Catching and keeping up

The IT park has achieved its contractual obligation of employing more than 700 Bhutanese by 2016. The majority are engaged in photo editing for an FDI company while a small number are software developers working for various companies, both FDI and local.

This is a small start towards creating a society that is not only IT literate but able to be a producer of IT products and services rather than simply being a consumer.

Photo editing requires some training and guidance, and the individual’s artistic inclinations also play a big part of the activity. While it does not involve coding or programming and creating software or web applications, it still does require skills and talent, and knowledge of how a computer operates.

This is how we begin.

In the long run, we must aim towards creating more Bhutanese who are competent in coding and programming so that we can produce our own software and perhaps even export software.

Granted, we will have two large competitors in India and China, but this does not mean we cannot compete on an equal footing. Borders are disappearing when it comes to business. The world is flattening.

Instead of being intimidated by competition and the large head starts other countries have on us, we must see the potential markets these countries could become if we have a skilled IT industry in Bhutan.

Some may scoff at Bhutan becoming an IT hub but it could become possible with changes to the education system. While the recently concluded Chiphen Rigpel project has introduced an IT curriculum beginning from middle school, the education ministry could explore introducing at an even earlier grade. There are various programming applications being developed for children that are both entertaining and educational.

It is not only learning how to code that makes a good programmer. It requires providing a solid foundation in programming which could also mean that our students need to be provided a thorough understanding of the fundamental of mathematics. We are aware that we’re not very good at maths. There is a need to further improve our mathematics curriculum by making it fun to learn by showing how it relates to us.

On top of all this, creativity has to be nurtured. There are some east Asian countries that have recognized that focusing only on academics hinders in the long run. You may have a skilled workforce but no new products. How we make our education system instill more creativity in our children is a question that needs to be continually discussed and attempts made.

In the immediate future, there is a need for our education system to work more closely with the IT industry to determine what kind of employees they need. While fundamentals and theory cannot be neglected in the classroom, neither can the employability of the graduate. Our IT industry is not growing as fast as we want it to and often lack the resources to invest in training graduates. The education sector could help in providing short term trainings for skills in demand by the industry in the final year of their students. The business could help by announcing what kinds of skills they are looking for or will be looking for in coming years.

Perhaps then, our IT graduates will find employment more easily in the near future, and with changes to the education sector, in the long term, risk becoming entrepreneurs and self-employ and employ others.

If everything falls into place, it may not be too far fetched to think that the next big thing in IT emerges from Bhutan one day.

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