A few years ago, villagers of Roelmateng in Lhuntse had to walk for almost two days to Tsango to make a phone call. It was a totally secluded village.

Roelmateng got connected with TashiCell’s 2G and 4G network through the Rural Communication Programme (RCP) last year. RCP was established in 2009 by Bhutan InfoComm and Media Authority (BICMA) to provide rural communities with reliable cellular services.

According to the Ministry of Information and Communications (MoIC) RCP is being “initiated to provide nationwide ICT services to both households and public places at affordable prices with particular emphasis on providing ICT services and facilities in unconnected areas.”

RCP has connected 745 villages in 154 gewogs with mobile cellular services and 44 schools and 29 health centres with a minimum of 1Mbps leased line internet connectivity in 10 years’ time.

Singye Dzong under Khoma gewog in Lhuntse was also without network coverage until last year. Roelmateng and Singye Dzong received network coverage under RCP’s fifth phase.

Khoma Gup Sithar Tshering said that some pilgrims heading to Singye Dzong lost their lives because they did not receive timely medical aid.

Today, if a pilgrim needs help, he or she can avail immediate medical support, he said. “The current network services greatly benefit the villagers of Roelmateng and the pilgrims to communicate with others and seek help.”

Gup Ratna Bdr Ghalley from Namgaychhoeling gewog under Samtse dzongkhag said that some places in the gewog had erratic network connection.

Places that receive stable internet connection had enabled villagers to make online transactions and initiate online learning for students, he said.

BICMA and the telecom operators carry out joint verification of mobile service connectivity after the completion of the programme.

The press release from MoIC stated: “BICMA ensures that the telecom operators provide reliable mobile connectivity all year round in an uninterrupted manner by monitoring the status of connectivity and quality of services for the previously commissioned RCP programmes.”

Currently, BICMA is carrying out the sixth phase to connect 66 villages and 483 households.

Residents of Ommchu chiwog in Karmaling gewog, Dagana, are facing challenges without a decent internet connection.

“Sometimes I have to climb on the roof of the house to receive internet connection to send emails and submit my assignments,” said Mani, 27, a university student.

According to BICMA’s annual report, the village is on the list of uncovered villages that would be included in the upcoming RCP.

By Chhimi Dema 

Edited by Jigme Wangchuk