Iron Female Ox Year-MoIC: From Bhutanese children receiving Royal Soelra to the Royal vision of Bhutanese taking advantage of technological advancements, the year saw enhancement of public service delivery through digital platforms.
The information and communications ministry emphasised enhancing public service delivery with transformative initiatives.
It conducted many activities under the Digital Drukyul flagship programme like the development of the electronic patient information system (EPIS), which will streamline the health record of patients and the Bhutan integrated tax system (BITS) under the flagship programme.
While much of IT infrastructure development and initiatives are underway, the country launched the national digital identity, a nationwide programme to collect biometrics to create digital identities.
Besides, the year also saw many services going online, such as the launch of the electronic vehicle quota system for civil and public servants entitled to vehicle quota to process the document online and improve service delivery.
However, the two telecom companies failed to deliver the expected service as internet and mobile services became slow.
While officials from the telecos justified online engagement for work and entertainment have caused frequent internet network congestion, many people expressed frustration.
The two telecos launched the much-hyped 5G (fifth generation) service. However, not all phones can avail the service, and many blame the telcos for poor internet connection and higher data charges.
The Bhutan InfoComm and Media Authority (BICMA) even penalised the two telcos for failing to provide quality services in Thimphu.
Besides, the much-awaited decision and talks on establishing the third international gateway did not come through and are awaited.
The Public Accounts Committee recommended putting in place an adequate infrastructure for e-resilience and speeding up the establishment of the third Internet gateway through Bangladesh.
The committee asked MoIC to frame a strategy to ensure the sustainability of fibre resources and put systems in place to ensure monitoring controls, diligence, and oversight.
Sustainable transport system
Recognising the issues with outdated rules and regulations in the transport sector, the Road Safety and Transport Authority overhauled the laws, repealed the Road Safety and Transport Regulation 1999 and replaced it with a new regulation.
The year highlighted the sustainable transport system in the country through switching cabs and government vehicles to electric vehicles. E-mobility aimed at reducing vehicular pollution, dependence on imported fossil fuel and adverse impact on human health saw 248 electric cars and 33 charging points in the country last year.
The public transport system also saw a significant facelift by introducing 27 new city buses equipped with GPS and facilities like smart card readers connected with the Gakyid Ride app.
Inspired by a concept commanded by His Majesty The King, Paro International Airport was transformed into a national aviation facility with a unique identity. The complete makeover introduced Bhutan that balances the best of tradition and modernity and an experience that symbolises change.
Meanwhile, the sector remains the hardest hit by the pandemic. The year 2021 saw a decrease of international passengers by 72 percent compared to 2020. Bhutan Airline and Druk Air reported losses in billions and had to resort to adverse austerity measures.
Drukair employees voluntarily committed to forgoing a certain percentage of the salary as a solitary measure. Other austerity measures include deferment of leave encashment, encouraging staff to leave without pay, extraordinary leave, and strict monitoring of travel and daily allowances.
However, Drukair saw a gradual increase in domestic passengers’ demand since the pandemic as there were no tourist passengers on the domestic routes. The domestic air passengers increased by about 37 percent compared to 2020. A total of 8,899 passengers used the domestic air service last year.
The year also saw Bhutan building its satellite. Three ICT engineers began developing the payload of a joint satellite with ISRO-India.