Another signifiant milestone occurs today in the fields of information communications technology (ICT) and banking. The government will launch its interbank online payment gateway which will enable customers to make online payments between accounts of three banks. Until now, online payments were limited to between accounts within a bank.
The new service should allow for more transactions to move online. It should also hopefully encourage more customers to make more online payments for both commercial and public services. It is in the interest of the government and the economy to push people towards online transactions. It’s cheaper, more convenient, and ensures transparency and accountability. The country can also print less hard currency.
It is also in the interest of the banks and relevant service providing agencies to begin automating more of their services and allowing for more realtime transactions. Currently, while some services can be paid for online instantly such as recharging a mobile phone’s credit, for some services, i.e. recharging a Bhutan Telecom broadband package the customer would still have to wait for someone to manually finalise the payment.
However to completely convince the public to make the switch, the reliability of internet connectivity has to improve and security accorded top priority.
Some companies in the private sector are already utilising online payments for customers from abroad. It is time for the public sector to catch up.
While the government has adopted Google Apps to increase the efficiency of the government, and has the G2C Office spearheading the effort to utilise ICT, there is still a long way to go.
If we were to calculate how much public funds have been wasted because of lack of coordination among agencies, divisions, and individuals, the cost could run into the millions.
At a recent workshop help in Thimphu on identifying barriers towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), participants identified lack of coordination and follow up by concerned agencies as the major impediment.
Even the thrompon of Thimphu provided an example of a resident’s water supply being cut off for three days because of a lack of coordination among divisions within the municipality.
Most of us would be able to provide examples if asked. We see it when a newly paved road is dug up by another agency wanting to lay a pipe or cable.
There is a need for the different agencies to converge their planned activities, so that no agency is operating as a silo. If the thromde is going to pave a road, its other divisions, along with other utility companies must be aware that such an activity is going to take place. That way, other activities like laying of pipes, cables or sewer maintenance can take take place before a road is paved, not after. Utilising ICT, for instance a straightforward online calendar application, could serve the purpose.
Clearly, we’re not using ICT to its full potential today.