A Nepalese educator who transformed the way of life in more than 150 remote Himalayan villages by connecting them to the Internet was Tuesday inducted into the Internet Hall of Fame.
Mahabir Pun spent more than a decade providing wireless Internet services to villages which had lacked even a telephone service, opening up access to education, commerce and health care.
"I am a strong advocate of a free Internet, I want the Internet to be available to people living under the poverty line," Pun told AFP in an interview in Hong Kong, where the Internet Hall of Fame held its annual awards ceremony Tuesday.
Pun was inspired by the Internet in the US, where he studied for university in the early 1990s, and was able to connect his native village of Nangi using television dishes and homemade antennas in 2002.
He has since built a network connecting 175 villages to free wireless Internet services, and plans to continue providing the service to other remote villages in the country.
"I want to try my best to breach the physical divide that is there between rural areas and urban areas, rich countries and poor countries," Pun said.
The 59-year-old said villagers had no concept of the Internet when he introduced the network, but were still very curious and eager to use it.
They now use it for communication, education and trade.
"If they wanted to buy a buffalo, they could immediately find who was selling a buffalo." Pun said.
Villagers in the past had to walk for days to other locations to inquire about the availability of products they were seeking, due to a lack of telephone lines.
Now they even use his network to access medical expertise via real-time video connections to clinics in cities.
Pun was among 24 Internet innovators inducted into the hall of fame, which has previously honoured Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the world-wide web, and former US Vice President Al Gore.
Other inductees for 2014 included Eric Bina from the US, who co-created the world's first widely-used website browser, and Brazil's Demi Getschko, a key player in connecting his country to the Internet.
"They fearlessly forged into uncharted territory with innovative ideas, groundbreaking technologies and collaborative work to connect more people and countries to the Internet," Kathy Brown, the chief executive officer of the Internet Society which launched the hall of fame, said in a statement.
The Internet Hall of Fame, which recognises pioneers and innovators in the field, held its third annual awards ceremony in Hong Kong for the first time Tuesday.
The southern Chinese city became home to one of the world's fastest Internet connections in 2013, with speeds over three times the global average.
Explore further: Web founder calls for Internet bill of rights