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Technology Brings Tibet Within Reach
With the rapid development of information and telecommunications technology, the distance between Tibet, “the roof of the world,” and the rest of the planet is gradually being closed.

Strolling along the streets of the ancient plateau city of Lhasa, telephone booths and Internet cafes can be seen everywhere. Lamas in purple-red vestments greet their relatives and friends from afar via IC card telephones. Software controlled telephones in Potala Palace enable tourists to share their travel experiences with their family and friends at any time. The recognizable chime of cell phones can be frequently heard from Tibetan businessmen dressed in traditional garments.

Nearly one hundred IC card telephones have been installed on the streets of Lhasa adding a modern shade to this ancient plateau city. Surfing the Internet and sending online New Year’s greetings have become a fashionable past time for the people of Lhasa.

An international express cash delivery service is now available at the foot of Mt. Qomolangma. In addition, application software for electronic postal systems have been developed, and digitally controlled video and telephone exchange conference systems are now available. Electronic postal websites and automatic newspaper distribution systems have been set up. The green card network, a postal saving service, has connected 55 central cities around the nation and four cities within the Tibet Autonomous Region. A postal communication network centered in Lhasa and connecting various areas throughout the autonomous region has taken shape.

Gongzhong village was the first in Tibet to make telephone services available. Nowadays, even the people living on Medog, “the isolated island of the plateau,” and Ngari, “the roof top of the world,” have been able to realize their dreams of communicating by telephone.

In recent years, communication companies including China Telecom, China Mobile, China Unicom and Jitong have successively set up operations in the Tibet Autonomous Region. They provide various services such as fixed telephone, mobile telephone, wireless pager and 163 Internet services. By the end of last year, the total income of Tibet’s telecommunications industry had reached 590 million yuan (US$71.26 million). The number of local telephone network users in Tibet has reached over 150,000. Since Ngari saw the end of an era without optical cable, a communications network covering seven cities and 55 counties is now available within the Tibet Autonomous Region, totaling some 6,557.4 kilometers in length. It is hoped that Tibet will realize its target of making optical cable and telephone services available to every county and town.

Currently, the number of registered Internet users using a modem has reached over 4,000. There are now over one hundred simplified Chinese character websites in Tibet.

Significant changes have taken place in Tibet’s radio and TV industry too. A project to enable every village to have radio and TV contact has broadened the vision of numerous peasants and herdsmen who previously had no access to any form of information from the outside world. The coverage of radio and TV has reached respectively 77.7 percent and 76.1 percent. Ordinary people can hear the news of the nation and the rest of the world by listening to radio and watching TV.

The well-known ancient temples of Tibet, with thousands of years of history, represent the glorious culture of Tibetan people. Nowadays, these precious treasures are under the control of modern management. Over 20 TV sets and computers work in a busy and orderly fashion to monitor the rooms of the Potala Palace. Not only are the monitoring and warning systems under the control of computerized management systems, but the admission tickets systems have also been automated. Admission tickets for the Tashilhungpo and Baiju monasteries in Xigaze have been produced on exquisite computer discs. People can read detailed information on the background and history of various monasteries while appreciating pleasant Tibetan folk music. Now the people living on the snowy plateaus can attain a better understanding of the world thanks to the formation of a “digital Tibet”.

( by Wang Qian, October 19, 2002)

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