Lyonpo Karma Donnen Wangdi

Chhimi Dema

Maenbi-Tsaenkhar Member of Parliament (MP) Choki Gyeltshen asked the minister of information and communications on   status of the government’s pledges on the Suung Joen app and providing Free WiFi access during the Question Hour session at the National Assembly yesterday.

“Considering the current situation of individuals and institutions relying on the internet, the pledges on the Suung Joen app and Free WiFi access is relevant,” Choki Gyeltshen said.

Communications Minister Karma Donnen Wangdi said that the developments of online systems and apps were prioritised over the Suung Joen app and Free WiFi.

“The pandemic situation necessitated the ministry to develop many information systems,” he said.

Lyonpo said that, last year, the requirements for the information system for the Free WiFi and Suung Joen app were set.

“Studies were conducted on the technology infrastructure requirements; what infrastructure was present, and what was required,” Lyonpo said.

Lyonpo said that in April 2019 a tender was floated for the development of the two pledges.

“None of the bidders met the requirements, not even the two telcos in the country,” he said.

Beginning the second year, pandemic hit the country shifting the focus on containment of local transmission of the virus to ensure the safety of the public, he said.

“As the current situation improves, we would present viable options to Lhengye Zhungtshog for discussions,” Lyonpo said.

The information and communication ministry developed ten information systems this year.

The systems the ministry developed were the Gate Management System, Health Facility System, Druk Trace App, Quarantine Management App, Check Post Management System, Essential Goods Stock Piling system, Vegetable Marketing Information System and Essential Commodity ordering system, among others.

Households without access to BBS channels would receive connection soon, according to Lyonpo Karma Donnen Wangdi.

Khar-Yurung MP Tshering Chhoden, questioned the government as to whether it could fulfil its pledge to install intranet technology and provide free access to Bhutan Broadcasting Service (BBS) I and BBS II channels.

In response, Lyonpo Karma Donnen Wangdi said that only about 3,000 households were not accessible to the BBS channels.

Lyonpo said: “While Covid-19 poses a challenge, the government was continuously working to provide BBS channels to 3,000 households.”

“Some households, Lyonpo said, were not accessible to BBS because of the absence of economic viability while providing cable services to these places.

Lyonpo said that according to a study conducted by the Ministry of Home and Cultural Affairs, Bhutan InfoComm and Media Authority, and the Ministry of Information and Communications, 39,461 households were not accessible to BBS channels.

From 39,461 households, 10,543 owned TV set but, they were not accessible to BBS channels, and 28,918 households did not own a television set.

BBS channels were broadcast installing the Ku-band dish through the South Asia Satellite currently, Lyonpo said.

“The ministry facilitated to import of Ku-dish band to interested individuals,” he said. “In the last six to seven months, about 7,000 Ku-dish bands were imported and distributed. About 6,500 households were made accessible to the BBS channels.”