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.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Business Bhutan's article on Hitler: a total mess up

A short "biography" of Adolf Hitler, together with three photos, appeared in today's edition of Business Bhutan, under the "Back in the Past" section. See the snapshots below.

After reading a couple of sentences from this piece, I realized that this was either a bad April Fools' Day joke (it's not), or that this text was written by someone with some serious language issues (maybe), or, most likely, this article is the output of automatic translation software such as Google Translate from an unreliable source.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

It's Official: 3G Available in Paro

We blogged about it a couple of days ago, and now it's official: 3G is launched in Paro. Bhutan Telecom has posted the announcement on Facebook and Twitter, although I couldn't find anything on With all due respect to social media, there's also a website to maintain...

(Don't) Contact Us by Email

Ministry of Education prefers face-to-face communication
Websites of organizations are an important tool for communicating with their audience. The "Contact Us" webpage (or the bottom margin of the homepage) allows website visitors to further communicate with the organization behind the website. For those surfing the web, it is often very convenient to send an email. Hence, including a contact email address is a must.
Quite a few websites in Bhutan lack contact emails: MOIC, MOH and NSB have Contact Us pages that only list a postal mailing address, phone and fax numbers. NEC lists the same at the bottom of their homepage. For Kunesel, I could not find any contact information beyond a form to fill. The Ministry of Education only gives a map (in the Organizational Chart page).

The choice of email address to use for "contact us" purposes should be carefully considered. Typical email addresses are,, etc. For example, the Druk Air website uses, Business Bhutan lists, and BOB uses Such email addresses allow channeling emails to the right person in the organization.

What if an organization uses email addresses of individuals in the organization for "contact us" purposes? For example, the National Statistics Bureau GIS project page requests "Please support us by reporting any broken links to" I tried this email address and unfortunately it bounced. For whatever reason, this email address is no longer functional (maybe Pema left NSB, maybe s/he is no longer the webmaster, perhaps his/her email address changed, and so on). The JDWNRH Contact Us page lists as the main Hospital Staff contact address, and the webmaster address is If and when new people staff these roles, the website will require updating. Also, records of emails sent to these addresses will be lost.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Low visibility in Thimphu

If you are in Thimphu, you must have noticed that air visibility in the last couple of weeks is unusually low. I took the following photo at around 10 am last week. Nothing much has changed since then, even on warmer days when the sun is out. I am starting to miss the days when the Buddha Dordenma was clearly visible from almost anywhere in Thimphu.

I'm not sure if this is humidity, dust or smoke, or perhaps some combination of all three. I could not find any reference to this phenomena in any of the newspapers. I could not find any useful information (visibility, humidity) on NHSM's website.

The National Environment Commission website reports the daily air pollution PM10 index. In Thimphu it is currently at around 80 µg/m3, which is below the national standard of 100 µg/m3. This hints that pollution is not extraordinarily high. Also, the air is not brownish. (By the way, NEC's standards are quite permissive when compared to EU and US standards, but we'll leave that for another post.).

So what's causing this extraordinary haze? If you happen to have any information, do let us know.

P.S.: Thimphu's unique topography - a high-altitude city surrounded by mountains - together with the growing population and explosion in the number of cars, might spell a future air-pollution crisis, especially if the city is prone to thermal inversion.

Late morning in Thimphu

An invitation to hackers

I found this announcement on the JDWNRH homepage. It contains specific instructions on how to log into the new hospital information system, including the system's IP address, a sample username, and the password. Obviously it is intended for the hospital staff only. It should not be available on the public website.

Monday, March 26, 2012

3G Available in Paro

Will we soon see tourists surfing the Internet while riding on mules up to the Taktsang Palphug monastery?

According to a recent tweet by photographer Gelay Jamtsho, speedy 3G is now available in Paro. It is still not officially announced by Bhutan Telecom, so perhaps it's still under testing. If you're in Paro with a 3G data card or smartphone, check it out and let us know!

P.S.: Gelay is offering stunning monthly desktop wallpapers here. January, February and March are already out. Be sure to check them out!

© 2012 Galey Jamtsho

The New Internet Gateway

Bhutan's international connection to the Internet was, until now, via a single gateway in Phuentsholing. Today, however, all this is supposed to change, and a second international link in Gelephu will finally start operating, according to the Kuensel ("2nd International Gateway: Bhutan will have 24/7 connectivity once this link is ‘lit’').

But will this provide a true 24x7 redundancy?

