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.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Can hackers steal the next elections? Here's how to find out

With the upcoming elections in Bhutan, I was interested to find out how Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) work, and perhaps more importantly, how secure they are: Can hackers steal the elections? Can computer viruses alter the votes?

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Kolkata airport's split-flip display still showing Druk Air's old logo

Could someone please send them the "new" design?

A World-class Observatory in Bhutan

Here's an idea. High-altitude locations are ideal for setting up scientific observatories, as they have the best visibility for optical astronomy as well as other benefits. There is a growing trend of building observatories in ever-increasing altitudes. New observatories built in the 21st century are often located above 4500m, often in exotic, hard-to-reach locations.

Monday, August 27, 2012

An Electrical Timer

A simple electrical timer switch (see photo) is a useful gadget. You set a daily schedule with 15-minute resolution, and then plug in any electrical device, such as radiator or water geyser. The timer will turn the appliance on and off according to the daily schedule. Can save electricity, help the environment and reduce your monthly bill!

I've looked around Thimphu for this device but none of the hardware shops stock it. I ended up getting it abroad. Hopefully an enterprising shop owner will decide to import this timer to Bhutan!

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Fake twitterer? (K2 #44)

Question of the Week 
How can I tell whether a Twitter account is fake or not?
-- Anonymous

Infographics: the good, the bad, and the ugly

Infographics refers to graphic visual representations of information, and data. Local newspapers, magazines, blogs and other media in Bhutan have started joining the infographics wagon, and in particular using charts to convey a story based on data. Charts are a great way to capture the reader's attention, and if done properly, can convey an easily understandable story. As the going says "a picture is worth a thousand words".

Creating an effective chart, however, is not simple and requires understanding the basics of human perception as well as charting basics. A 'bad' chart is one that does not tell the story and is not understandable. An even worse chart ('the ugly') is one that conveys a wrong story. Here are some examples from the last week. Try to figure out the story that each of these charts are telling:

Friday, August 24, 2012

How does all this techie stuff work? Free online course

A new free online course is being offered next month by a Princeton professor using Coursera. The course name is a bit mysterious: Networks: Friends, Money, and Bytes. So what is it about? Here are the 20 questions that the course is intended to answer -- this list is actually the course syllabus:

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

How many Bhutanese tweeples are out there?

According to a rough sampling exercise that I conducted, there are currently around 3,000 to 4,000 Bhutanese Twitter accounts. Abi Narayan (Twitter handle: @abixalmon) opened one of the first (if not the first) Twitter account in Bhutan: Abi's account was created on March 18, 2007, more than five years ago.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

What to do with hazardous e-waste in #Bhutan?

With the growing number of computers, printers, and other electronic devices in the Kingdom, the amount of e-waste is also increasing. While alkaline batteries are safe to dispose in ordinary waste, there are many other e-waste items that are dangerous and require special disposal or recycling, because they contain hazardous materials that are harmful to people and/or the environment. Here are some items of this type:
"BATTERY MUST BE RECYCLED"A typical UPS battery available in Bhutan
We searched for a local government agency or company who collects e-waste, but unfortunately it looks like there is currently no solution. In some countries, computer and electronic shops accept e-waste from customers (sometimes for a small fee) and take care of their disposal. That is currently not the case in Bhutan. A 2011 report by the MOIC talks about a plan for e-waste management under the Chiphen Rigpel project. The report talks about plans for awareness and training, but not about collection, disposal or recycling.

Recycling of e-waste can be a profitable business (called demanufacturing): precious metals such as gold and silver  as well as copper, zinc, iron, nickel, lead and other valuable materials are extracted from the e-waste. Whether such a business can be profitable in Bhutan requires research. In any case, there should be some local solution, otherwise we will all be suffering the consequences of a toxic environment in the near future.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Work and earn online (K2 #43)

Question of the Week
A friend in India told me that anyone with Internet can earn money by working for Amazon. Is that true also in Bhutan?

-- M. B., Samste

Dear M.B,

Seven years ago, - the world’s largest online retailer - launched a website called Amazon Mechanical Turk. Also known as MTurk, the website ( is an online marketplace which connects companies and workers. At one side are the companies who need human intelligence to perform an online task which is impossible or very expensive for a computer to do. On the other side are individuals looking to make some money by performing these tasks.

For example, finding out whether a face in a photo belongs to a man or to a woman is difficult for computers to do. However, most people can perform the task easily and with great accuracy. Thus, a company that needs to tag thousands of photos by sex may upload them to MTurk, along with a task description, and offer a small payment (say, $0.05 or $0.10) for each photo. Other examples are audio transcriptions, writing short essays, summarizing content, finding the category of a product based on a photo, and more. Payments can range from a few cents up to around $20 per task, depending on its complexity.

The Mechanical Turk
If you are wondering about the name “Mechanical Turk”, here is where it comes from: The original Turk was an 18th century hoax! Its inventor claimed that his machine played professional chess automatically, while in fact there was a human being - a chess master - hidden inside. In the same way, while humans perform the tasks on MTurk, for the companies the tasks appear to be done automatically.

