The tech revolution has come to the roof of the world
Nepal is home to some notoriously horrible infrastructure — roads are potholed, or completely unpaved, wired internet connections are rare and slow and daily power outages are still frustratingly common, even in the center of Kathmandu. Add that to outbursts of civil unrest, an average take-home salary of around $730 a year and an illiteracy rate of 37 percent and you'd be forgiven if you thought the tech revolution had skipped this part of the world.
In reality, Nepal's tech-savvy youth are working through the country's unique difficulties with the sort of elbow-grease tenacity that Silicon Valley long ago replaced with big egos and high salaries. We were lucky enough to meet with some of these eager young founders and hear a bit about what they're building. Here's what's going on in the tech scene on the roof of the world.
Kathmandu Valley is a sprawling mass of concrete that's home to over 6 million people. And, like you might suspect, delivery logistics are a major headache for e-commerce companies. When roads are paved, they're so potholed and traffic-clogged that walking is often faster. If the weather takes a turn for the worse or a political rally shuts down a main road, the whole thing grinds to a halt. Suffice to say, getting a package from a warehouse to its destination is a major feat.
The founders of KTM Couriers came up with a simple solution — the bicycle. Using the humble two-wheeled steed paired with a modern, online dispatch system, the company is able to get anything to just about anywhere in the city in speeds befitting Amazon Prime. Big package? No problem. The company's fleet of cargo bicycles is able to wind its way through the worst traffic in the worst weather. To speed things up even further, the company is investing in specially designed mopeds for destinations further afield. They are also developing an app that will allow customers to follow their orders in realtime, and give drivers better routing information.
Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor horrible, traffic-clogged and protest-blockaded roads will stops these couriers.
Nepal is beautiful, but it's a pain in the butt to get to — unless you visit virtually. Semantic Creation is Nepal's first virtual reality company. The company specializes in creating documentary-style virtual reality experiences of popular places around the country. If you want to check out Annapurna Base Camp without the head-splitting altitude sickness, you can now do so from the comfort of any couch in the world. Want to see what the inside of a Nepalese kitchen looks like while they're making the country's famous Momos? Now you can.
The company was founded by a couple of college kids following the 2015 earthquake that destroyed much of Kathmandu. The founders were upset that the international news focused on the death and destruction wrought by the quake without balancing the story with the reality of the rest of the country - filled with beautiful and tourist-friendly destinations. They soon found that companies, especially in the tourism industry, wanted to have virtual reality experiences made about their properties and the rest is history.
If you're into a bit of armchair travel, you can sit back and see a good portion of the country here.
Wired internet connections are horrendous in Nepal, but 3G is everywhere. And we mean everywhere. One of Nepal's largest telecommunications companies has even offered 3G on top of Mount Everest since 2010. HoneyGuide Apps is taking full advantage of that, offering users an app-based guide to popular locations around the country. Whether you're hiking to Annapurna Base Camp or on your way to Everest itself, you can leave that heavy guidebook at home. The service will even work without an internet connection, so if you find yourself deep in a valley or if you forgot to top-up, you can still use maps and see train descriptions offline.
Just don't forget to bring a solar charger.
Images via companies featured.