at socioeconomic development and empowerment of people and communities – for recognising the best practices, facilitating collaborations and initiating dialogues between experts and individuals from varied fields with a similar goal, DEF conducts annual award ceremonies which are recognised internationally. These include Social Media for Empowerment, mBillionth Award and eNGO Challenge among others.

Pun was involved in training the first set of trainees of community wireless networks from DEF, including Hashmi, who was one of them, and also helped in establishing networks in Chanderi and Guna in Madhya Pradesh. Since then, Nasir Hashmi has connected over 600 households in his hometown of Gadchiroli.

Continue reading on the Digital Empowerment Foundation website.