Anyone can open a worker account on MTurk, but currently only citizens of the USA and India can be paid in cash. All others are paid with Amazon gift certificates, which can be redeemed on Amazon to buy almost anything you can imagine. However, note that only books, CDs, DVDs and the Kindle ebook reader can be shipped to Bhutan.

MTurk is one of a growing number of similar websites. Other websites include, and The different websites and tasks require different skill levels and skill types. These websites create virtual workforces. This new global marketplace cuts through borders and middlemen and empowers individuals, equipped with just a computer and fast Internet, to find work and earn money independent of their location.

Readers are encouraged to submit technology-related questions to

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Can anyone work for Amazon?

Apparently, yes. The Internet has created an opportunity for anyone with a computer, Internet connection, and appropriate skills to participate in global Internet marketplaces. Want to find out more? Check out the "Ask Boaz" column in the upcoming issue of Kuensel's K2 weekend magazine.

Use FlipKart to compare prices! is India's leading online shopping retailer. They deliver a variety of goods - mainly books and electronics, but now expanding to other categories - to addresses in India. Delivery is often free. They also deliver to border towns like Jaigaon. Prices are usually below MRP. Various forms of payment are accepted, including debit and credit cards, as well as online payment using Indian bank accounts. In some locations they even accept cash-on-delivery (COD), and by cash they mean INR, not BTN.... By the way, Jaigaon is currently not one of the COD locations.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Hacking: Nuisance or Real Danger?

Blogger PaSsu wrote the following comment on our previous post, "RCSC, BoB, RGoB Portal among tens of hacked websites":
God, I love the hackers. This only shows how careless we are, including myself- though I am not the admin of my school website yet. I am seriously thinking about google sites as the secure future. Thanks for the information and cautioning the whole of Bhutan. I am very concerned about bob website being hacked. But with rest of the hacks, I think they are just having fun....
True. Most of these hacking jobs were not done by professionals and the hackers did not target any specific organization. These are mostly young people trying to get recognition by exploiting vulnerabilities in existing software packages, and they get attention by replacing existing content with scary messages.

However, the ease by which these hackers manage to tweak Bhutanese websites should serve as a red flag. It means that with a little effort, sophisticated hackers can cause substantial damage. In addition to the attack on BoB's website that PaSsu is concerned about, RCSC's Civil Service Information System, which was launched two years ago, was also hacked. One can only imagine the kind of havoc a hacker can create if they can gain access to the RCSC database and can then view, manipulate or delete information.

Everything's moving to cyberspace. It's time to take internet security seriously.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

RCSC, BoB, RGoB Portal among tens of hacked websites

I recently browsed the web looking for hacked Bhutanese websites. Unfortunately, I found this task to be a bit too easy. There are plenty of hacked websites out there. The websites I found are the ones where hackers made sure they will be "recognized" by vandalizing the website and leaving some sort of a message, often quite graphic in nature. Naturally, the more dangerous hackers are the ones who perform their activities WITHOUT leaving visible traces - but of course I am unable to detect these.
Some of the hacks with more potential to cause serious harm are Bank of Bhutan and the Civil Service Information System.

Here are some of the sites. Snapshots of the hacked websites are provided below.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

SMS and Internet surveys in Bhutan

Note: this post is aimed at clarifying the statistical aspects of polls and does not take a stance on the Pedestrian Day issue.

Pedestrian Tuesday has raised a debate regarding the public sentiment, with different sides showing contradicting poll results. Following these polls, the issue of the validity of Internet and SMS polls has been raised. Today's Kuensel editorial brought up the critical issue:
SMS-phone polls and online polls, although gather huge pools of respondents, rarely represent the larger population. 
Why is this true?

Using Mobile Apps for Crowdsourcing

© Kuensel Corporation
Congratulations to NSB Dzonkhag officers who will be using a new "price collection" app, developed by Athang Training Academy, to enter food prices around the country. The purpose of the price data is to measure quarterly inflation rate. The new system replaces the pen-and-paper system, thereby reducing errors and speeding up data transfer.  According to the Kuensel article,
"The application is loaded with the number of ‘sample’ shops in each of the 23 urban centres, and the items contained in the market basket used to index inflation."
Mobile apps are a powerful data collection mechanism. With the increasing number of smartphones and tablets in Bhutan, there are opportunities for taking the mobile data collection idea one step further to what is called crowdsourcing. The idea behind crowdsourcing is distributing a task to the general public. Each person then does some small part of the task and gets rewarded in some way. In the food price collection, for instance, crowdsourcing would mean that not only the NSB officers would be able to enter food prices around the country, but the application would be available for free to anyone with a smartphone.  This would allow collecting a lot more data, in many more locations, and at much faster rates. Of course, the quality of the data might be lower, but with sufficient entries, some data cleaning is possible.