08 June 2021

Digital Sovereignty of Bhutan

Once upon a time, when the internet was new in Bhutan, and we were trying to create our email account for the first time, we used to select either India or Bangladesh as our country because Bhutan was not on the dropdown list of countries. It was forgivable in the early days.

Over the years, that issue is solved. Finally, Bhutan was added to the list, and it was a moment of pride to choose Bhutan as our country whenever we joined any online platforms. How odd is it that some ignorant tech guys had deprived us of our sovereignty for a long time? Sometimes, I doubt their intentions. How could a big tech company not know that Bhutan is a sovereign country?



Twenty years on, everything has moved on but we still struggle with the same issue of some tech companies refusing to recognize Bhutan or treat us at par with other countries. It's no geographical ignorance anymore. 

For example, 

  • In Playstore you are often told, "This item not available in your country.", which means we can't get that app because we are in Bhutan. If we tweak our location a little bit or use VPN then we get the app. Why can't we get it when we are in Bhutan?
    Playstore notice
  • "You are not eligible for monetization. The YouTube Partner Program is not available in your current location Bhutan." This is really sad because none of our YouTubers can monetize their channel legally. They have to lie about their location to be eligible. It's easy to change the location but why? What have we done to be punished?
YouTube ineligibility notice
  • On Google Maps, some of us are making efforts to add names of important places and monuments in Dzongkha, but somehow they only show the names in English. If it's uniformly applied then there is no issue but on our north places appear in Chinese script and on our south in Hindi script, which raises the question, why not Dzongkha? Worse even, some of our places appear in Chinese text and we can't change them back. 
Chinese and Hindi over Dzongkha


These are a few examples I have encountered but there could be many. They may seem insignificant but if we look carefully, why would they do that if it's so insignificant? 
What can we do to fix it? For an individual, it may be a colossal task but I think it's the job of the Ministry of Information and Communication (MoIC) or a more relevant department under it.