… after NA objects to NC’s two recommendations

By Lhakpa Quendren

Gelephu — Following a heated debate during the re-deliberation of the National Digital Identity (NDI) Bill 2023 at the National Assembly (NA) on June 29, the House objected to two new sections recommended by the National Council (NC). 

The Bill, which is a first of its kind and tabled as an urgent Bill, awaits a final vote as the two disputed clauses will be deliberated in the joint sitting of the Parliament.

The NC recommended establishing the National Digital Company as a public limited company with all the shares owned by Druk Holding and Investments (DHI) Limited and enforcing the offences and penalties in accordance with the Penal Code of Bhutan.

Bartsham-Shongphu MP Passang Dorji (PhD) raised a concern about whether the company is intended for business or public service. “If it is for business purposes, effective public service delivery would be hampered.”

“If it is intended to export the software system, there is a need to specify that the digital identity software is the property of DHI instead of mentioning owning shares for a public service delivery company,” he said, adding that there is a risk of misunderstanding the information of the people as a business commodity.

Gangzur-Minjey MP Kinga Penjor said that the National Digital Company is for the data usage procedures and to provide access to national data information. “But it seems like an online business and e-commerce.”

Industry, Commerce, and Employment Minister Karma Dorji said that public data information will be safeguarded with data security measures. “There is no space to trade the data information, but there is revenue potential by exporting the software system as there is no decentralised NDI in other countries as required.”

Regarding the grading and penalties of the offence, Drametse-Ngatshang MP Ugyen Wangdi said that while it has to follow the Penal Code of Bhutan, the grading has to depend on the severity of the offence. “There would be some offences requiring higher grading while some require less grading.”

Besides, the NA unanimously endorsed the rest of the NC’s recommendations with all 41 members present voting in favour of the adoption of the Bill.

The NA also supported the NC’s recommendation for the nomination of the members of the governing body from the government technology agency, representatives from relevant government agencies, and independent members.

The members, according to the NC, are the GovTech secretary, two civil servants nominated by the government from the ministries of home affairs and foreign affairs and external trade, and two independent members based on their professional experience and relevant domain expertise nominated by the government technology agency.

The National Digital Act aims to create equal opportunities for all persons through inclusive services that are accessible without discrimination and achieve the national goals of the well-being of the people, progress, and prosperity for the nation through technology.