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Using RSS (K2 #33)

Question of the Week
What is RSS? How do I use it?
-- Karma in Adelaide
Dear Karma,

With more and more newspapers in Bhutan having websites, this is a timely question. RSS stands for Really Simple Syndication. It is a format that is used by websites that frequently publish new articles, such as news sites and blogs, to announce their new content. It solves the following problem: Let's say you would like to stay up to date on Bhutanese news. You could do that by visiting each and every news website such as,,, and so on. If you are on the lookout for fresh news, you might be visiting these websites very often to see if new articles have been posted. A much faster and simpler alternative is to use RSS feeds, which allow you to find all the latest information in one place. Instead of repeatedly visiting each of these sites to check whether new articles were published, an RSS reader will automatically aggregate all the new content using the RSS feeds provided by those websites into one place.

To use RSS, you will first need an RSS reader, and then subscribe to the RSS feeds of your favourite websites. I recommend using Google Reader. It is a free, web-based service, so you don't need to install any new software and you can view it from any computer connected to the Internet. All you need is a free Google account. Log into Google Reader at

Once you are logged into, the next step is subscribing to your favourite RSS feeds. You will need to do that only once. Click on the big red SUBSCRIBE button at the top-left corner, then enter the address of the website you are interested in. Google Reader will try to discover the feed automatically. For example, to follow the news from BBS, click on the SUBSCRIBE button, then enter, and the feed will be automatically added to the reader. Sometimes the feed cannot be found automatically, and you will have to find the feed address yourself. Go to your website of interest and look for the orange RSS logo on the website's home page, or for the words Subscribe, Atom, Feed, RSS, or RDF. Then copy the address of the feed and paste it instead of the website address.

Once your feeds are added, Google Reader will constantly fetch new content from all your subscribed feeds. Any new article that is published will appear on Google Reader, similar to an inbox. You can add as many feeds as you like and arrange them into folders.

Almost all the websites of English-language newspapers in Bhutan provide an RSS feed, including Kuensel, BBS, Bhutan Today, The Journalist, Bhutan Observer, The Bhutanese, Business Bhutan, and Bhutan Youth. The only exception is Bhutan Times' website ( - if that’s one of your favourites, you'll have to keep visiting their website.

Readers are encouraged to submit technology-related questions to

Quote of the Week

"The electrical crematorium is expected to be user-friendly".
-- Bhutan Broadcasting Service, Electrical incinerator to be set-up on trail basis

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Online course "Forecasting" opens Mar 30

Forecasting is an important tool for planning. How many tourists are expected next season? What is the expected electric power demand in Thimphu tomorrow? How many new students will enroll next year in different schools in Thimphu? How to forecast monthly demand for different medications at the hospitals and BHUs? And how certain are you of these estimates?

Textbook for online course "Forecasting"
Learn about popular forecasting methods and how to implement them in practice through a hands-on online course. I'll be instructing a 4-week Forecasting course on This is a practical course that introduces forecasting methods, performance evaluation, and much more. The course is of interest to researchers and practitioners in education, environmental sciences, agriculture, tourism and more.

Pre-requisite: a university-level unit/module in statistics.

The course is offered online and offers special low rates for Bhutanese (no need for credit card and you receive the course eBook for free). For further details and registration contact me at

Tuesday, March 20, 2012


These tiny seeds that you see in the photo are perilla seeds, a very rich source of omega-3 fatty acids. They are sold in the vegetable bazaar for about Nu 50 a packet. Just ask for shimtsi (Dzongkha) or silam (Nepali).

The plant's leaves and seeds are used extensively in Korean and Japanese cuisine. Locally these seeds are used for pickling.

DrukNet Servers Still Under Attack

The relentless online attack on Bhutanese websites has not subsided. A shared DrukNet server with the IP address of was recently under attack. I used a service called to check which websites are hosted on this server (see below). The service returned a list of 20 websites, including BOB, T-Bank, DPT, Druk Holdings and Investments (DHI), Bhutan Film FestivalRoyal Thimphu College, and Bhutan Media Foundation

Monday, March 19, 2012

The Wheel and the Stick

An anonymous artist drew this thought-provoking graffiti in a hidden corner of Thimphu's clock tower square. We've heard several interpretations of this drawing. What do you think is the meaning of this?

The Wheel and the Stick
Note: Apparently, the doma stains are not part of the original art.

Can People Get Rabies by Drinking Milk?

