I made fun of Google Maps for giving me directions to Nepal. Then I went to Nepal.

Back in May, I was wandering around DC trying to get to the OpenGov Hub—a co-working community space located near McPherson Square in DC. I grabbed my phone, opened Google Maps, and discovered that it wanted to give me transit directions to another place called the OpenGov Hub—but in Kathmandu.

As I had never been to Nepal and had no reason to think that I would ever visit, my first reaction was to feel better about the prospect that computers would soon become smarter than us and take over the world. My smartphone was reassuringly dumb. I also thought this warranted a snarky facebook post. To wit:

OpenGov Hub directions in DC

Lo and behold, three months later, I happened to travel to Kathmandu for a project with the Open Contracting Partnership. You win, Google Maps. As long as I was in town, I figured I should stop by the OpenGov Hub. Ever the magnanimous future robot overlord, Google Maps was very helpful for finding my way:

Kathmandu Open Gov Hub

I somehow managed to communicate those directions to a taxi driver. Like many taxi drivers, he had no use for such artificial intelligence. He merely needed me to find the landmark nearest to the destination. (Note to self: Old school taxi drivers will be great allies for navigating urban areas during the resistance against the machines.)

Traffic was great. Kathamandu is very good at traffic. As in, good at having lots of it.

Kathmandu traffic

Once at the OpenGov Hub, I found a great community of open government reformers and like-minded organizations—and in a beautiful office space, too. I’ve written elsewhere about how shared infrastructure helps lower the barriers to working extra-organizationally. They don’t all have to be as tech-oriented as places like Nairobi’s famous iHub; Kathmandu’s OpenGov Hub (and the larger hub in DC) show the value of bringing together thematically similar organizations.

OpenGov Hub Kathmandu

They even have some expansion plans, with a second floor under renovation as they continue to add new members. Hopefully the AI in my phone that dictates my future will let me visit again someday and see how they’ve grown.

Many thanks to Narayan and Samita for showing me around.

OpenGov Hub Kathmandu expansion