Mobile Social Networking Nepal (Mobile Nepal)
In 2011, YoungInnovations signed an agreement with infoDev, The World Bank to run mobile community of practice in Nepal called mobile social networking - Nepal or simply ‘Mobile Nepal’. This was a big push for YoungInnovations to carry on tech community building activities in Nepal which it had been doing since the beginning even without any external resources. With this agreement, we could carry out focused programs related to building the first ever mobile community in Nepal with some resources under our belt over the next two years. The agreement laid foundation for coordinated effort to bring together mobile app developers and mobile enthusiasts in Nepal to collectively discuss issues and share knowledge. The overarching objective was to bring developers out of their silos from working on mobile app outsourcing projects for someone they didn’t even know and help developers think about how their ideas, knowledge and skill could actually be converted into a sustainable enterprise for themselves and the country.
Mobile Nepal was made possible through a funding support from infoDev, the government of Finland and Nokia through their program ‘Creating Sustainable Businesses in the Knowledge Economy (CSBKE)’ to derive and test new approaches to advancing innovation and entrepreneurship in developing countries. Mobile Nepal was part of a global CSBKE program with similar activities being carried out across 8 cities in Africa, Asia, Eastern Europe & Central Asia (ECA). In Asia, the two cities were Ho Chi Minh City (Vietnam) and Kathmandu (Nepal).
The specific objectives of the Mobile Nepal were:
- to develop a mobile applications community of practice,
- to foster a competition for ideas that encouraged entrepreneurship,
- and to establish mentorship opportunities for developers, by linking them with mobile industry professionals locally and internationally.
With these objectives, we initiated two different approaches which complimented each other - Face2Face events and online interactions. We set up necessary online tools – a website, a Facebook page, a Twitter account and a Google group – to encourage and facilitate the interaction of mobile application developers, students, mobile app enthusiasts to begin things with. In both cases, emphasis was given to more informal approaches whereby community members were able to generate ideas and initiate discussions around mobile technology and take it forward to implement the ideas collectively.
It was a time when there were no definite platforms to cater individuals and organizations working or interested to work in mobile app domain. We started our hunt for such individuals by visiting students at various colleges in the city and talking to them about the concept and importance of such community. We were excited to receive positive feedback from them and were encouraged by their enthusiasm in joining the community. Slowly but steadily, the community grew as we engaged in events from Barcamp, Software Freedom Day to the events organized by clubs of colleges.
Our next step was to discuss the opportunities and challenges of mobile app development in Nepal. In our first talk program, ‘Mobile Apps Development in Nepal’, we were able to invite individuals who engaged in mobile app development. With the success of the first event, we were more determined to work to build the community. Soon, we came up with the first ever mobile app development hackathon (perhaps, the first ever hacakthon organized in Nepal to the best of our knowledge). With less than 20 participants in two days, we developed a complimentary app for ‘Hello Sarkar’ – a popular government service for grievance reporting.
At that moment, there were relatively few individuals and organizations that were beginning to recognize the significance of the community. It was time to bring in other stakeholders to share their views, ideas and knowledge and to determine the opportunities and challenges of mobile ecosystem in Nepal. We organized a face2face forum in collaboration with infoDev, Embassy of Finland, ITPF, ICIMOD, Digitainment, F1soft International, Groupsia, NOSK, and KCM. The speakers and panelists of the forum were representatives of government, telecommunication regulatory body, the World Bank, Embassy of Finland, telecommunication operators, IT and business organizations and developers. The forum helped to understand and know opportunities and challenges of mobile technology in different fields such as telecommunication and VAS, financial institute, agriculture, mobile apps development. The issues raised in the event needed to be considered for in-depth discussion with concerned stakeholders to resolve them in future.
We continued with small talk programs giving space to app developers to share their apps to other developers and individuals who were thinking of starting their journey as mobile app developers. With feedback and suggestions from the community members, we started organizing training on Android. Initially, the training programs were a-day-long sessions. Later, we changed the training sessions to a-week-long but 2 hrs/ day format.
In early 2012, infoDev again partnered with YoungInnovations to organize Global hackathon on mobile microwork called m2Work Hackathon. 4 mobile laboratories (m-labs) – of Kenya, Armenia, Kenya, South Africa and Vietnam – and Mobile Nepal carried out hackthons simultaneously in their respective countries with guidance from YoungInnovations as lead facilitator of the the entire event. With this, YoungInnovations was able to prove its expertise and competency on community building at an international level.
In beginning of 2013, we announced Nepal’s first mobile app startup competition – Pivot Nepal. We were inspired by Pivot East (previously Pivot 25) which is an annual and intensive mobile app startup competition held in east Africa. Pivot Nepal was organized in partnership with Nepalese Young Entrepreneur’s Forum (NYEF). We received 116 ideas out of which 18 were selected for trainings to prepare them for finals. In the finals, the selected 18 finalists presented their product in front of judges and audiences. Out of 18, 3 winners from each category and a grand winner was announced in the end. The two team members of Grand Prize Winner, nLocate, were taken to Singapore to attend Communicasia 2013 and interact with app developers and Mobile Monday representatives. At that same time, we signed an MoU with Mobile Monday to start its new chapter in Kathmandu.
In many events, we were supported by various groups and individuals such as Google Developers Group (GDG), Computer club of Prime College, Startup Weekend Kathmandu, NOSK and others as well. We also supported the groups during their programs.
In two years time, a community that we dreamt of was built with the support of many individuals who already knew about mobile apps and those who discovered them through our community. Mobile Nepal became a platform to learn new skills, trends, opportunities, challenges in mobile apps development. It became a medium for those individuals who were eager to impart their knowledge. It became a single point of networking where many got opportunity to meet new faces with a range of skills and capabilities. It created sparks between the community members to work together and even create their own ventures. Our involvement in the community is one of the reasons that we are now facilitating Ncell to organize Ncell App Camp for the second time.