For the past several months, hundreds of drivers and vehicle owners queued for hours at the Road Safety and Transport Authority office every day. They could not process their documents owing to the lockdown and Covid-19 pandemic restrictions. 

The office came up with numerous temporary measures to clear the huge backlog of applications. But the problem persisted. Delay in such essential services costs money and time for the people. 

Eventually, the authority opened a branch office in Babesa to make its services more accessible to the public. This initiative has brought relief to many albeit belatedly. 

Like RSTA there are many agencies catering essential services and that can do much to improve accessibility for the general public. Some of these agencies made earnest attempts.

Druk Zakar and the Druk Trace applications for mobile phones have been downloaded 10 times more than the government’s main public service (G2C) application. When small private businesses are thriving online, we are left to wonder why public service offices manned with qualified staff fail to ensure efficient delivery of services. 

The problem with public service apps is that they often break down and are not fixed for days on end. Some have faded into oblivion. For instance, consumers no longer need to use the Pol mCoupon app to refill their liquefied petroleum gas cylinders. 

Then there are problems with payment transactions. Oftentimes,officials have no clue what went wrong with the online system. Years after the services went online, public service providers send clients from one office to another. 

The old style of working – waiting in long queues outside government offices that are mostly anchored on a paper-based, or personality-driven system, doesn’t work anymore. People, aware of technological advancement, have no patience when everything is driven by technology. 

While the rate of government websites being hacked has dropped in recent years, the websites still carry contact numbers that ‘does not exist’ or are ‘out of service’. There are e-service facilities available. Yet, villagers still walk to the gewog centres to avail the services because they either are illiterate or not familiar with handling such digital platforms. There is much we can do for efficient and hassle-free public services in the dzongkhags. 

We are well aware that such essential services going online will reduce the interface with public officials, which in turn will promote accountability and transparency. But unless these teething problems with such systems are fixed, public trust and confidence in such platforms will waver. The ambitious goal of a digital society would remain a distant dream.