Sherab Lhamo

The Department of Culture and Dzongkha Development (DCDD) under Ministry of Home Affairs in collaboration with Govtech organised  Hackathon centered on tokenising the 18th-century Zhabdrung Phuensum Tshogpa Thangka.

With a primary goal to engage young people by leveraging technology to promote and preserve Bhutan’s heritage of the country. Starting yesterday a two-day, non-fungible token (NFT) Hackathon is being held at the Department of Culture and Dzongkha Development (DCDD) conference hall, Thimphu.

Chief, Museum Division, DCDD, Tshering Uden Penjor, said the NFT hackathon was held to enhance proficiency in blockchain development and create digital assets.

The initiative aims to introduce the digital economy while safeguarding the cultural heritage of the country.

Tshering said they chose Zhabdrung thangka as “we needed something symbolic of Bhutan, among other familiar thangkas.” She added that Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel is synonymous and symbolic of Bhutan and its rich cultural heritage.

Chanel Lee, one of the trainer and the creator of Tasty Toastys, a limited edition generative NFT collection, said that participants would be taught the history of NFTs, the fundamentals, and case studies of how companies and organisations worldwide use NFTs. Additionally, they will learn to create their own NFTs, set up cryptocurrency wallets, and upload NFT artwork online.

Tshering said that 10 NFTs would be created by 13 participants selected through an open registration posted on Govtech’s facebook page.

The top three NFTs will be promoted and incorporated into the museum’s NFT collection. The department is exploring marketing opportunities in the digital space, currently they are in talks with DHI (metaverse), OpenSea, and Sandbox.

Chief ICT Officer of the Emerging Tech Division at GovTech Agency, Garab Dorji, said Govtech’s role is to promote technology and NFT. “We are trying to see how Bhutan can benefit from it.”

During the hackathon, a panel discussion was held DHI, Bhutan Post, Royal Monetary Authority (RMA) shared their experience on NFT.

Head of Philately Division of Bhutan Post, Nima Zangmo, said Bhutan post has a lot of postal stamps since 1954 based on cultural traditions. She shared that to develop interest in collection of stamps to new generations, Bhutan Post converted physical stamps into NFTs.

They collaborated with Stampsdaq an EU based NFT company, for blockchain management and minting. While Bhutan Post has minted six NFTs, they have not generated enough revenue due to a lack of awareness among Bhutanese collectors. However, they are planning to promote their existing NFTs.

A veteran marketing and PR strategist Florence Ang, one of the panellists said Bhutan Post needs to target their audience including NFT collectors, as this demographic is “narrower than wide.”

IT Officer of Department of Technology and Innovation under RMA, Jhuma Lhazay said they are exploring centre-banking currency. “We also have a new tech regulatory sample framework where we allow interested innovators to innovate in digital space.” The RMA has begun exploring digital currency in 2019, currently, they are planning to pilot digital currency.

The hackathon will end on Wednesday, where the three winners will be announced.