Welcome to Nepal Now, the podcast where we explore new ideas and innovations to move the country forward. My name is Marty Logan.
Thank you for joining me today a in my noisy neighbourhood. It feels like it’s construction season in this part of Kathmandu – but on with the show as they say!
Like what seems to be a growing number of Nepalis, Rumee Singh always had an itch to return home and use her abilities to improve her own country. She went overseas to finish her education and then scored a “cushy” job in the corporate world in New York, but when a year-long stint in Dubai ended, she and her Nepali husband chose to return east instead of west.
The move paid off. Her work has been recognized with an investment from something called the UNICEF Innovation Fund, which puts money into development solutions based on blockchain technology. (Don’t worry – Rumee and I describe blockchain in simple terms in our chat coming up).
Rumee’s innovation, Rahat (‘relief’ in Nepali) is a digital payment system for humanitarian emergencies, such as following natural disasters like flooding. It’s a way to get money, or even goods, to affected people using mobile phones. Rahat’s advantage is that every transaction is tracked and because it uses blockchain, anyone anywhere can go online and see all those dealings — creating a huge barrier to corruption.
It's simple, but also complicated in some ways, explains Rumee. For example, not everyone post-disaster has access to a phone, so those people might actually receive physical cards that they can exchange for money or goods. Another wrinkle is that even people who do have phones don’t always know how to use them — even for simple things like receiving a text message — so Rahat has to do digital literacy sessions in some areas.
But overall, results from early tests have been positive and now Rahat is doing a pilot project with the UNICEF country office here. If all goes well, Rumee thinks that her innovation could succeed beyond Nepal, especially because Rahat is based on blockchain, which is borderless. She encourages her countrywomen and men overseas who are considering a move home to take the plunge. It can be frustrating, she says, but it’s also cheaper to set up a business, the talent pool is deep, and it’s familiar territory.
If you have any thoughts about this episode, or ideas for future ones, let me know. My email is firstname.lastname@example.org.
UNICEF Innovation Fund
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Thanks as always to Nikunja Nepal for advice and inspiration.
Music: amaretto needs ice ... by urmymuse (c) copyright 2018 Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Noncommercial (3.0) license. http://dig.ccmixter.org/files/urmymuse/57996 Ft: Apoxode
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