Nima Wangdi

The government has finalised a mixed-mode deployment of free public Wi-Fi hotspots, according to the State of the Nation (SoTN), which was distributed in Parliament last Friday.

For the people in the rural areas, free Internet services will be provided through Starlink satellite services, and through local ISPs for the people in urban areas, according to the report.

“We are proposing to establish at least one Starlink Wi-Fi hotspot in each of 1,044 chiwogs, and 100 Wi-Fi hotspots in urban areas through local ISPs.” The SoTN stated that the estimated cost for the project is Nu 2.930 billion for five years.

The report stated that the Ministry of Information and Communications (MoIC) has proposed 3,000 Starlink user terminals in the country for both free WiFi and interested private users; establishment of a Starlink Gateway; Starlink to be allowed as an FDI in the ICT sector (ISP) as per the requirement of the Information Communication and Media Act of Bhutan 2018.

The ministry has also proposed that Starlink be allowed as a 100 percent FDI company, as it differs from what is spelled out in the FDI Policy 2019. The government is reviewing and updating the proposal, the report stated.

“It was presented to the Cabinet in July this year. The ministry is waiting for further instructions,” the report stated.

The report also stated that the government has initiated the design of the Sungjoen app for domestic users. This is being done to keep up with international instant messaging applications like WeChat, WhatsApp and video conferencing platforms such as Zoom.

“The application will later be redeveloped to function as a universal modular platform with the subsequent addition of features like making or receiving payments, G2C services, and government notifications or announcements, among others,” the report stated.

Local entrepreneurs and ICT start-ups will be engaged in developing it.

“However, we will not be blinded by our political commitments and push for such programs if it does not benefit the nation. If there is a greater advantage in reprioritising the activities, we will do so unconditionally,” the report stated.