Filters used to block games and social media

Yangchen C Rinzin

Students who think they are getting free internet data to while away time on social media should think twice.

The student data package had been filtered to have access only e-learning sites like Youtube, Google Classroom and G-Suites, Moodle, e-library, B-Trowa, and Zoom.

The packages are available for students both in public and private from 7am to noon.  Ministry of education officials said that it is strictly planned to ensure packages are used for only educational purposes.

To enable e-learning, TashiCell has come up with Three Student Plans, and Bhutan Telecom Limited with Student Data Packages. Both packages will allow students to have additional data than regular internet packages.

TashiCell has three different plans, Student Daza 97, Student Barma 297 and Student Barma 497.  B Mobile has five different packages with different validity.

Students must register their mobile phone numbers with the respective telecom companies to avail the service. However, students can give the mobile phone numbers to schools and schools will submit to the education ministry before handing over to the telecoms for registration.

Almost 140,000 students have registered with the ministry as of Friday.

Ministry of information and communication official said that the time slot 7am to noon was decided based on the daily traffic pattern studied by the two companies.

“Following several rounds of discussion we came up with this timing on a trial basis to avoid traffic congestions,” an education official said. “They’ll monitor the traffic congestion, and if it is less, we can work on to extend the time slots.”

Education ministry’s official said that they have ensured all the social media applications are blocked from the packages, including some of the mobile games.

It means if a student accesses these high bandwidth consumption social media apps, it would deduct data from their regular internet packages and not from the concessional student packages.

The official said it is also parents’ responsibilities to monitor children how they use the data packages.

There has been confusion and complains from parents and students whose mobile phone numbers were submitted to the education ministry, but still not registered. The ministry had collected the mobile numbers of students across the country since March.

“The confusion was because one of the telecom companies had announced that students could register number with the ministry,” the official said. “So, they started submitting the number to the ministry directly instead of schools.”

Official added that although students have submitted the number to schools, the ministry has not yet received the entire list. “It’s also taking time since we need to segregate the numbers for the two service providers accordingly. Probably this is why their number has missed out from the packages.”

The ministry has also requested information and communication ministry to look into doing away with the mobile game, PUBG after many parents shared concern with the ministry in different platforms.

Meanwhile, packages are also available for college students including those who have returned from other countries.