Younten Tshedup

While there are ambiguities surrounding the current Covid-19 pandemic, what is certain is that the post Covid-19 Bhutan would see itself leveraging on information technology.

Under the national ICT flagship programme – Digital Drukyul, some of the activities are already beginning to take shape.

There are five major components of the flagship programme, which are currently on track. 

Prime Minister Dr Lotay Tshering during a meeting with the Digital Drukyul team, yesterday, said that when the Covid-19 cloud clears, most of the services in the country must be digitalised and real-time data made available.

Lyonchhen said that a lot could be done if we use information technology (IT) and that the Department of Information Technology and Telecom (DITT) has a more significant role to play in the current scenario.

He said that although there are various data available, majority of them are manually recorded and not reliable. While it is a straightforward job, he said that such activity gets overlooked.

Taking the current situation as an opportunity, Lyonchhen said that IT professionals should make these data available digitally. “If you need additional budget or human resources, we’ll facilitate and make it available with fewer formalities. Let’s work together to get good results.”

With several independent application and systems related to Covid-19 being built, Lyonchhen added that these systems should function as a smaller component to the more extensive flagship programme after the pandemic.

DITT director, Jigme Tenzin, said that most of the online services built in response to Covid-19 containments could be scaled up and used as a component of the Digital Drukyul flagship programme in the long run.

He said that the border gate management system has the potential to be used as a part of the digital identity project, while the quarantine app could be used for the e-PIS (e-Patient Information System), in particular for remote monitoring of chronic diseases.

The tracing app, Druk Trace, that was launched yesterday could be used to record attendance for civil servants, said Jigme Tenzin. He said that the department is also working on an application that would help digitalise the current address system for better navigation.

“We are working on the app design. Within a week or two, we should come up with a system that could cover at least 70 percent of the population,” said the director.

He said that the department is also working with the economic affairs ministry on building an online system to record a near real-time understanding of how much essential food stock is available in different depots across the country.

Meanwhile, with the majority of the activities now shifting online, one of the major concerns is the internet bandwidth and network congestions.


Internet challenges

Lyonchhen said that while all stakeholders have agreed to establish a third international internet link, the government is currently working on the modalities of implementation.

Director Jigme Tenzin said that although there are not many issues concerning international bandwidths, the domestic infrastructure is being overwhelmed with multiple users today.

Unlike in a pre-Covid-19 situation where a majority of the activities were carried out from respective offices through a lease-line connection, most work is now being done from home using mobile internet.

This has put pressure on mobile internet infrastructure.

He said that DITT is exploring possibilities to devise a mechanism where they could segregate people to use the system at different times. “We are looking for some kind of subsidised packages, which would allow certain segments of the population to use the system at different times.”

Jigme Tenzin explained that if an incentive package for students could be designed, it would allow students to latch onto the system only during a specific time frame, as they would have a certain advantage through the incentive package.

“If this could be made possible, then maybe we can regulate the network congestion,” he said.

Lyonchhen said that the idea could be carried forward and committed support to facilitate it.