18 out of 20 Districts have optical ground wire (OPGW) fiber and the other 2 districts and 201 out of 205 blocks of villages have all-dielectric self-supporting (ADSS)
With digital technologies and innovations accelerating changes across the world, Bhutan is not an exception. According to the Government Technology (GovTech) Agency, the rise of emerging technologies will bring about its own share of opportunities as well as challenges for Bhutan. However, an enabling environment is a major factor in all businesses.
An official from GovTech said that the Royal government of Bhutan (RGoB) has invested immensely over the years to create an enabling ecosystem for the growth of the ICT sector knowing the importance of ICT in the future.
Currently, Bhutan is extensively connected with 18 from the 20 districts connected with optical ground wire (OPGW) fibre and the other 2 districts and 201 of the 205 blocks in villages connected with all-dielectric self-supporting (ADSS). 160 government services have also been made available online.
Meanwhile, the internet penetration in the country is 97% and the mobile penetration equivalent to 100.5% of the total population as of January 2022. The official from GovTech also shared that the government has also undertaken various digital transformative initiatives so far and in the 12th Five Year Plan (FYP) and major investment has also been made in the Digital Drukyul flagship program.
“This flagship program provides a holistic approach to digital transformation from addressing the service delivery for efficiency, enhancing the infrastructure to building the capability of tech talents as well as increasing the digital literacy of citizens,” the official said.
The official said that even the landscape of the IT private sector has shifted from retail to the majority of companies now focusing on services. “The Covid-19 pandemic has also accelerated the adoption of ICT by citizens in general and further enhanced the tech ecosystem in the country,” said the official.
Meanwhile, the education sector as a key sector contributing to the tech ecosystem has introduced coding in schools through His Majesty’s Royal soelra. A dedicated college for IT has also been established, that has the potential to generate a sustainable pool of tech talent.
Further, GovTech has focussed on the industry academia linkage to ensure the relevant demand and supplies of talents are met, with the evolving ICT ecosystem in the country and to provide opportunities to develop a vibrant digital economy.
“The evolving ecosystem provides greater flexibility in enabling research and innovation,” the official said, adding that it is an opportune time for the country to take the leap to truly become a Digital Bhutan with a thriving digital economy.
Meanwhile, as a small nation with a small population, Bhutan’s growth depends on the ability to adapt and evolve with the changes affecting the world. To this, the GovTech official shared that Investments in Research and Development (R&D) are key inputs for economic growth.
“There is ample empirical evidence to support investment in R&D in view of its impact on productivity, exports, employment, and capital formation,” the official said, adding that many countries have therefore opted to earmark a certain portion of the national budget towards R&D.
Digital R&D is one of the most important areas of the ICT sector yet R&D culture has not picked up significantly. R&D has a huge opportunity for innovation and commercialization in the Science Technology and Innovation (STI) sector.
Meanwhile, an official from the Finance Ministry said that with the budget allocated in nine different flagship program, the highest flagship budget of about Nu 2.2 billion has been allocated to the Digital Drukyul Flagship Program.
The digital flagship program which consists of eight different projects aims toward digitized integrated citizen services, digital school by taking ICT to schools across the country, integrated business licensing and single custom trade system amongst others.
Sherab Dorji from Thimphu