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Why Bhutan went on Street View

Editor’s note: This guest post comes from Dasho Kinley Dorji, Honorable Secretary, Ministry of Information and Communication, Kingdom of Bhutan. We are grateful to the Honorable Secretary for welcoming Street View to Bhutan and for sharing his experience with readers of our blog.

Anyone with an Internet connection can now visit our “hermit kingdom” of Bhutan, go on a virtual tour over its formidable mountain passes and through its lush valleys.
A view of Trongsa Dzong from Street View
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Wangdue Phodrang

On Thursday, we launched Bhutan’s Street View project in the capital city Thimphu, a twenty-month initiative during which a Google Street View vehicle drove more than 3,000 kilometers over winding mountain roads to film terrain that had remained hidden for centuries. 

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Ura Highway winding through Bumthang 
Street View provides dramatic views of our kingdom’s centuries-old heritage sites that include the monastic fortresses which house monks and government leaders, monasteries where Bhutanese and foreigners travel for days on pilgrimage, institutions where Buddhist novitiates study and seasoned monks meditate, and pristine villages where sustenance farmers live in close harmony with nature. 

For the government of Bhutan, going on Street View is yet another step in reaching out to the world, albeit with its characteristic caution. With tourism being a priority for the country's socio-economic development, government officials reasoned that Street View images would be an introduction for visitors who were truly interested in going to one of the world's best known hotspots.

Today’s tourist wants a good look at the place where he or she may be spending an annual holiday or using much-valued savings on a family trip. Street View will help many of them make that decision, choose a hotel, and plan their trip.

For my colleagues in the government, the Street View project is also a strategy to look at their own country from a new perspective. They believe it will help them plan heritage maintenance projects, look at the condition of their roads and satellite towns, and take stock of conditions across the country. 

It is also a step forward in Bhutan’s digital journey. The Government has declared a vision of building an ICT-enabled knowledge society, an “intelligent society that learns to learn”. Our Ministry, the Ministry of Information and Communications, which cleared the Street View project, is currently carrying out a mandate to take the country from Governance to e-Governance. We are also aiming at a “paperless” or “less paper” government. This is also an important step in that direction.

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