A localised version of Microsoft Windows is in the offing for the people of Bhutan. Launching in 2003, This is expected to replace seven incompatible Dzongkha (the Bhutanese language) computer systems, ensuring that the Tibetan script fonts are displayed the same way for the first time.
But what has motivated Microsoft to offer Windows for Bhutan, a tiny Himalayan kingdom with variously estimated 800,000 or 2 million people, a parity (with the US) per capita purchasing power of $1,100 a year? In 2000, there were just 500 Internet users in this largely agrarian country, according to the CIA World Factbook 2001.
The answer is charity. According to the BBC, Windows for Bhutan was paid for largely by the Swiss Development Corporation. The Orient Foundation, a UK organisation which promotes Mahayana Buddhism, and the Dzongkha Development Commission worked alongside Microsoft on the project, begun in 2000.
A rummage through the BBC archives shows a country suffering a great deal of angst. In 1998, the BBC is talking of a land frozen in time". This year, it is reporting worries over growing unemployment for surging cannabis use, and soccer and basketball replacing archery, the national sport archery in the affections of the young. ®