Digital infrastructure a must for 21st century economy: Taskforce

MB Subba 

The draft 21st century economic roadmap recommends the government to invest in robust digital infrastructure to facilitate trade and commerce in the 21st century.

The government launched the draft on February 21 coinciding with the 41st birth anniversary of His Majesty The King.

The report recommends increasing internet speed and reducing costs through additional investments and players in digital infrastructure.

The national taskforce, which is chaired by former MP Kinga Tshering, took about a year to draft the report.  The taskforce was formed in January last year.

“The 21st century economic roadmap cannot exist without the interaction between economy and digital infrastructure that supports it,” it states.

The report states that the government should invest in 5G technologies to conduct medical procedures remotely, operate drones for agriculture and even to reduce traffic accidents.

Advances in artificial intelligence (AI), it adds, should be applied to promote other priorities such as the national language.

“We could explore the use of AI to make English to Dzongkha translation seamless.  However, we will have to start by gathering as many translated documents as possible to provide the training data for the algorithm.”

The report recommends investments in cloud infrastructure, which are platforms that offer computing, data storage and network services on-demand, without direct active management by anyone.  The term is generally used to describe data centres available to many users over the Internet.

The report adds: “As technology makes its full weight felt in more high-impact areas such as healthcare, education and government services, access to digital services will only become more essential for everyone in the years to come, hence the importance of a supportive institutional infrastructure.”

A concrete step towards becoming a digital society, it states, would be to immediately set a target of completing integration of the National Digital Identity (NDI) into all existing government and corporate platforms within the first year of the NDI being launched.

Facilitating adoption of its use by 50 percent of all registered businesses within the period should be pursued, it recommends.  This in itself, the taskforce states, will result in the creation of several opportunities for domestic IT businesses.

The report calls for a conducive ICT regulation for pursuing digital development goals in the 21st century economy.

“It is inevitable that we will face policy dilemmas in domains like privacy, data sharing, intellectual property and content moderation.”

The government, the report states, needs to think about policies that protect users, while at the same time incentivise creators to experiment and innovate.

“Most importantly, the government needs to adopt a ‘no holds barred’ approach and not slow down innovation in this sector,” it states. 

According to the report, digital infrastructure has the potential to transform industries and create new opportunities and revenue streams benefitting almost all sectors in the industry.  A regulation, it adds, should be designed to promote such activities.

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