Entrepreneur: A disconnect between academia and industry, poor math skills, and a lack of drive and curiosity, among others, were identified as factors contributing to the lack of demand or unemployability of IT graduates in Bhutan.

The contributing factors were identified and discussed during a panel discussion held as part of the Global Entrepreneurship Week, held in Thimphu, last week.

Panelist Tshering Cigay Dorji, who is the Chief Operating Officer of Thimphu Techpark, said that while the necessary information communications technology (ICT) is now in place there is a need to develop the IT industry. He disagreed that there are no jobs for those with IT degrees in Bhutan. “There are quite a number of opportunities even at the Techpark,” he said.

But he acknowledged that IT graduates lack IT skills. “They don’t know much IT,” he said.

There are around 500 Bhutanese employed at the park. The majority are engaged in digital editing of video and film, while a very small number are involved in software development.

Panelist Jigme Tenzing, who is the officiating Director of the Department of Information Technology and Telecom disagreed that the IT graduates are not properly enabled but attributed the problem to a mismatch in skills available and skills demanded by the industry. He said there is a need for closer ties between academia and the industry to ensure IT graduates meet the requirements of the industry.

An audience member, Karma Phuntsho (Phd), who is also the founder and President of the Loden Foundation, observed that the education system may be to blame. “Basically my perception is that our education system is lagging behind,” he said. As a result, Bhutan is not producing enough curious and driven graduates.

He explained that Loden Foundation was unavailable to find someone locally with the required IT skills to aid them in managing and publishing data online, which included 2,000 hours of film and four million digital photographs of Bhutanese text. Let alone producing software, local talent is unable to even use software already used by others, he said.

He pointed out that a few years ago, the foundation had brought an American millionaire to Bhutan. The American owned a software development company and was interested in outsourcing work to Bhutanese. He went to a local school to determine if students possessed the required level of maths to become computer programmers. He was not looking for IT graduates but students good at maths, Karma Phuntsho said. “And he was disappointed.”

Panelist Jigme Tenzing, while not completely agreeing with the education argument, did agree that there is a societal aspect to the problem. For instance, he pointed out that while the panel discussion had been organized as an opportunity for entrepreneurs to take advantage of, only two members of the audience had asked the panelists questions.

Perhaps, as a result of his statement, three more audience members asked the panelists questions.

Jigme Tenzing said that a degree in computer science is not as important as an individual’s drive and interest. He pointed out that the IT environment changes so rapidly that a programming language learned in college could be obsolete by the time the student graduates. He said that the purpose of education should be to instil a culture of learning to learn, and that way, IT graduates would be able to upgrade themselves whenever required. It was pointed out that many IT skills could simply be learned online today.

By Gyalsten K Dorji