Got rabies?
Last week the Kuensel ran a story about about 150 people waiting to be vaccinated for rabies in Sarpang (Hundreds rush to hospital, 15/3/2012). People drank milk that came from an association where two rabid calves were found. Most of the people drank the milk after it was boiled, but some of them drank raw milk. And according to the story, the hospital is planning to vaccinate everyone who drank milk, whether boiled or not.

Software for Statistical Analysis

A recent tweet by Sonam Tshering mentioned a tender for a single IBM SPSS software license by MoLHR.
It seems that SPSS is the statistical software of choice in Bhutan not only at MoLHR. Sonam raised a good question: why not use the free open-source software R?

Sunday, March 18, 2012

RFK on Gross National Product

Exactly 44 years ago, on March 18, 1968, United States senator Robert F. Kennedy gave a speech at the University of Kansas, where he spoke about Gross National Product.

Reading this excerpt almost half a century later, it seems nothing has changed.
"Too much and for too long, we seemed to have surrendered personal excellence and community values in the mere accumulation of material things. Our Gross National Product, now, is over $800 billion dollars a year, but that Gross National Product - if we judge the United States of America by that - that Gross National Product counts air pollution and cigarette advertising, and ambulances to clear our highways of carnage. It counts special locks for our doors and the jails for the people who break them. It counts the destruction of the redwood and the loss of our natural wonder in chaotic sprawl. It counts napalm and counts nuclear warheads and armored cars for the police to fight the riots in our cities. It counts Whitman's rifle and Speck's knife, and the television programs which glorify violence in order to sell toys to our children. Yet the gross national product does not allow for the health of our children, the quality of their education or the joy of their play. It does not include the beauty of our poetry or the strength of our marriages, the intelligence of our public debate or the integrity of our public officials. It measures neither our wit nor our courage, neither our wisdom nor our learning, neither our compassion nor our devotion to our country, it measures everything in short, except that which makes life worthwhile."

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Visiting Bhutan without Flying Drukair

I'm not sure if this is a new trend, but I recently came across a few Bhutan tour itineraries that avoid Drukair altogether. In one 14-day itinerary, the group is flying from Delhi to Guwahati, then crosses into Bhutan at Samdrup Jongkhar, and from there via the East-West highway all the way to Phuentsoling, stopping at Trashigang, Mongar, Bhumthang, Trongsa, Punakha, Thimphu, and Paro. It's a pretty extensive tour which includes many grueling hours of BIS (butt-in-seat) kilometers. From Phuentsoling, the group continues to Bagdogra, and from there flies back to Delhi.

So what's the deal? A DEL-PBH roundtrip is around US$700. On the other hand, flying from DEL to GAU and then returning from IXB to DEL using low-cost domestic airlines costs less than $200. This saves around $500, which allows tourists to spend two more days in Bhutan. The downside other than the long drives? The flight to Paro offers a chance of spectacular views of the Himalayas, and for many people this is the most memorable flight of their lives.

The Himalayan range

Finally, 3G is Available Beyond Thimphu

Bhutan Telecom has turned on the 3G switch in P/Ling. This is an important event. Fast mobile broadband is an effective way of closing the rural broadband gap. With 3G, people will have access to faster Internet wherever they are. While P/Ling is still an urban centre, this serves as a good proof of concept. Hopefully, 3G will eventually reach all B-Mobile customers.

While the theoretical maximum 3G download speed is 3.6Mbps (almost 4 million bits per second), which makes it possible to download a 3-minute song in about 10 seconds, it remains to be seen what the actual speed will be. Many factors affect the speed, including network congestion. For the time being, the bottleneck is Bhutan's international links. Once these are upgraded, we can expect higher download and upload speeds to international websites (Google, Facebook, BBC, etc).

How to test your speed? Check one of the following websites:

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

T-Bank's Website Hacked

Websites in Bhutan are currently under a "hacking crunch". The current victim is T-Bank, one of the country's four commercial banks, whose homepage was hacked a few days ago. Visitors currently receive a "WEBSITE UNDER MAINTENANCE" message, and the page title is "Hacked by H4M4_rEmOeEr".

In addition, the following text appears in the page's source code:
Fuck Gov, right-click has been disabled
You can still access the site's other pages, for example the "Accounts & Deposits" page is still here.

