To make communication easier in times of disaster, two projects were signed between Gross National Happiness Commission (GNHC) secretariat and Japan International Cooperation Agency JICA yesterday.

The government of Japan granted about USD 8.6 Million, for the project ‘construction of disaster-resilient emergency mobile network’, to establish a stable communication network in the country.

It also includes assistance in design and planning, procurement of equipment, services for installation and knowledge transfer through the conduct of training during the phase of the project.

A brief from the GNHC stated that with disaster ready mobile communication, rescue efforts could be coordinated efficiently which would save lives.

It was learnt that during emergencies caused by natural disasters like earthquakes, floods, and landslides, communication networks get jammed when subscribers make calls to friends and families.

The disaster-resilient emergency mobile network will help reduce such jamming of the communication networks.

The brief stated that major failures would have no major disruptions both in terms of service and revenue.

Another technical cooperation project called ‘development of business continuity plan for disaster control’, worth USD 2 Million aims to develop Business Continuity Plan (BCP) for disaster control for all telecommunication and Internet service providers for government and private agencies in the country.

Currently, it was found that Bhutan Telecom (BT) did not have any documented recovery process and plans to follow during major disasters.  The brief stated that congestions and communication failures during disasters couldn’t be prevented.

If a disaster damages BT’s core networks located in a single building in Thimphu, communication for both national and international services would be affected depending on the severity of the damage.

Development of telecommunications BCP, BCP manuals, and awareness on BCP within BT would ensure BT’s BCP through service reliability and operation for disaster control.

It was found that BT was not able to make the network disaster-resilient due to limited in-house resources and expertise, among others.

BT requested JICA for assistance last year to provide and facilitate efficient network during disasters.

Besides the development of the BCP manual, the project will also include countermeasure equipment and training.

The project would be implemented in about 18 months. Currently, there is no dedicated emergency communication network in the country.

Staff Reporter