26 April 2013

Election and Social Media in Bhutan

On 23 April 2013, when Bhutan voted for National Council election for the second time in the history of the newly democratic country, another history was made on an equally new platform. For the first so much information was generated by Bhutanese on Social Media, that when I return from short toilet breaks I could see over hundred updates on Twitter and Facebook- and yes everything related to election.
I wish I have the resources to count and analyze how much data was generated exactly but Bhutan telecom must have enjoyed maximum business. Twitter accounts of Kuensel and BBS were on fire that day- another record breaker! When BBS TV viewer were jumping in excitement with the result of fourth Dzongkhag we on Twitter were done with all 20 Dzongkhags results via two government media tweets.
However, National Council Election for some reason is taken lightly by people, at least on social media, and also among the 67 candidates who took part only about 10 of them were active on Facebook and just 3 on Twitter.
Come National Assembly Election and we will see the real revolution of social media. There are several groups on Facebook that are seriously discussing Bhutanese democracy and not to mention the so many anonymous intellects and analysts on Tweeter who have million questions to ask. Bhutanomics has made itself available to Bhutanese via Facebook (though its actual website is blocked) and Bhutantimes.com has made a comeback.
Feeling the need of the time all five political parties have established themselves on the major platforms of social media and are actively interacting with Bhutanese netizens. And interestingly many cabinet ministers have joined Facebook recently, and most of the new members of political parties have begun their introduction from Facebook. Some former members are already seeded player on Social media with amazing fan followers.
If you happen to see a party's page or a member's profile on your Facebook sidebar, that's because they have advertised with Facebook, which is another new thing in Bhutan.

Following table shows the presence of Political parties on Social media: (Click on the pictures to Follow them on Twitter or Like their Facebook Fan Page)

Now Imagine the amount of data Bhutan will generate, and imagine the dimension of debates and their influences on the minds of voters- even those of who are offline!

20 April 2013

Fish on bBay

I am pleased to see my bBay appearing in Kuensel's List of "Site You Could Use". But more than that, Gyalsten K Dorji must be applauded for bringing bright new change to boring Kuensel pages, in fact Kuensel could build on this idea and make a list of their own like the famous Forbes List.
I created bBay two years ago and it enjoyed publicity from Business Bhutan and Thimphutech.com besides my own blog. Today it's one of the most active groups on Facebook where the following happens (from Kuensel)
"If you are looking to buy or sell something, the most active place to do this today is on Facebook. Named after ebay, the popular online auction and shopping website, a page named B-Bay currently has almost 14,000 members using the page to find buyers for their second hand items, or to find something they want. A wide range of items, like apartments, land, vehicles, electronics, jewellery, shops, and even doma can be found being marketed on the Facebook page. The page also provides for some entertaining exchanges between buyers and sellers. Since the page is hosted on Facebook, posts are free."

Page 13- Kuensel

I must thank my dear friend, idea box and brilliant businessman, Tshering Tenzin who helped grow bBay to the size it has today. Right from the beginning we made it clear to ourselves that bBay will help people from being bullied by brokers, which is why we have banned over hundred brokers till date. We, including my wife and brother, monitor bBay everyday to keep the wall free from spams, jokes, harassment, and brokers. We only earn a few Nu. from the Ads we post on cover and in pinned section, which is at times questioned.

What is the Fish on bBay?
However, recently I visited a big office where I met two smart guys who were upset with me. They confessed to me that they were among the brokers whom I have banned, but what they shared after that upset me. After they were banned they have fooled us by joining with new account and remained ideal to escape out censorship. But what they enjoyed was full access to what our members post and they were the active buyers. They buy from our members and sell offline. To shock me even more they say they have done two to five deals each week. Sometime they see their sold cars coming back on bBay, which happens because there are many more hidden brokers on bBay. They promised to give me a list of all the brokers they know on bBay so that I can make it a clean place I had hoped for. So my dear member on bBay, I must admit to you all that there are some fishes in the group, which is important for you to know, but as long as you are getting what you want for the price you agree they should be a problem.