If you're accessing your T-Bank account online, note that the Internet Banking Terms and Conditions contain the following clause:

The customer specifically agrees to hold T BANK harmless from any and all claims and agrees that T BANK shall not be liable for any loss, actual or perceived, caused directly or indirectly by government restriction, market regulation, war, strike, virus attack, equipment failure, communication line failure, system failure, data corruption, security failure on the internet, unauthorized access, hacking, theft or any problems technological or otherwise or other condition beyond T BANK’s control, that might prevent the customer from entering or T BANK from executing an instruction, order or direction. Customer further agrees that customer will not be compensated by T BANK for the orders, instructions or directions which could not be executed.
My recommendation: Until the level of information security in Bhutan improves, make sure that your bank account is not enabled for Internet transactions.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Upcoming "Build a Website" Workshop

Why pay someone Nu 25,000 for a website, when you can build a super website for free? If you can surf the Internet and use Facebook, you can also build websites.

Following the success of the first "Build a Website" workshop, we are pleased to offer another opportunity to learn how to easily build free, media-rich websites. No computer degree necessary.

NEW! We have added the following two new topics to our workshop:
  • Earning money using your free website
  • Search engine optimization (SEO)
In this 2-day, hands-on workshop you will create your own free website using Google Sites. Instructed by Mr. Boaz Shmueli of the Rigsum Institute, the workshop will take place in Thimphu on March 29-30, 2012.

The workshop is intended for:
  • Tiny, small and medium-sized businesses and organizations
  • Educational institutions
  • Entrepreneurs
  • Tour operators
  • Webmasters
  • Anyone wishing to expand his or her knowledge
For full details, including online registration, click here.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Using Shortcuts (K2 #32)

Question of the Week 

What are keyboard shortcuts? How do I use them?
-- K.C.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Free Web education: now more practical in Bhutan

The world of online learning has been quickly evolving. Four recent advances are now making online learning very attractive in Bhutan. First, more and more high-quality courses are now offered for free. This takes away the credit card barrier, which is still a challenge in Bhutan. Second, new online learning approaches and advances in technology now require less bandwidth to attend a course (no heavy or long videos). Third, many courses are asynchronous (you choose when to be online), so time difference is not an issue. Finally, new course structures have active learning components, such as self-assessment activities.

Important RMA Circular is Offline Only

Click for full ad
The rupee crunch is the current topic du jour in the Kingdom. It affects citizens, FDIs, and both resident and non-resident foreigners. When searching for "rupee crunch bhutan" on Google News, it seems that only the local media is covering this issue. The foreign media has not picked up the story (yet).

Thursday, March 8, 2012

High in the Sky

Yesterday's Kuensel ran a story about the reaction of Japanese tourists to the condition of public toilets in Bhutan (See Our toilets stink, say tourists). It seems that tourists have other complaints as well - see the following ad that appeared in today's paper.

(c) Kuensel Corporation


This is to request all Drukair passengers to kindly refrain from chewing “doma” (Betel leaf and Areca nut) inside the aircraft as well as to avoid carrying them inside the cabin.

Although chewing “doma” is part of our culture that we respect; we are also concerned that the smell can be a turn off for fellow passengers especially foreigners.

Drukair hopes that all our “doma” chewer passengers will take this positively. Inconvenience caused is regretted.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Bookless in Bhutan

Looking for IT books in Thimphu bookstores? Look no further. There are none. A few days ago we scouted the main bookshops in town in search of general books and textbooks on computer literacy, Internet, IT, programming, Microsoft Office, etc. Nothing fancy, nothing specific. We checked out DSB, Megha, Pekhang and a few others. To my shear amazement we found none (aside from a small local booklet on Javascript for class 11-12 students).

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Google Services, Facebook outage in Bhutan

Starting at around 8pm this evening, it seems that broadband and mobile users in Bhutan cannot access many Google services, including Search, Gmail, YouTube, Google Maps, Google Sites, Google Apps, and more. Blogger is also out, so many popular blogs - including this one - are currently not accessible. And, worst of all: Facebook seems to be inaccessible as well!
Good thing Bhutan's economy is not ICT-centric, or the financial consequences of such an outage would be substantial.

Update: At around 10pm, the problem seems to have been fixed. It would be nice to get an update from Bhutan Telecom regarding the causes of this major outage.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

BICMA's Website Penetrated

A hacker calling himself Terminal_Pk recently penetrated BICMA's website. This is not the first time official websites have been hacked in Bhutan (see here). The website of the Bhutan InfoComm and Media Authority is hosted on a shared DrukNet server, which also serves many other websites in Bhutan.

Meanwhile, troubling news from the other side of the world: Hackers penetrated NASA computers 13 times last year.

Hat tip to Aby Tharakan who first tweeted about the BICMA hacking.