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Saturday, 25 March, 2000, 22:16 GMT
Bhutan gets its first internet cafe
Bhutan landscape
The remote country inaugurated its first internet service last June
The first internet cafe has opened in Thimphu, the capital of the remote Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan.

Umesh Pradhan, the proprietor of the Internet Cafe, said that while the cafe had internet access, e-mail, printing and scanning facilities, its main purpose was to address IT problems in Bhutan and create a place for informal learning.

Its focus was tapping the potential of Bhutanese youth, he said in remarks quoted by the website of the Bhutanese official newspaper Kuensel.

The King's silver jubilee galvanised the country into the digital age
"The cafe is a place where students can bring their own software and either entertain themselves or learn something," he said.

An IT enthusiast at the cafe was quoted as saying that while other countries were already adapting to the new technology, Bhutan was only just beginning to obtain it.

High costs

An internet cafe was a good way to get the general public interested in such things, he added.

The cafe was not viable as a business venture because costs were high and local people unable to afford its rates for internet access, Mr Pradhan said.

"It is expensive for us also because at the moment there is not a lot of business and most people just use the internet for a few minutes to send e-mail," he said.

In a separate report, the website said that cable television was "a booming business around the country" - less than a year after television was allowed in the kingdom.

Major towns had two operators each and installation and rental charges were falling.

The advent of cable was responsible for displacing satellite TV, with the number of "ugly" dish receivers in Thimphu falling to 250 from 800 last year, the web site reported.

First TV and internet services

The first-ever internet service was inaugurated in the remote Buddhist country only in June last year.

The launch of the internet and the first TV station was part of celebrations marking the silver jubilee of King Jigme Singye Wangchuk.

For years, Bhutan had a deliberate policy of isolation, fearing outside influences would undermine its absolute monarchy, freedom and culture.

Three similar Buddhist kingdoms - Tibet, Sikkim and Ladakh - have disappeared as independent states.

Bhutan, squeezed between India and China, has just 600,000 people, most of them subsistence farmers.

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27 Apr 99 | South Asia
Bhutan to enter TV age
01 Jul 98 | South Asia
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26 Jun 98 | South Asia
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Bhutan: a land frozen in time
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