19 April 2013

The Sherig Collection in Bajothang

I wanted to write about the Sherig Collection right after I get back but now I see it has already come out in Kuensel and I am hopeful you all read about it. The 23 GB collection is the answer to all the Bhutanese school's question about internet connectivity and speed. It has my personal favorite Khan Academy and Wikipedia and your computer could become a mini internet server.
Read the detail report from Kuensel by Gyalsten K Dorji- he interviewed me too.
I started eLearning club in my school this year and we had big dreams but small confidence until we got our hands on Sherig Collection. Now my club is on a mission to promote the resources in and outside the school. We are designing Wiki booths in different location to make the resource accessible by every student. Our club is also going to build national question bank besides creating YouTube channel on Bhutanese syllabus- wish us luck.
Thanks a million to Rigsum and its research team for working beyond business and contributing significantly to Bhutanese Education System. I wish you the best in the second phase of Sherig Collection. Please invite me again. 

14 April 2013

Afternoon with Farmer Sangay

Another big thing this weekend is finally meeting Farmer Sangay in person. We have been friends on social media for a long time. The man and his initiatives need no introduction and I am among the many people who couldn't dare to be different like him but I have all the respect and appreciation for the difference he is making. He calls himself a Farmer, but I see him as a social scientist. For the record, he is the founder of Happy Green Cooperative- "the cooperative model of green ideas and solutions to pursue social innovations."
Showing off our daughters!!
Sangay brought along another amazing young man to make my Sunday more meaningful- the founder of Bhutan Kidney Foundation, Tashi Namgay. Sharing table with two of them and measuring their achievements against their age I saw a beautiful preview of future Bhutan. I on my part hoped and prayed that some day some of my students will turnout to be different like them.
Between the Founders
Among the many innovative plans Sangay has, one of my favorites is his Cafe, which is also going to be the Innovation Lab for his Cooperative, where you and I can walk in with our ideas and give them shape and color over coffee. And you know him- He will make it happen!
Our Families 
We both brought along our families but it was a mistake, we should have left our wives alone with their Sunday because two of us had thousand things to talk about, much of which weren't of interest to our ladies. But it was additional pleasure to meet his actor wife, who stands strong behind him in his passion.

To interact with the two guys, Like their pages on Facebook:

Meeting ThimphuTech.com Authors

This morning I traveled early to Thimphu to attend a presentation by the two authors of Thimphutech.com, the most reliable blog on technology and tech-services in Bhutan. I will write about the program in the next post ( you can already read about it on their blog-Click Here).
This post is just to express my joy of meeting two great people Boaz Shmueli and Galit Shmueli, today and spending enlightening time with them. It has always been my dream to meet the two of them but on two occasions earlier I failed. I decided I won't let go this chance and even the luck gave with me- I received personal invitation to attend the presentation from Boaz, and my principal yesed it right away.

Boaz, I, and Galit

13 April 2013

News that Broke my Soul

The news of 13 year old girl being raped and murdered in Sarpang killed a part of me this morning. This was something we used to hear from distant lands as shocking news. Who would have thought our country will have to see this day. We have strong laws, so many people are in jail for rape, and still what is missing?
I am still angry over the news of girl being raped by her father and brother, which didn't even make so much news among us and by tomorrow even today's news will be forgotten. We don't care much- we don't care as long as it didn't happen to someone our own.
I am a father of a daughter who want a safe place for my daughter to grow up, go to school, play with friends, dream big and live without fear- perhaps every parent would want it- perhaps we should stop treating this news as just news...

Don't even know what to think and do...

11 April 2013

No Street Children in Bhutan- Wish the same to the rest of the world!

A lady from Belgium,Manu Louage wrote to me, asking me to help her get a picture of street children in Bhutan. 

