Tshering Palden

Thousands poured out their disappointment on social media when the National Day Lucky Draw App (Bhutan) that was holding a mock lucky draw on December 5 crashed within minutes.

The app users were asked to scan a QR code on BBS television screen at 7pm and 8pm. Three lucky winners would get Nu 50,000, Nu 30,000 and Nu 20,000 cash prizes. There were registered 70,000 users at 7pm, many were downloading the app even during the scan time.

According to the team developing the app, which mainly consists of five IT engineers working during time off their real jobs, in the first second that the QR code was shown on the screen, there were 21,000 attempts to scan.

An additional problem was that Google blocked access thinking that it was an attack, and that took longer to sort even after the systems were recovered, the team leader said.

The official said that there were many components that need to work smoothly to make sure the exercise works. The team has already run artificial simulations which indicated that it could have supported such a traffic surge.

“But the reason why we do mock is to see if the real thing works as well, and nothing can replace the real trial run. We are lucky that in this case, we are able to hold such trials- perhaps only in Bhutan, we can do these types of exercises,” she said.

Even though 65,000-75,000 registered users seem like a small percentage compared to our overall population, it never happens that the entire population logs into one app at the same time, the official said.

“What happened yesterday was simply that our National infrastructure at the moment does not have the capacity to handle such a surge, and we need this kind of mock exercise to find out what we are capable of and make improvements,” the official said.

The official said that the good news was that the team knows what to do to make improvements, and is confident that these will be in place for the next mock- and they are working with speed so that the next mock can be held as soon as possible.

Last year the team used Druk Trace, which was not actually meant for such events. Last year’s mocks proved useful to make sure that the system worked well on National Day. However, Druk Trace app has its own purpose, which is why a different app was built for this year.

Last year, there was a provision for sending sms, and since many people opted to use sms, it helped decongest the system. This year, the app is dealing with a lot more traffic than Druk Trace app did last year. “So it’s more challenging.”

“We request people not to lose confidence because of how the mock went on December 5,” the official said. “While we know it was very disappointing for the people, it was actually very useful for the team because we were able to test the app with a large number of people right at the beginning, and this is exactly what we hoped for.”

She said that the objective for the mock was to discover any problems before the National Day, which was exactly what happened. “Such experiences mean we can correct them so that on National Day everything goes smoothly.”

If there are only have a few participants in the next mock, it will go smoothly, but the developers won’t know if something could have gone wrong. “So we request everyone including those abroad to participate and spread the word so the maximum number of people join.”

“The lucky draw is part of every National Day, and now because of the pandemic, it has moved beyond the venue to include every Bhutanese. It’s a way we can come together, show that we are all present on the day, celebrating together wherever we are,” the official said.

The team is working to correct all the problems we had and will hold the mock as soon as we are ready. It will be announced on BBS and on the National Day Facebook page.