A new era of cooperation

Last Friday, the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi made two important announcements which had people talking over the weekend. The main event on the day was the launch of the RuPay phase II but the highlight of the day where the two prime ministers and senior government officials met virtually was the announcement of two major developments in the field of science and technology.

Prime Minister Modi announced that India is preparing to launch a Bhutanese satellite into space and provide the much-awaited third international internet gateway for Bhutan. A Bhutanese satellite, according to the Indian prime minister, would be in space by next year.

It is a huge step in the field of space science and technology, a dream that is very close to His Majesty The King.

Except for a handful of people, including the Bhutanese space engineers, not many are aware of what is happening in the space science technology. His Majesty The King, recognising the importance has been providing the wisdom and the vision.

The Indian prime minister’s commitment to assist Bhutan in the field of space science speaks volumes about the friendship between the two countries. It is not just about economic cooperation or political niceties but about keeping up with change and changing priorities.

Development in space science is the most relevant. It provides us with crucial data and information in guiding our plans and policies. The benefits of having our own satellite are immense. We could start with satellite images and data that could guide our decisions whether it is in agriculture or hydropower, information technology or observing the impact of climate change on our glaciers and glacial lakes.

The other important development is in the assisting Bhutan for a full back-up (redundancy) for internet connectivity. A third gateway, as it is called, could ensure uninterrupted internet connectivity as we are now convinced, after the Covid-19 pandemic, that we have become digitalised to the extent that we become disconnected from essential services in education, health, banking and most amenities that had moved online.

A back-up connection could guarantee redundancy. Without that, we have seen how vulnerable we are. Every time there is a disturbance, many functions of the government and society, which has now moved to online, is disrupted to the extent that some services are brought to a standstill.

We always placed our hopes on an ICT advanced nation like India. More than that, we remained optimistic that our friend and close neighbour would look into our interest in leveraging technology and making connectivity a priority. An alternate internet gateway, internet backbone, was recognised a long time ago.

Prime Minister Modi’s updates on the progress made in the establishment of a third gateway would help fulfil projects like the Digital Drukyul, a national priority to stay in tune and not get left out in a fast-changing digital world.

What struck the people of Bhutan, after waiting for almost a decade, was that the prime minister chose to announce the development towards establishment of the international internet gateway for Bhutan himself.

What surprised many was the timing. Prime minister Modi took time to inform us about the developments when the Covid-19 pandemic is drawing all the attention of the world leaders.

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