[Date Prev][Date Next] [Thread Prev][Thread Next] [Date Index] [Thread Index]

Report from the "Dzongkha Linux launch"

From June 1st to June 5th, I have been invited to attend the Dzongkha
Linux launch event, in Thimphu, Bhutan.

For those not aware of this, Bhutan is a 700,000 inhabitants country
located between India and China, in the eastern part of the Himalaya
range. The size of the country is somewhat similar to that of

Bhutan's national language is Dzongkha, a language from the
Sino-Tibetan family. Recent laws in the country have enforced the use
of the national language in all official events and all official
communication. Therefore, even though all the (free for everybody)
education system is bilingual in English/Dzongkha, it is very
important for the country to be able to use the Dzongkha language on

After a quite deceptive attempt with Microsoft to include support for
Dzongkha in Microsoft operating systems ($523,000 have been thrown in
this attempt), the Ministry of Information and Communication launched
the DzongkhaLinux project 2.5 years ago.

During that time period, the Department of Information Technology
(DIT) has been able to build a complete system with complete support
for the Dzongkha language. The system is based on Linux and more
specifically on Debian. It consists of one CD which can be either
installed or used as a live CD (the installation system is using
Morphix, not D-I which was not ready at that moment).

The CD embarks a complete set of Dzongkha-localised applications,
namely the Gnome environment, the OpenOffice suite, the Mozilla web
browser, the Evolution mail reader and GAIM as instant messaging

On June 2nd (national holiday in Bhutan as anniversary of the
coronation of the King), the DIT was officially launching the
DzongkhaLinux system ("Our language....our software").

Because of the recently very productive collaboration with the
technical project head, Pema Geyleg, for inclusion of Dzongkha support
in Debian Installer, I was invited to attend the event and give there
a keynote lecture about "Free Software and the Global community".

The event was very widely advertised in Bhutan: it was covered in all
newspapers and got a strong importance in the national television.

Two ministers of the Bhutanese government were attending the event:
the minister of Information and Communication (Chief Guest) and the
minister of Education. Nearly all other ministries were represented by
Secretaries. The country's Prime Minister, originally scheduled to
attend, had to cancel because of other commitments abroad.

As the project is part of the PANLocalization project (http://www.panl10n.net), aimed at bringing localized computer use in
several Asian countries, and funded by IDRC (a Canadian governmental
organization), several representative of these organization, or other
governmental or non governmental organizations, were represented.

More specifically, Panl10n was represented by Dr. Sarmad Hussain, from
Pakistan, head of the Center for Research on Urdu Language
Processingin Lahore, Pakistan..

Also invited were the Nepali localization team, who launched a very
similar distribution for Nepali language, as well as Guntupalli
Karunakar, recognized expert in Indic languages handling in Free
Software, and one of the leaders of the Indlinux project

The event itself featured:
-Introduction by the head of DIT
-My own keynote lecture about FLOSS and the Global Community
-Dr. Sarmad Hussein, lecture about the PAN localization project
-A pre-recorded demo of the DzongkhaLinux dostribution
-A conclusion by the ministry of Information and Communication

I have been incredibly impressed by the very wide coverage of this
event (the next days, barely anyone I was meeting could talk about it)
and the strong commitment showed by local officials to support the

My own keynote lecture focused on the main key aspects of Free
Software, especially in developing countries (Openess, independence,
ability to preserve the local culture and knowledge, ability to
develop a local software and services industry). I, of course, also
introduced the Debian Project, targeting the point on the commitment
of the project to Free Software and enlightning its ability to be
"derived" for specifics needs.

Post-event discussions (including private discussions with the
involved officials and ministers) have shown me that this concern has
been very well received. The ability of Free Software to allow
customization and appropriation of the technology by local people is
very wel understood.

We can safely assume that, in a near future, teachers in all Bhutan
schools who, up to now, needed to prepare their courses hold in
Dzongkha by hand, because of the lack of tools able to process the
language on computers will be able to use DzongkhaLinux for their

Similarly all monks in Bhutan monastery will soon be able to work with
their sacred texts with computers instead of cofying them by hand (the
buddhist religion plays a great role in Bhutan's day to day life).

In general, all needs for the Dzongkha language processing will be
able to be fulfilled, which should improve the coverage in Dzongkha in
many areas in the country.

In short, DzongkhaLinux is promised to a very wide success and can
also be considered as a big success for Debian. When the most
important guest at the event mentions in his lecture that "we had a
collective dream of having our own computer software for our own
needs", I feel like the dream that the Free Software Community is
having since more than 20 years has become a reality in that small
part of the world.

I hereby want to deeply thank the Department of Information and
Technology, the ministry of Information and Communication, as well as
all individuals who have made this trip to Bhutan a complete success
and a personal deep achievement. Aside from this, it has allowed me to
discover a unique culture and a wonderful country, with a strong
commitment to preserve that local culture and the natural environment.

The legendary friendliness and openess of the Bhutanese people is
definiteily not usurpated.

I am deeply confident that the future collaboration between Debian and
similar projects all around the world will became very common and will
justify all the energy that all individuals involved in Debian in Free
Software invest daily in this dream.


Official announcement of Dzongkha Linux:

Bhutan's Department of Information Technology:

The Dzongkha Linux project home (needs update): 

PAN Localization: 

IDRC, International Development Research Center: 


Attachment: signature.asc
Description: Digital signature

Reply to: