Around 125,000 Bhutanese were directly trained during the 5-year Chiphen Rigpel IT project that ended this week. It is estimated that at least 200,000 Bhutanese were impacted by the project.
Going by the number, it indicates that the project succeeded. Bhutanese from all sections of society, including the monk body, were trained in IT skills. IT laboratories were set up in schools. Teachers were trained to utilise IT as an important education tool.
The overall achievement is indeed impressive. But there are also important questions to be asked. Have the training conducted so far been productive and led the majority of our people to be adequately comfortable with technology?
We know that our top-level executives were the first to be trained under the project. Yet we continue to face layers of bureaucratic red-tape when we deal with the government. We continue to have to deal with stacks of physical forms and documents for certain procedures. Perhaps, that may have more to do with rigid mindsets.
When Chiphen Rigpel was well under progress, some government agencies continued to resist the adoption of Google Apps despite its being pushed by the Prime Minister himself. The Prime Minister’s Office had to take over directly responsibility of the government’s G2C initiative to get it moving. But progress while comparatively faster than before, still moves along slower than it can.
Many of our IT graduates are unemployed today because there is direct disconnect between academia and the industry. We hope that the 168 IT laboratories and the six-year IT curriculum introduced in our schools will partly address this.
But there are other aspects that must complement such developments. Our students are graduating with poor math skills which will only impede any IT skills. There also is a need to address a shortcoming in education that does not encourage a more entrepreneurial drive among graduates.
Just having the infrastructure and training in place will not ensure an IT enabled knowledge-based society. It has to be complemented.
Otherwise, there is a risk that those who received skills under Chiphen Rigpel may not use those skills productively. Skills may go to waste with people able to use technology only to access and consume information. There is a need for people to be able to filter through the vast amounts of information today, determine what is actually useful and to use it.
Another challenge is to sustain this investment. The computer laboratories will continue to have to be upgraded. Our computer to student ratio will have to be improved beyond 1:43. This will cost us significantly.
The IT curriculum will have to be continuously updated to reflect the rapid developments that take place. We cannot have students learning to use an application or learn a computer language only to find it obsolete once they graduate. They should rather be equipped with the capability to be able to upgrade themselves when required.
We are talking about an IT enabled society yet our internet connectivity is considered poor by consumers, and unaffordable to many.
Chiphen Rigpel may have established the launch pad towards this noble goal. We cannot squander this opportunity by tolerating rigid bureaucratic mindsets unwilling to evolve and adapt, weaknesses in the education sector, or the limitations of our profit driven telecommunications companies.
The time has now come for the government to ensure that everyone keeps up and makes sure this start to an IT-enabled knowledge-based society is used and sustained.