"My challenge is to find somebody living in Bhutan to take a picture for me and for all the street children in the world. With the Belgian organisation 'Mobile School' we want to claim April 12th as International Day for Street Children through the United Nations."
I love photography and I am concerned about children living on the street, but not matter how much I recollect I could not remember seeing or hearing about any street child in Bhutan. Or is it just my ignorance? seriously, if I saw any child on street in Bhutan I would have taken them home myself. 
Mobile School has launched "NoStreetKidding" Move on Facebook for which they wanted me to get a shot of street children in the pose they have illustrated and post it on their Facebook Page. There are getting it from all 193 countries of the United Nations to "claim April 12th as International Day for Street Children!"
I proudly wrote back saying I would love to do that for the great cause but Bhutan has no street children, though there are over 150 million children living on streets across the world.
She replied shortly, asking me to take a picture of any Bhutanese child in the said posture and support the move. I consulted Kezang and we agreed to use our homegrown model to pose for us- our daughter!
When I posted the picture on their Facebook Page, they welcomed Bhutan as the 103rd Country to join the move. 
One Two, 12th April 2103- My Model
On April 12th they will draw the #nostreetkidding sign together with the flags of each and every country on one of the biggest squares in Belgium!
Check out the Map of their progress

10 April 2013

Wild Dogs and the Gup in Haa

March 30, Kuensel reported a story of a 68 year old man attacked by dogs in Haa, which is a matter of serious concern for the country because the story of shutting down of dog compounds is not isolated to Haa alone. 
One time there was lot of excitement about building dog compounds, and sheltering and feeding every stray dog. Where is that high spirit gone? Perhaps the budget has run out now?  I don't know which organization was behind this but I am already assuming they were after the project money. If there really was genuine concern for dogs or for the society where dogs were a threat then they would have sustained the project throughout. 
Man's Best Friend No More
Packs of dogs are seen in the forest between Thimphu and Dochula, where did they come from? They don't seem normal anymore, they have perhaps regained their wild instincts. If dogs in Haa could hunt cattle and attack humans then dogs roaming the forest anywhere could. 

But what's interesting about the case in Haa is that the Gup is more worried about the meat than Ap Desang's life or the wild dogs.
 “... we’re not sure whether the dogs killed one of the cows, and also doubt that Desang might have gone for the meat and not to save his cow.” (Quote of the Year)

03 April 2013

Window on the Third Floor- Bajothang Town Woes

I blogged about the unsafe attics in Bajothang after a tenant fell from railing-less veranda on 26th Feb 2013. The article was published as opinion in The Bhutanese newspaper in the following week. After over a month Kuensel has run an independent story on it, from where I came to know that authorities have taken action.
The authorities have notified the house owners to ensure safety by blocking access through windows by putting railings. This was expected to be done by the end of March but no house owner has abided by the notification.
Image from Kuensel
Most buildings had left provision for verandas on the third floor, in case the rule changes in future they could make the tenants living in attics comfortable by offering space to dry their laundry. But following the accident they were asked to do just the opposite- put railing on the windows. This means a huge financial blow to the house owners without any benefits. If they were asked to secure their verandas, the financial implication could be tolerated because it expands the scope of better life on third floor.    
When people look at Bajothang town they see huge building and rich landlords, but when I look at Bajothang I see huge debts standing on the shoulders of worried landlords. They will be paying huge installments for the next 20 years failing which all their dreams will be seized by the banks. The rent they collect goes straight to the banks and any addition financial pressure could make them sleepless.
The landlords are not opposing the notification issued by the authorities, they perhaps don't have anymore capacity to invest on the building. I was expecting the authority to finally approve verandas on attic, that will boost the rental business of the otherwise prison-like apartments but what actually happened seemed like a punishment. What is a Rule without logic and without consideration for people it serves? The logic is to ensure safety- whether railing is on the window or on the veranda. A bunch of nail is enough to close windows and shut access to outside of attic if at all it's so illegal to create attic verandah. But with verandas on attics life will way comfortable for people living there.
There are more important things to worry about than shutting windows- When will the sewage tanks stop overflowing on the road? When will the farm road in Bajo town get its blacktop done?