Thukten Zangpo 

The Department of Innovation and Technology (InnoTech) under Druk Holding and Investments partnered with a global community of artificial intelligence (AI) engineers called Omdena to drive AI and machine learning (ML) solutions in Bhutan.

Omdena is a collaborative global platform and a community of AI engineers, working with different partners to build challenges that address real-world problems in social, environmental, and health care sectors.

According to an official from InnoTech, the partnership will strategise technology and innovation pathways to enhance access and diffusion of emerging technologies, and build local capacity in the fields of science and technology.

He said local institutions and the general public, who are interested in AI or ML, can participate in the event.

Under the partnership, Omdena will assist InnoTech in hosting a global two-week hackathon where InnoTech will identify key themes and issues that can be resolved using innovative AI or ML applications.

Omdena will work with more than 50 AI engineers over an additional eight-week challenge to develop the idea selected from the hackathon into a fully deployable algorithm.

Under Omdena School Initiative, Bhutanese learners will be provided with access to a few relevant courses available at Omdena School to prepare them for the global hackathon and challenge.

Additionally, Omdena will establish linkages with the Super FabLab and other institutions in Bhutan to explore additional means of realising InnoTech’s AI or ML vision for the nation.

Under Omdena Local Chapter, InnoTech will work with participants from the hackathon and students of the Omdena School to run open-source AI projects to solve problems faced by the community.

DHI InnoTech’s director, Ujjwal Deep Dahal, said they have to ensure that Bhutanese grow to have a growth mindset with curiosity to explore. ‘I feel that DHI InnoTech’s partnership with Omdena with the AI or ML challenge, School initiative, and the local chapters would provide the platform to reflect on problems and build solutions. AI or ML will be but a tool that we will learn in the process to solve even greater problems.”

He added that one of the important dimensions is the problem-solving mindset that we need to cultivate in our education system through such programmes.

According to InnoTech’s official, AI or ML is an important development in the field of computer science and data processing which has the potential to fundamentally transform businesses but importantly economies around the world and the way we may live in the future.

Meanwhile, Omdena has more than 5,000 collaborators in more than 100 countries and more than 70 local chapters.

It worked with more than 50 organisations and has 150 projects, such as detecting wildfires in Brazil, fighting malaria outbreaks in Africa, and improving solar adoption in Singapore.

DHI InnoTech, since its formation in 2018, has prioritized human capacity building focused on the inclusive uptake of STEM education.