Chhimi Dema

Lyonchhen Dr Lotay Tshering said Ministry of Information and Communications (MoIC) should redefine its role in governance.

He said that the ministry should implement activities than just approving information, communication and technology (ICT) activities of agencies in the country. “Then the ICT standard would be good and it would strengthen the ministry.”

The Prime Minister made the comments during the ministry’s mid-term review (MTR) held on April 18.

Lyonchhen also said if implementing activities were included in the ministry’s key performance indicators (KPIs), then other agencies would follow.

The ministry officials reported that they have achieved the KPI of increasing the frequency of urban transport services during the rush hours, percentage of the population with access to online payments, and effective improvement of the airport security.

They also reported that numerous projects have begun under the Digital Drukyul Project, which is one of the flagship projects of the government.

The projects included the national digital identity (NDI) project, which has begun collecting the biometric data of individuals.

During the MTR, the IT and Telecom department’s director Jigme Tenzing, who is also the officiating secretary, said that the ongoing pilot project is facing constraints with biometric data collection.

He cited the example of how data points from children cannot be collected, as they want to.

The ministry aims to collect the biometric data of 50 percent of the population by the next fiscal year.

Jigme Tenzing also reported that under the government initiated network, 529 offices were connected with fibre optic out of the intended 1,000 offices.

The ministry is expected to soon sign a contract with the software developers, Thimphu Techpark Ltd for the development of the electronic patient information system (EPIS), which will streamline the health record of patients.

Jigme Tenzing said that the pandemic situation has resulted in a significant delay of the EPIS. “However, we are working to identify a separate office which would be necessary if we are to make EPIS a successful one.”

For the Bhutan integrated tax system (BITS), Jigme Tenzing said that the inception report for release 1 (Goods and Sales Tax, and Excise module) is expected to complete by end of this fiscal year.

The ministry presented the establishment of the third international gateway as one of the ways forward.

Jigme Tenzing said the ministry had initiated discussions with the foreign affairs ministry to negotiate with the Indian government to lower the total cost (USD 5 to 6) for one Mbps in a month while connecting with Bangladesh through India.

“If we succeed in establishing the third international gateway, it would not only improve the reliability of internet connections within the country but there is also a high probability that we can bring down the internet cost for Bhutanese citizens,” he said.