ThimphuTech was the first technology blog in Bhutan. We started writing it in 2009, just as broadband and mobile internet started to take off. (Although internet in Bhutan was launched in 1999, it was either super-slow or super-expensive, and was only used by a selected few).

In the blog, we wrote about technology and food, but also about plenty of other stuff. The blog became popular and influential in Bhutan. A companion bi-weekly column -- Ask Boaz -- was published for many years in the Kuensel, Bhutan's national newspaper. (The complete Kuensel columns are available as an ebook, Blogging with Dragons).

We stopped updating the blog when we left Bhutan in 2014, but the information within the posts can still prove useful, and thus we decided to keep it online.

We thank all our readers.
Tashi Delek,
Boaz & Galit.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Broadband bandwidth is not what it seems to be

Bhutan Telecom offers a few broadband packages, starting at Nu 399 and going all the way to Nu 2499.
Here are the options in a table similar to the one on the BT website:

Package NameCircuit BandwidthTariff (Nn)Data Limitvalidity
PersonalUpto 256 Kbps
2.5 GB
30 days
HomeUpto 256 Kbps
5 GB
30 days
OfficeUpto 512 Kbps
7 GB
30 days
BusinessUpto 1 Mbps
10 GB
30 days
EnterpriseUpto 2 Mbps
15 GB
30 days

When I first subscribed to BT's broadband service, I expected the specified "circuit bandwidth" to be the maximum download speed; this is what ISPs usually do when advertising broadband packages.

But not with Bhutan Telecom.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Bhutan telephone directory, now available for download

The Bhutan Telecom phone directory, in PDF (1.5MB), is now available for download here. Two comments: The file contains phone listings only, and the various sections with the lists of BT's available features, fees, tariffs, etcetera are missing. Also, it would have been useful to have an online search function to avoid having to download the whole file to locate a single phone number.

As is often the case with these kinds of books, while the main plot is a little thin, the book is packed with plenty of interesting characters.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

What's an IT Park? (K2 #11)

Question of the Week
I have been hearing a lot about the upcoming IT park in Thimphu, but I don't really know what it is.
Can you explain?
-- Kencho Nima, Khothakpa, Pemagatshel

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Shoe reincarnation

"Don't you mess with me, Mr. Dawa!"
I recently had two beaten pairs of sneakers come back to a new life with the help of ShoeVival, the new Thimphu-based shoe laundry service. Much has been said about the small business and its owner, Mr. Dawa Dakpa (see stories in Business Bhutan and Bhutan Observer). Add me to the list of fans. Mr. Dawa came to pick up the shoes, gave the soulless trainers his famous treatment, and delivered them back - all fresh and new - after two days. At Nu 120 per pair, this is a fraction of the cost of new sneakers. Highly recommended.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

ThimphuTech, now on smartphones

We've made ThimphuTech easier to view on smartphones, so if you're using a Blackberry, iPhone, an Android phone or another mobile device, chances are browsing and reading our blog will become more readable.

P.S.: If you happen to be a blogger using (that's the platform we're using) and want to enable your blog for mobile devices, just follow the instructions here.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Google Calendar's SMS feature for B-Mobile subscribers

If you're using Google Calendar - the free online calendar that comes with a Google account - you can receive SMS event alerts to your B-Mobile phone. And it's 100% free.

Here's what to do:

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Coming soon: Lonely Planet Bhutan, 4th edition

Lonely Planet, the world's largest travel guidebook publisher, will release its 4th edition of the Bhutan country guide next month. (The Kindle version is available now). While most Lonely Planet guides cater to independent travelers - often young backpackers - this one is obviously an exception. Information seems to be pretty up-to-date (Druk PNB and T-Bank are both listed), but there are a few misses. For example, the Nehru-Wangchuck cultural centre is not mentioned.

For those interested to see what LP has to say about their favorite haunt, it is possible to read the book using Amazon's "Look Inside" feature (not all pages are available). Also, the "Read first chapter FREE" link on the right side of the Amazon page allows you to do just that.

