Chhimi Dema

The global pandemic impacted the development of two major projects of Digital Drukyul flagship programme, the Bhutan Integrated Tax System (BITS) and Electronic Patient Information System (ePIS).

Thimphu TechPark Limited (TTPL) was given the two projects, BITS is an integrated online tax filing services and ePIS is a health care information system that holds digital health records.

TTPL’s chief executive officer, Tshering Cigay Dorji (PhD), said that Covid-19 health protocols and restrictions impacted the progress of BITS project.

He said TTPL planned to invite at least 10 officials from TTPL’s international partner, IUnetworks to develop the system but only three officials arrived. “TTPL signed a contract agreement with the Department of Revenue and Customs and IUnetworks in Armenia last year.”

Tshering Cigay Dorji said they have been resorting to online collaboration as much as possible and have made progress but it was not as effective as working face-to-face.

He also said TTPL was in the final stages of confirming the international partner for the development of the ePIS project. “TTPL was assigned with these projects to build the capacity and competence of Bhutanese IT professionals.”

He said that foreign companies normally developed such projects in the past, using their ready-made commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) software products developed for mass-market rather than bespoke solutions with Bhutanese private firms as local partners. “This did not help in building local IT capacity.”

Tshering Cigay Dorji said that they were engaging international partners to execute these projects but with active engagement from TTPL in co-development of the systems using the partner’s software platforms or frameworks.

He said: “Our engagement would provide continued maintenance support for these systems locally, and also explore exporting similar services to clients outside Bhutan in the future.”

He, however, said that since there were changes in the project implementation modality which requires more time and effort, it was challenging for them to get the required time and the effort from the stakeholders.