Cellular phones in Bhutan

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As of June this year, close to 690,000 had subscribed SIM cards, taking Bhutan closer to 100 percent cellular subscribers. Records with Bhutan InfoComm and Media Authority’s (BICMA) show mobile phone subscribers increased by almost 10,000 a year.

The first set of cell phones was introduced in Bhutan in 2003 with just about 2,255 users. Now, almost everyone in the country owns a cell phone.

BICMAs Chief Communication Officer, Wangay Dorji said initially they used 2G technology which allowed only two features; text messages and call. After launching 3G service in 2008 and also with the evolution of mobile handset, things have changed. We have moved from ordinary mobile phone to smart phone with more features. He said digital technology has enabled users to enjoy the benefits of internet.

Bhutan got internet in 1999 with dial-up service which had narrow band internet and low speed. People would wait hours to connect to the internet but now with change in technology things have changed. Also, with competitions we have moved from narrow band internet to broad band internet.Today, there are more than 500,000 internet subscribers.

Sonam Pem, Thimphu

First Atlas of Bhutan available

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His Majesty The King launched the first Atlas of Bhutan, published by the National Land Commission (NLC), on the sidelines of the rehabilitation land kidu programme in Dawathang village in Jomotshangkha on June 23.

National Land Commission secretary, Pema Chewang, said that it took over two years to prepare the atlas, which is the first of its kind.

A team of cartographers prepared the book under the guidance of two renowned atlas makers from the Netherlands.

The atlas covers two thematic areas of land cover and institutional facilities.

The secretary said that the atlas was published in celebration of the auspicious birth of His Royal Highness The Gyalsey.

“It is indeed most befitting that His Majesty who has ultimate refuge and authority over the land, launched the Atlas of Bhutan,” the secretary said. “The National Land Commission is deeply humbled and honoured with this rare opportunity.”

An official with the National Land Commission said that the 105 page atlas will be made available to schools at a very nominal cost, to cover printing expenses.

The secretary explained that the National Land Commission, as the national mapping agency, is mandated to spearhead geospatial data infrastructure development. The commission has been trying to promote a geographic information system for geo-enabling citizens and as a decision support system.

“The atlas will be useful for students, tourists and policy makers in better understanding Bhutan’s special geography,” the official said.

The commission is planning to come up with another two atlases. Work on a historical, religious and cultural atlas, in collaboration with the Department of Culture has started. The official added that the country is losing its cultural sites, therefore producing the book for conservation purposes and identification of the sites for uniformity.

The tourist atlas will have locations of hotels, trekking routes, and heritage sites, among others.

“We have started the data compilation and are working hard to produce the book within two years,” the official said.

The commission also plans to collaborate with the education ministry on producing a school atlas.

Dechen Tshomo