It is hoped that users will include information about towns and villages across Bhutan as well

Map: Thimphu thromde is currently coordinating several rounds of sensitisation and training on updating the OpenStreetMap (OSM) base map of Thimphu. OSM is a collaborative and participatory project to create freely accessible and editable maps of the world.

As part of the project funded by the World Bank, trainers from Kathmandu Living Labs have trained a group of students from Royal Thimphu College who are currently studying Geographic Information Sciences and Technology as part of their BSc programme in Environmental Management.

The students have been successful in mapping several areas of Thimphu by collecting data including building numbers, new buildings, shop names and timings, bus stops, and ATM machines.

The core city was divided into areas of manageable acreage and students were deployed in pairs to map the city.

Dividing the areas helps to distribute their efforts evenly across the main parts of the city to ensure adequate coverage. The students’ efforts were valuable in contributing to Thimphu thromde’s online city address System for the residents to use.

Community members in the city of Thimphu can also use the updated OSM for any spatial queries like finding a particular shop and on how to get there. The advantages of OSM come with availability of offline apps like “” compatible with both Android and Apple smartphones.

OSM can be directly accessed by visiting either on desktop computers or mobile devices. OSM map of a locality can be updated using simple user friendly mobile or desktop tools, which also have the capability to collect geographical feature like footpaths, boundaries allowing users to take notes and photographs at the location of interest. It is hoped that wider community participation will follow this pilot training.

This work will not only make useful data available to a multitude of users, but also contribute to increase awareness of infrastructures in Thimphu like shops, offices, public spaces and recreational places. “My hopes are when students return home, they will map their neighbourhoods and villages and directly upload these on the OSM website,” an associate professor, Leslie Back who led the team from RTC said.

GIS officer with Thimphu thromde, Sonam Tshewang, said: “The thromde is grateful to GIS faculty and students of RTC for their contributions towards mapping of Thimphu City on OSM, and is looking forward to work together.”

At the moment, creating awareness amongst the residents of Thimphu is important to the thromde so that residents can make good use of the City Address System.

All buildings are now numbered and roads have been officially named through the joint efforts of Thimphu thromde and Bhutan Post.

Sonam Tshewang said Thimphu thromde noted that besides making mail delivery more efficient, accurate mapping of buildings or houses and residents will also be critical in times of disaster and emergency.

Information on types of building and numbers of occupants will guide authorities to prioritise or channelise relief efforts like search and rescue, or food and medical supply, if any disaster like a major earthquake strikes. Law enforcement and fire protection services will also benefit from updated city maps.

Contributed by  Royal Thimphu College