By Olga Anderson & Alexander Anderson
Electrifying remote off-grid villages is a path to not only creating much needed infrastructure, but also building the real wealth of the community through energy, communications, job opportunities, and equitable education.
IEEE Smart Village partner Global Himalayan Expedition, founded by Paras Loomba (who is also co-chair of the Education Committee eco-tourism working group), has been featured this month in both the National Geographic documentary “Breakthrough: Power to the People” and in IEEE Electrification Magazine. (http://channel.nationalgeographic.com/breakthrough-series/episodes/power-to-the-people/ and http://ieeexplore.ieee.org/document/7942258/).
GHE has developed a multi-point approach based on electrification as an enabler for community empowerment and poverty eradication. GHE has recently launched Mountain Homestays, which allowsmembers of remote Himalayan communities above 5000 m (16000 ft) that have been recently electrified by IEEE volunteers to earn additional income through energy, communications, artisanship, and eco-tourism businesses.
The ISV approach to eco-tourism and humani-tourism
- Promotes clean and renewable energy access to the remotest villages
- Sets up an entrepreneurial ecosystem for creating and operating the homestays
- Creates market access for village products and improve livelihood
- Upholds organic farming practices and handcrafting techniques
- Empowers village women through additional income from homestays and handicraft
- Preserves the pristine environment and cultural heritage of the Himalayan mountains
The experience of Global Himalayan Expedition creates the foundation for a knowledge base of technologies, local business models, and methods for creating “smart” villages as destinations for eco-and humani-tourism where volunteers can engage with local communities in capacity building, knowledge transfer, and income generation. Simultaneously, humani-tourists build long-term ties with the community and acquire an experience of a lifetime.
Meanwhile, Dr. David Lansdale (co-chair of the eco-tourism working group and co-founder of the Beyond Chacay Foundation) is working in the Galapagos Islands and Ecuador with Global Himalayan Expedition on a digital learning toolbox for community-based training in eco-tourism & stewardship as sustainable businesses. The core model focuses on electrification & long-distance WiFi technology as enablers for local intranet for local businesses & education, with four highlights: 1) an online ecological trip advisor; 2) an online platform for educating and training humani-tourists prior, during, and after their trip; 3) a complementary websitefor humani-tourists to crowdfund local businesses and education directly; and 4) an online store providing local products and services.
The humani-tourism education model focuses on agents for transformation, who are university undergrad and graduate students who travel to partner communities, perform stakeholder analyses, identify community strengths / assets, and help create a plan for turning a community into a “smart destination.” The smart destination concept combines the impact of electrification, communications, and other technologies to educate social entrepreneurs in how they become stewards of the community.
The working group is also creating a set of courses tailored to merging market destinations based on the nine-part business model canvas, which includes English skills, social entrepreneurship, and conservation as key principles.
Currently, both GHE and Eco-Helix are developing the educational model of humani-tourism on their own expense, and need your support. Learn more on how you can support IEEE Smart Village at https://ieeefoundation.org/SmartVillage_donation or become a volunteer http://ieee-smart-village.org/get-involved/volunteer/