In a turn of events, the IT park is shedding its image as a white elephant.
By the end of this year, there could be a thousand Bhutanese, the majority youth, employed at the park. It may not have met initial expectations of bringing in a large IT company like Infosys or Genpact but it seems to be headed in the right direction in terms of employment and local skills development.
The youth employed at the park are engaged in a variety of processes like photo editing and software development. A very few are even paid upwards of Nu 100,000 for the latter.
Some young entrepreneurs are provided a space at the park to work on their ideas. One of them will be launching a mobile app soon for the housing market that should help in finding not only vacant spaces, but also plumbers, electricians, carpenters, etc.
Undoubtedly, the IT park is a hive of activities today, a far cry from a time when it struggled to attract tenants and visitors were greeted with large empty halls.
But there are problems that need to be resolved.
The IT park’s largest tenant and employer of Bhutanese youth desires to further expand its operation in Bhutan. This means more jobs and transfer of skills.
But there seems to be an incomprehensible impediment facing the company: a lack of public transportation for its employees between Thimphu city and Babesa, where the park is located.
The city’s bus operator does not have enough buses to increase frequency on the required route. The company hoped that the government could provide transport reasoning on the grounds that it did not come to Bhutan to start a bus service. They’re right. For the amount of employment it is generating, the government, which has been helping the IT park to develop all along, should provide the transportation required so that the company’s operations are not disrupted.
We hear the government speaking a lot about employment today and how the youth all want a government desk job, yet such incidences can confound, including the one where thukpa and momo sellers were banned from plying their informal trade during the cold nights, when bureaucrats and decision makers are warmly tucked into their beds.
But it is welcome news that the government has recently provided the funds for the acquisition of more buses. It is only hoped that these buses are added to the route so that a year long problem is finally addressed.
But there is another problem, albeit a good one. Real estate at the IT park is running out and its largest tenant, if its expansion plans go as planned, may not find space at the park.
Going by government provided figures, we’re producing a large number of IT graduates annually. They need to have jobs and such international firms may be the answer until our own industry is a nascent one. But whether another large IT park structure needs to be built is a question that needs to be carefully studied.
A temporary phase where interested companies and expanding ones are housed by the private sector could be considered until we’re sure that we need another IT park.