Lonely Planet guides are known for their wry sense of humor and strong opinions. Not this one, for some reason.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Dealing with suspicious files (K2 #10)

Question of the Week
At the end of a system scan with Avira anti-virus software I get a summary report. If there are suspicious files detected or warnings, how do we deal with it?
-- Tandin Wangmo

Phone directory moves online

"Sonam, sonam, sonam, sonam,..."
For 2011, Bhutan Telecom will not print a phone directory. Instead, a PDF version of the book will be available for download on the BT website ( Less paper is good. Also, finding the one and only Sonam in Thimphu will become a snap: searching a PDF is quicker than leafing through the white pages. (Quick hint: After opening the file with Adobe Reader, type Ctrl-F). But all this doesn't really help the majority of Bhutanese, who do not have access to a computer. They will need to either get hold of a hardcopy of the PDF file for offline use, call the directory service (140), or refer to an old copy of the phone book.

Now here's an idea for 2012: Directory of mobile phone numbers...

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Online course: "Forecasting"

For all those who've been asking me about statistics courses in Thimphu:
I'll be instructing an online course on Forecasting, starting March 25. Course participants will learn how to build statistical models for forecasting time series, how to evaluate predictive performance, and more.

The course is very practical and hands-on. We use real data and discuss practical issues. It is intended for those with basic statistics knowledge (such as regression models).

This is a great opportunity to interact with other professionals worldwide (through a discussion board) and to take advantage of online learning for expanding your knowledge.

Feel free to email me for more information and for the special terms for Drukpas.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Live from the field: Visa card @ BOB ATMs?

"I'm really good at spitting out paper slips!"
On Dec 15, 2010 BOB launched their MasterCard service, where cash (in Nu.) can be withdrawn from its ATM machines using a MasterCard. BOB's website now boasts an announcement regarding Visa as well. Here is what I found:

Monday, March 7, 2011

Spray some Dzongkha!

While some people think Dzongkha stinks and is a hoax, other claim it contains darker notes. No, we're not talking about the national language of Bhutan.

Bhutan Telecom Internet woes

Surfing out-of-Bhutan websites came to a crawl this morning (accessing .bt websites is speedy). Internet outages are not uncommon in Bhutan, and most Internet-addicted consumers can survive a few hours without updating their Facebook status (usually not without withdrawal symptoms).

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Sabzi bazaar serendipity

Although beetroots are not used in the Bhutanese diet, from time to time these sublime roots pop up in the sabzi bazaar. This happened to be the case in the last couple of weeks, where a bunch of purplish, hard and very fresh beets were discovered among the ubiquitous chillies and carrots. Heaven!

Beets are a versatile vegetable. I usually pickle the roots, but they can also be roasted, boiled, or grated into a salad. The leaves of the root (known as beet greens) are also used in the kitchen, but they went missing. When choosing beets, pick ones that are firm and attached to fresh stems.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Mobile broadband for closing Bhutan's looming digital divide

Mobile broadband is an amazing technology. I recently spent a few weeks in Laos, and needed Internet access when roaming around the country. In Vientiane I got a few 3G-enabled prepaid SIMs with the different operators, which together gave me excellent coverage all over the place, including some remote provinces. Bandwidth was excellent, usually with download rates exceeding 1Mbps. It is not uncommon for locals to use 3G as their only Internet connection.

Back to Bhutan: 3G is available only with B-Mobile, and only in Thimphu. Even in the capital, download rates are disappointing, and hiccups are common, so you cannot depend on 3G as your sole Internet connection. Many people outside of Thimphu and the bigger towns have no access to broadband Internet. I wonder: Is it time to take mobile broadband seriously? With B-Mobile soon covering all gewogs - an impressive achievement by itself - a solid, reliable 3G infrastructure will enable access to broadband Internet all over the Kingdom.

"Bring me 3G before I turn into a goat"