Mahabir Pun gained national and international recognition for his contribution in introducing wireless technology to some of the remotest areas of Nepal. His innovative ideas and can-do attitude have been critical to the success of his mission.
He has received multiple national and international awards like Social Innovation Award (2004), Ramon Magsaysay Award (2007), and Internet Hall of Fame (2014), among others.
Pun currently chairs the National Innovation Center (NIC) and keeps himself busy providing his innovative contributions and encouraging others with innovative ideas and zeal. A self-described nomad, Pun, appeared as a guest at the Desh Sanchar Chautari to talk about his
I had to travel from Myagdi to Kathmandu once every 2/3 months just to check emails. The travel was cut short as the internet became available in Pokhara, but journey to Pokhara once in a month continued for a few more years. I had to bring the internet to the village so that I did not have to commute to check emails, Pun said explaining his mission.
Pun rules out three misconceptions about himself. First, NIC belongs to him. He shares that it does not belong to him but rather to the nation, hence the term National Innovation Center, and he himself works there out of his own accord. Second, the center is a place for those studying science and technology. He says it is a place to try out ideas and innovation – open to anyone even without any academic credentials, but with creative spark and of course not limited to those with education in science and technology. Mocking at his critics he shares the third one is that he is a scientist- I have never claimed to be one and no need for the scientist to have a long face questioning my intensive research.
“Only about one per cent of Nepalis is aware of the importance of research and innovation,” Pun laments. He attributes visionless state players that do not prioritize science, technology, research, and innovation as a contributing factor towards the national trade deficit.
He stresses that NIC focuses on applied research, technology, and innovation and not academic one. He says the term Nava Prabartan (innovation) is more appropriate than Aaviskar (invention) but was chosen anyway since it was a relatively unknown term back then.
“Only about one per cent of Nepalis is aware of the importance of research and innovation,” Pun laments. He attributes visionless state players that do not prioritize science, technology, research, and innovation as a contributing factor towards the national trade deficit. Innovation need not be lofty – mission to the moon does not need to be the aim presently – enabling the environment to produce something tiny like toothpick can provide value. Why not provide an environment to produce Gundruk, trademarked Nepali dried vegetables, here itself instead of shameful import from China. Why import tractors to distribute as charity instead of producing them here in the country itself which he said was very possible.
Divulging into the topic of finance at NIC, Pun shared that the current financial sources are not sustainable. He deplores the government’s stance of snubbing any support when requested, while acting heavy-handed as soon as he announced putting his medals for sale to raise funds. He claims the government immediately informed him that it was against the law to do so and doing so would mean his awards would be annulled. He points out there are multiple examples of international awards being sold for cause, and as a last resort to raise funds, he had put it up for sale.