Information and Communications minister Karma Donnen Wangdi has said that it might take five years for the Suung-joen app to be fully operational across 20 dzongkhags.

He was responding to a question from Bumdeling Jamkhar MP Dupthob during the Question Hour at the National Assembly yesterday on when the government would launch the app.

The government’s election manifesto states, “The government will develop a Suung-joen app (similar to WeChat and WhatsApp) that will allow everyone to stay connected and to communicate freely without having to worry about recharging data, or losing talk time.”

The app, Lyonpo Karma Donnen Wangdi said, was one of the main election promises and that the government has already started works to launch the app. However, he cautioned that there could be some misunderstanding about what the app was supposed to be like.

He said that Wifi is required for the operation of the app. “We need a road to drive a car, and the car needs to be test driven,” he said. “It’s important for us to provide services to the people. At the same time, we should not be hurried if the services are to be good.”

Lyonpo Karma Donnen Wangdi informerd that the app was being developed so that it would be ready for testing within 2019. He said that the app would be provided across the country and that the government needed some time.

He explained that people today visited gewog centres to avail services that are availed using internet. The app, he said, would help people avail services without having to visit gewog centres or community centres.

The government, he said, would create a Wifi hotspot at locations where people gather and that it would take about five years for the service to be operational in all the gewogs.

MP Dupthob said the app was one of the popular pledges among the people and that they were waiting for the app to be launched.

Dupthob said people have been using social media apps such as WeChat but they need internet connection. However, he added that the app would be more helpful since it was supposed to be available even without internet.

However, foreign minister Dr Tandi Dorji in a recent interview with a private newspaper (Business Bhutan) was reported saying that the app is more or less developed and that the government was currently testing to make it perfect before presenting it to the citizens. The foreign minister was reported saying that its launch was delayed due to the ongoing National Assembly session.

Govt. to do away with Class 8 qualification requirement for taxi drivers 

In response to a question from Khatoed Laya MP Tenzin, the information and communications minister said that works are being done to do away with the Class VIII requirement for taxi drivers, which he said was one of the election pledges.

“I feel that we don’t need the qualification requirement we have now for taxi drivers. We will reduce the qualification requirement for taxi drivers from Class 8 as promised in the election,” he said.

The Khatoed Laya MP said that reducing the qualification requirement for taxi drivers would help less qualified people earn a living operating a taxi. “It could be one of the main sources of earning for retired members of armed forces who are not well qualified,” he said.

Lyonpo Karma Donnen Wangdi also said that there is a cap imposed on the number of taxis in the country and that it was important that the ban would stays.

The government, he said, was looking into the possibility of allowing taxis to run for more than nine years. “Our vehicles must pass the road worthiness test conducted by the Road Safety and Transport Authority.”

MB Subba