Hurdles of achieving an ICT enabled society

ICT: Low adoption of completed ICT programmes by government agencies, lack of budget and human resources, are some of the hurdles in Bhutan’s quest to achieve an ICT-enabled knowledge society, according to the revised Bhutan ICT Roadmap.

Bhutan’s ICT vision is to create an ICT-enabled knowledge society as a foundation for Gross National Happiness.

The desired outcomes are ICT for good governance, to enable a shared national consciousness, and as a key enabler for sustainable economic development. To achieve these outcomes a number of strategies were identified and 34 programmes proposed.

Some of the programmes have already been completed like the IT park and training of non-ICT civil servants. Most are still in progress and a few, like ICTing the finance ministry, have not yet started.

Several challenges to implementing the Bhutan ICT Roadmap 2015 were identified.

The study found a low adoption rate for some completed programmes. One example provided is the e-government system (IT management and e-governance framework) and e-Government Interoperability Framework, launched in January last year.

“Common feedback from these programmes included the lack of awareness, lack of appreciation, lack of confidence or in the worst case scenario, loss of faith in the programme,” it is pointed out in the revised roadmap.

Low adoption, according to the study, is because “change management planning” is not carried out by the programme owners. Change management planning is the process of identifying stakeholders affected by introduction of new technology, understanding their needs and expectations, and developing activities to ease the change.

The lack of a dedicated team to operate, maintain and promote the e-government system and e-GIF framework was another problem identified.

Lack of budget will continue to pose a major obstacle to overall development of ICT in the country. Operating expenditure is often not considered for many programmes resulting in lack of upkeep, it was found.

The revised roadmap recommends that the government explore alternate funding models besides only government or donor funds, such as public-private partnership, where the private partner bears the risk of implementing large complex projects but with possibilities of commercially attractive returns.

Subscription based models are also recommended, like for example, the government’s use of Google Apps. The study points out that subscribing to services or technology does away the protracted wait and risks involved in developing systems and infrastructure.

The lack of human resource capability was another major impediment identified in execution and maintenance of projects. “It is acknowledged that the number of government’s ICT professionals is limited and their job scope varies widely. Getting the ICT professionals proficient in all aspects of ICT is nearly impossible,” it is pointed out.

The roadmap recommends that a training and competency roadmap be established and that foreign trainers or training institutions be invited to Bhutan.

“It is also important that workshops or forums for government leaders are organised. ICT knowledge and awareness allow key decision makers to effectively plan and drive ICT initiatives,” the report says.

Collaborating with domestic and foreign expertise is also recommended. “Government agencies can also collaborate with educational institutions, IT associations or industry partners to execute some of its programmes.”

The establishment of expert pools so that human resources with similar competencies are brought together and can provide a quick response when specific resolutions are required is suggested.

The objective of the recent project was to review and revise the 2011 Bhutan ICT Roadmap by assessing ICT developments, identify gaps in programmes, define key priorities, and propose a implementation schedule aligned with the current Plan.

The information and communications ministry with World Bank assistance initiated the review of the 2011 roadmap. It was conducted by IDA International of Singapore.

The roadmap is available on the website of the information and communications ministry.

Gyalsten K Dorji

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