ICT: Two more community centres will be inaugurated in Samtse today, bringing the total number established nationwide to 195.
The two centres will be inaugurated in the Sangnagchoeling and Tendu gewogs in Samtse by the information and communication minister DN Dhungyel and the CEO of the SAARC Development Fund (SDF).
While the centres in the two gewogs have already been operating, the Department of Information Technology and Telecom (DITT) is holding the inauguration to acknowledge the SAARC Development Fund’s contribution to the community centre project.
The SDF provided USD 2.53 million to establish 60 community centres in Bhutan as part of the Empower Rural Communities – Reaching the Unreached project.
The fund covered the construction, furnishing, and equipping of 60 centres. It also included connecting the centres to the internet, recruitment and training of 60 community centre operators, and training of the project team.
The major components of the project have been successfully completed, the remaining minor activities will be completed by December 2015. DITT economist, Chencho, said that the department is attempting to complete the construction of five more centres by the end of this year. They are also looking to connect all 200 to the internet by year end. However, Chencho said that this would be subject to factors, such as the natural environment, remaining stable.
On the last five community centres, to be located in the most remote gewogs in the northern part of the county, Chencho said the department is still awaiting energy sources to be established there first. The five gewogs are not yet connected to the electrical grid.
He pointed out that alternative energy sources are being explored and that once an energy source is identified, the community centres would be constructed as the department already has the budget.
Of the 195 community centres in operation today, 181 are connected to the internet providing access to online services like G2C (government to citizen). Almost 30 G2C services are available at the internet connected centres.
With operation of the community centres being handed over from Bhutan Post to the Bhutan Development Bank, the bank’s services using a Point of Sales machine is also now available. Other organisations making their services available through the centres include the Royal Insurance Corporation, the National Pension and Provident Fund, Bhutan Telecom, and the Business Opportunity and Information Centre. Basic IT training is also available.
“The 14 community centres without internet connectivity are currently providing offline services and this ministry is working towards providing connectivity to those gewogs as well,” a press release from information and communications ministry states. Offline services include photocopying, taking passport size photos, printing, and lamination, among others.
More services from Tashi Cell, Bhutan Post and paying electricity bills are to be included shortly.
“Inaccessibility due to rugged mountain terrain and scattered human settlements is a big challenge for the Bhutanese government to effectively provide public services to our people more so in the remote parts of the country,” the press release states. “The ultimate objective of the government is to ensure that all citizens of Bhutan have services accessible to them in a simple, seamless and easy manner,” it adds.
“With community centres in the gewogs, citizens will be able to avail most services from their respective gewogs. It is hoped that the time saved by citizens through this initiatives can be used for other productive work to further improve their lives.”
The Indian government also financially supported the project through the Chiphen Rigpel project. Other financial supporters include the Asian Development Bank and the Swiss Development Corporation.
Gyalsten K Dorji