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.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Can Lantern be useful in Bhutan's schools?

Launched in 2013, the Sherig Collection is a free, offline set of educational resources for all schools in Bhutan. The resources can be loaded on a 32 GB pen drive or an external hard drive. It does not require internet, and can be installed on any Windows machine. Content includes Wikipedia, Khan Academy, and many other resources tailored to the Bhutanese curriculum.

In the last couple of years, other initiatives for providing information to users with no internet access have been popping up around the world. An interesting one is Lantern, a crowd-sourced project. Lantern is a tiny web server with a built-in wireless hotspot. Any WiFi-enabled device (laptops, smartphones) can connect to Lantern and access its content. What's unique to Lantern is where the content is coming from. Lantern has a satellite receiver; and it constantly downloads content (at the slow rate of 2MB/day) using a broadcast signal from an Outernet satellite in space. It then saves the files on its internal storage, and users can then access the offline content using their devices.

The focus of MDIF, the organisation behind the project with a mission to help "build free, thriving societies", is a human-rights one:
"All data consumed on Lantern is anonymous... eradicates information poverty and censorship everywhere on Earth. Since Lantern is so small, it can be used discreetly. Can't buy Lantern in your part of the world? We show you how to build one."
Still, Lantern can be used for educational purposes as well, provided schools have WiFi devices. But what about the content? According to the website, Wikipedia and Khan Academy will be available for download. At the rate of 2MB/day, however, a few years will be needed to download these resources.

What do you think, can Lantern be useful in remote schools in Bhutan? Add your comment below.

The Lantern (the small stick on the ground) can be used discreetly

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