WSIS declares Bhutan as one of the winners

Bhutan has been declared as one of the winners for providing a data discount scheme for students during the covid-19 pandemic

In line with the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) action line “ICT (Information and Communication Technology) applications: benefits in all aspects of life”, WSIS has declared Bhutan as one of the winners.

The WISS Prize 2022 Champion recognized Bhutan’s effort in promoting WSIS values and Sustainable Development Goals by contributing to the promotion of education, reduction of poverty, greater inclusivity, as well as to the safety of pupils and students during the Covid-19 pandemic.

According to the Ministry of Information and Communications (MoIC), a data discount scheme for students was provided during the most difficult months of the Covid-19 pandemic when all the educational facilities were closed in the country.

“With the closure of the schools, universities, libraries, and laboratories, students and pupils were required to continue their academic sessions online. In response to this, the Ministry in collaboration with telecom operators introduced discounted data schemes to enable all the students and pupils to access online learning. This initiative contributed to greater inclusivity, reduced poverty, as well as increased confidence in the use of ICTs,” states the press release.

During the covid-19 pandemic in 2020, many sectors in the country were affected. One of the most affected was the education sector, where schools were closed and students had to learn from various online platforms.

To this, the telecommunication service providers, Bhutan Telecom (BT) and TashiCell made additional data plans for educational purposes.

The two telecommunication providers reduced the data charges for students as most of them have to learn from Google classrooms.

For instance, this is similar to the Druk Holding and Investments (DHI) providing free electricity and free data to all private quarantine centers during the time of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020.

Meanwhile, the recognition for Bhutan is the outcome of the WSIS forum 2021, wherein the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) held a series of workshops and interviews to highlight the efforts put in by countries to combat the adverse impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic.

During the event, the MoIC submitted several ICT initiatives undertaken by the country to combat the adverse impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and initiatives to facilitate continued education in the country.

In the WISS forum 2022, the ITU and the WISS Secretariat reviewed various projects implemented with a focus on the 11 WISS action lines, which, out of 966 projects received by the WISS, 360 were nominated for online voting, following a comprehensive review by the expert group (ITU Focal Points for WISS Action Lines).

More than 1.3mn votes were cast in total against each project submission in which the data discount scheme for students during the Covid-19 pandemic was among the top five most voted in the category.

Meanwhile, the WSIS forum represents the world’s largest annual gathering of ICT for the development community.

The forum was co-organized by ITU, United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), and United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), in collaboration with all WISS Action Line Facilitators.

The goal of WISS is to achieve a common vision, desire, and commitment to building a people-centered, inclusive, and development-oriented information society where everyone can create, access, utilize and share information, according to the press release.

The other four countries that were awarded a champion project for the same category include Hungary, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom, and the United States of America.

Sherab Dorji from Thimphu