Third Internet Gateway to benefit the creative sectors

Third Internet Gateway to benefit the creative sectors

The announcement from the Indian Embassy in Bhutan about support from the Government of India for the establishment of the third international internet gateway for Bhutan has been welcomed by several people, including stakeholders of the creative industry. Apart from reducing the costs and bridging the digital divide, the gateway will also facilitate in empowering the creative industry and go a long way in addressing piracy and copyright issues, apart from others. 

The chief executive officer (CEO) of IBEST institute, Tharchen said, that if the cost of internet connection decreases, it will not just be beneficial for the creative industry, but for everyone who has internet access. “There is so much knowledge available, and another thing is that people can really benefit from upskilling and reskilling,” Tharchen said.

“It will strengthen the entire creative industry, it will leverage, it will empower, and more learning may occur,” the CEO said, adding that people will take advantage of possible services as a result.

Creative Director of Bhutan’s first OTT platform, Kinley Tshering said that the third internet gateway will definitely help in boosting Bhutan’s internet infrastructure and support digital transformation. He added that the high cost of the internet has been a major challenge for OTT and the streaming platforms in the country and that if internet prices do come down, they stand to benefit as well.

Further, Kinley also said that since piracy is also directly linked to high cost of the internet, “they hope that it will also help address piracy and copyright violations.”

Additionally, the cost of leased Internet lines may eventually decline in the nation as a result of the Third Internet Gateway’s potential to lower the wholesale rates that the two telecom carriers charge to small ISPs. Currently, the international Internet Gateway for Bhutan connects through India’s Siliguri Corridor via Phuentsholing and Gelephu.

Although the third internet gateway’s actual cost was not specified in the press release, Lyonpo Tandi Dorji, the foreign minister, had earlier stated that the government is confident that the cost would be less than USD 5 per Mbps. Therefore, one Mbps will cost between Nu 246 and Nu 410.

Meanwhile, in a press release dated January 31, 2023, the Indian Embassy in Bhutan has said that as part of the expanding India-Bhutan digital partnership, “the Government of India is pleased to support the Royal Government of Bhutan for the establishment of the third international internet gateway for Bhutan. In this regard, the Government of India will be facilitating a concessional rate to bring down the cost of operations of the gateway.” “The gateway is expected to enhance redundancy, connect remote pockets of Bhutan, increase internet bandwidth, and reduce the cost of internet connectivity for users,” the press release states.

Apart from this, the Indian Embassy has also mentioned that India is collaborating with the Royal Government of Bhutan on a number of technology initiatives. “Under Bhutan’s Flagship Program ‘Digital Drukyul’, an optical fibre backbone has been provided till the gewog (village) level across all 20 districts of Bhutan. Additionally, a peering arrangement has been established between India’s National Knowledge Network (NKN) and Bhutan’s Druk Research and Education Network (DrukREN), for the benefit of users in Bhutan in the fields of telemedicine services, research and education,” the press release states.

Additionally, the press release mentions that the Government of India is contributing Nu 1.98 billion (Rs. 198 crore) during the 12th Five-Year Plan (2018-2023) to support Bhutan’s digital transformation through several people-centric projects in education, e-governance, trade, service delivery. “The Government of India is committed to further strengthening its close ties of friendship and cooperation with Bhutan across all sectors, including in the technology domain, in keeping with the priorities of the people and the Royal Government of Bhutan.”

On January 31, 2023, the Indian Embassy organized a technology roundtable with leading innovators and technology experts in Bhutan for discussing ways to expand India-Bhutan cooperation in the sector of digital technology. During the meet, the Indian Ambassador to Bhutan announced that the Government of India will be facilitating a special concessional rate as per the request of the Royal Government regarding the Third International Internet Gateway for Bhutan.

Participants at the roundtable included representatives from the Royal Society for STEM, De-suung Skilling Programme, the Royal Government of Bhutan, GovTech Agency, Thimphu TechPark Ltd., Druk Gyalpo’s Institute, a number of civil society organizations, and various private sector tech companies in Bhutan. Participants shared useful suggestions to deepen India-Bhutan collaboration in areas such as development of ICT infrastructure and skilling, enhanced engagement at the industry level, STEM education opportunities, and cross-border digital connectivity and digital payments.

Tshering Pelden from Thimphu