We talk about self-sufficiency and self-employment. These are, however, things that need to be tackled in a way that really brings about visible change in the society. Often times we forget that development theories, however grand they are, means little if they cannot be turned into practical policies.
Self-sufficiency is a big term. So too is self-employment. Achieving them requires concerted individual attention to the field. Maybe that explains why we are still grappling with rising youth unemployment in a country that has many jobs but no takers. We need to look at situations in both rural and urban Bhutan.
Perhaps what we lack is what Koji Yamada calls ‘enabling environment’ for growth. We do not encourage our citizens, particularly the young, to explore their interests and talents. Maybe we are too used to being fed freely. We need to break from this cycle of giving little and receiving everything free.
It is good news that the idea of FabLab is finding space in Thimphu to begin with. Gradually, the idea should penetrate into every corner of this country so that our citizens are able to spend their energy in creative purposes.
What is a FabLab? It is a place open to citizens equipped with Internet access, 3D printers, laser cutters and other tools, which enables local entrepreneurs to make prototypes before entering into mass production. It is a laboratory, a mini factory where anyone can walk in with designs of their own to create their products. Their users are known as ‘fabbers’ around the world.
Where FabLab has been, it has been very successful in engaging the creative minds of people, especially of the young. What is beautiful about FabLab is that with decentralised production, products could be designed and “printed” for local consumption. The long-term impact that this could have is that our import of essential commodities could go down drastically, which means less burden on the economy. It would also mean that our communities can produce what they need while equipping individuals will skills to set up their own business in the future.
If we are to be a nation of entrepreneurs, this is the way to go. FabLab should be an important investment in our education system. Self-sufficiency and self-employment is very much within our reach.