In this part of the History of Online Media in Nepal Series, I present an email interview with the man who made it possible for The Kathmandu Post to become first South Asian newspaper to have online presence.
When I was trying to write a brief history of online media in Nepal for my blog, I tried to find out the exact date when The Kathmandu Post went online. There was claims that it’s the first South Asian publication to have online presence but I could not find the exact date so I looked the archive of Kantipur Publications and found a front-page news published to announce it.
It was September 1, 1995 (edited on September 5, 2013 after finding out that The Kathmandu Post started uploading on September 1, 1995 but only announced it on September 7, 1995). The Kathmandu Post news said it went online on the University of Illinois website (http://www.cen.uiuc.edu/~rshresth/ktmpost/news-home.html) as a result of joint effort of Mercantile Communications, the publication and Rajendra Shrestha.
The first question that stuck me was who is Rajendra Shrestha and how was he helping. I found out that he was an engineering student who uploaded the news on his personal page provided by the University of Illinois.
After some hard work, I finally found him and did an email interview with him for reference. I never used much of this in any of my researches, so I’m presenting it here:
Are you the Rajendra Shrestha who helped in 1995 to upload The Kathmandu Post on web?
Yes, that was me. I created the first “Nepal Home Page” back in 1994 just after Mosaic (first web browser) was released. Soon thereafter, I put The Kathmandu Post in my web site – this was when there was email access in Kathmandu but they didn’t have the infrastructure yet to host their web site.
How and why you began Nepal Homepage? For whom?
I was in college in the U.S. (Dartmouth College) doing my undergrad. In 1993-1994 the “Web” became a big thing, especially with the introduction of Mosaic. Being in a university, we had free access to servers to host web sites, so I decided to start a page for Nepal and called it the Nepal Home Page. It was mainly a way for me to learn about Web technologies while putting something useful up there.
How the idea of putting The Kathmandu Post online emerged? Also what you were doing at that time?
Since it’s been a long time, I’ve forgotten the details. I was still at Dartmouth maintaining the Nepal Home Page on my free time. I got an email around the end of 1994 from someone at The Kathmandu Post saying that they wanted to put their paper on the Web but since Nepal did not yet have a dedicated Internet connection, they could not host it there. I offered to host it on my site until they were able to do it themselves.
As far as I know, it was uploaded to your university web space. How you did that? How you got the content? How and when you uploaded? Who were readers?
Someone at The Kathmandu Post would send me an email every day with the content of that day. I would get it before I got up for the day (nice thing with the time difference!). In the morning, I would take their content, make formatting changes as needed for the web site and upload it to my college provided web server space. The readers were mainly from the U.S. (mostly others attending or teaching universities since that was where Web access was readily available at that time) but it gradually spread to others.
How long that continued? Why it was stopped?
I continued doing that until December 1995. At that time I was taking off on a vacation for a few weeks so I asked The Kathmandu Post if they were ready to host the content on their own. They were, so they moved it to their own server that they managed.
What was the scenario of Internet in 1995 in Nepal and in US?
In the U.S. in 1993-1994, Internet/Web was mainly used only in colleges and universities. It was reasonably fast from within the college, but from outside you’d have to use dial up connection. From within Nepal, I believe they could use some satellite link, but since it was slow it was used mainly for email only. This started changing by 1995, as access and speed for Internet grew rapidly.
How you feel about all that you have done now?
I am certainly glad that I was attending a U.S. college at the time the Internet/Web took off. I was lucky to closely see a historically significant change in communication happen and to be a small part of it. When I first came to the U.S. (in 1991), there was no source of news about Nepal. You had to depend on making phone calls to Nepal.
Before I started the Nepal Home Page, I had found that my college had access to Lexus-Nexus, which is a database that includes all news reports from most wire agencies (AFP, Reuters etc.). I used to search for Nepal related news reports in Lexus-Nexus and send an aggregation of it to people in a list every day or so. At the height, there were more than 100 people in the list that I sent it to. I stopped doing it after the Web took off and these same reports were available on the Web.
Even now, after more than 15-16 years later, I sometimes meet Nepalis here who, when they find out who I was, thank me for that. For many of them, that used to be the sole source of their Nepal related news. The Nepal Home Page and my involvement with helping The Kathmandu Post go online was just a continuation of that effort to make information/news on Nepal available on the Internet, mostly for the benefit of others like me who were outside Nepal but wanted to keep in touch with what was happening there.
What are you doing right now?
I’m currently working as a “technical director” managing software development for a U.S. Federal contractor. For the past 3 years, I’ve been assigned to work as the technical director for the grants management systems at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), which is the U.S. agency that does biomedical research and also funds billions of dollars of research in universities and research labs.
Back in 1998, I together with some of my school friends started Yomari Inc. in Kathmandu, which maintained the Nepal Home Page and did custom web development. I left Yomari in 2005, but it continued to maintain Nepal Home Page until last year when the site was sold to another company.
P.S.: Also notable here is that The Hindu of India also went online on September, 1995 but not before The Kathmandu Post.
With thanks to Center for Media Research – Nepal