Cutting edge in Bhutan

Yass-based information technology specialists, Think Technology Australia, is currently advising one of the oldest kingdoms in the world - Bhutan, in the eastern Himalayas - on the digital transformation of its two Parliament building houses.

Network Engineer, Tom Gibson, recently visited the Bhutanese capital of Thimphu to help prepare a detailed report on the potential of new digital infrastructure.

The report would enable the parliament to significantly reduce its use of paper in day-to-day operations, while also improving the quality of informed parliamentary debate.

“It’s a particularly ambitious project for a country [that] only transitioned to parliamentary democracy in 2008,” said Mr Gibson.

“Unlike other countries in the world including Australia, the Kingdom [of Bhutan] has decided not to use Gross Domestic Product (GDP) as the only gauge of its development,” Mr Gibson said.

“Instead, it has championed a new approach that measures progress through Gross National Happiness (GNH) and the spiritual, physical, social and environmental health of its population and natural environment,” he said.

“Bhutan has gained an almost mythical status as a real-life Shangri-La (a fictional land of peace) for its structured pursuit of national happiness.”

Bhutan is one of only a few countries in the world that has remained independent throughout its history.

It has never been conquered, occupied or governed by an outside power and only opened its borders to the western world less than 40 years ago.

Gibson said the tiny Buddhist state's unique lifestyle and beliefs presented the project with some unusual challenges.

“For example, we found some strong cultural reservations about the use of tablets or iPads, which people in Bhutan normally associate with playing computer games,” he said.

“There were concerns about how citizens would react [to] seeing their parliamentarians using gaming consoles in parliament, although their use would greatly reduce the large volume of paper currently used in the parliament’s operations,” he said.

“The country and the people I met as part of this project has been life changing for me. Bhutan has a truly ‘trust-based’ culture, which [was] refreshing to observe.”

Think Technology Australia became involved with the initiative through an Australian overseas aid program.

The Parliament of Bhutan is now considering the report and the business hopes it will accept all or parts of it.

Think Technology Australia Network Engineer, Tom Gibson, went to see how the company could help the Parliament of Bhutan improve by using technology.

Think Technology Australia Network Engineer, Tom Gibson, went to see how the company could help the Parliament of Bhutan improve by using technology.

Outside the Parliament of Bhutan, which currently relies more on paper than technology in its day-to-day activities.

Outside the Parliament of Bhutan, which currently relies more on paper than technology in its day-to-day activities.

Inside the Parliament of Bhutan; members worry using tablets or iPads could be considered by locals as playing computer games. Pictures: Supplied

Inside the Parliament of Bhutan; members worry using tablets or iPads could be considered by locals as playing computer games. Pictures: Supplied