The week for introspection 

It has been an incredible week for the country. Despite the shadows of Lhuntse’s tragedy looming over our heads, we witnessed the nation’s historic journey from a primitive age to the modern era. More importantly, we were presented a view of what lies ahead. The Kingdom’s past, present and future, unembellished and complete were unveiled to us by the United Nations commemoration of 50 years of Bhutan-UNDP partnership and the momentous Fab 23 event, whose curtains were drawn yesterday. It was a week to reminiscence, rejoice and reinvigorate.

UNDP and Bhutan’s partnership began in 1973, with the development of the country’s human resource, tourism and energy sectors. Within five decades, we have a pool of highly gifted and professional work force spanning over all three areas of Governance – the Executive, Legislative and the Judiciary. Some of the country’s best brains are leaders and holders of the private sector. There is also no dearth of expertise in the nation’s civil society organizations (CSOs) and other agencies.

Hydro-power is the backbone of Bhutan’s economy, while tourism, until the Covid 19 pandemic hit the world, was the Nation’s second highest generator of revenue after hydro-power.

These are indications of the wisdom and vision of our Past, the passion and potency with which our fathers unwaveringly and with dedication toiled to ensure that the seeds sowed were not left unattended. Today, we reap the benefits.

Within the platforms of the Jigme Namgyel Wangchuck Super Fab Lab, Bhutan hosted FAB23, an unprecedented event, the 19th edition of the international Fab Lab Conference and Symposium, the largest and most strategic digital fabrication event in the world. It brought together makers, inventors, academics, researchers, entrepreneurs, and creative people to enable them connect, collaborate, and co-create pathways to use technology as a platform to support humanity’s shared vision.

Prelude to the main event was the Fab Bhutan challenge, a structured innovation competition which brought together local and global innovation communities to propose meaningful interventions that enrich, scale, and invest in Bhutan’s resilient economy from the bottom up.

We saw students from the College of Science and Technology (CST) showcase an incredible innovation called “Aluminum Waste, Gracefully Braces,” a project with the potential to assist children with disabilities improve posture and walking abilities. We witnessed Druk Holding and Investments (DHI) unveil Bhutanverse, a metaverse-based virtual space; a massive virtual world on the internet, linking different spaces and activities, a platform bringing people together to network, discover, shop, play and work.

These were unconceivable a decade back. But in a short span of time, Bhutan has made this gigantic leap and arrived at the vanguard of modern nations.

The UNDP event and FAB 23 are opportune moments for us to gauge, assess and perceive our potentials, limits and the future. These are testaments that the size of a country is immaterial. It is the mass of our commitment, form of the country’s vision and frame of the people’s approach that matters. It is here that the words of His Majesty the King echoes; “The question is not if we can or not, it is whether we want to or not.”

Bhutan’s past was glorious. The present is grand. And the future is ours; it is in our hands!