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How can digital technology transform lives and improve opportunities in Bhutan?

Yoichiro Ishihara's picture
Tech Park
The recently opened Thimphu tech park – Bhutan’s first IT park -

The Kingdom of Bhutan is a landlocked country located high in the eastern Himalayan mountain range with its population 760,000. Up until about 20 years ago, the country was isolated from the world; Bhutan’s first ever television broadcast occurred in 1999. Since then, information communications technology (ICT) has made rapid advancement. Mobile subscriptions increased from 0.4 per 100 people in 2003 to 87 in 2015. The proportion of people using the internet have increased from 0.1% in 1999 to 40% in 2015. Today, all 20 districts and 201 (out of 205) sub-districts are connected through fiber optic cables.

The World Bank’s 2016 World Development Report on “
Digital Dividends” argues that digital technologies have boosted growth, expanded opportunities, and improved service delivery. Use of ICT for development is especially applicable to small states with populations of less than 1.5 million. Another report, “World Bank Group Engagement with Small States” finds that ICT investments can help reduce economic isolation, lessen barriers to trade, promote tourism, and improve mobility. These messages are highly relevant to Bhutan today.

The Government has enthusiastically adopted the use ICT to improve its services to its citizens as described in Bhutan ICT Roadmap and Bhutan E-Government Masterplan. The Government to Citizen (G2C) program, launched in 2005, provides a one-stop-shop for more than 100 services such as procuring a passport. The national ePayment Gateway Infrastructure, established by the Royal Monetary Authority (RMA), the central bank, has enabled citizens to pay for some public services online. Recently, the National Land Commission (NLC) launched eCitizen Portal - an online one-stop shop for transferring property titles online. This has reduced the number of days to transfer ownership of a property from 90 days to 62 days in the capital, Thimphu. More importantly, the NLC is reaching out to the private sector to seek feedback on how to improve its usability by piloting a feedback survey using an Interactive Voice Response (IVR) tool for the first time in Bhutan. The government has also introduced an electronic government procurement system (e-GP) to make optimal use of resources. Given the size of the budget (exceeding 30 percent of GDP), the adoption of e-GP will contribute to effective use of public resources. The World Bank Group has been supporting these efforts through various instruments such as the second Development Policy Credit: Fiscal Sustainability and Investment Climate, which helped get the eCitizen Portal off the ground.

Why I Love Technology

Jeggan Rajendram's picture

"Phones today are more powerful than computers I used as a kid, apps become increasingly awe-inspiring and problems are solved everyday using technology."

Technology excites me so much I get goosebumps just thinking about how cool it is, and how much cooler it will be with every passing year.

When we started the first daily deals company in Sri Lanka, we took the risk of starting a large scale online business in Sri Lanka and it wasn't without its problems. Many questions came up; isn't the internet penetration too low? Isn't credit card penetration too low? Wouldn't people be afraid of buying things online?

Say It! Look @: A Virtual Youth Commons for Sri Lanka

Chulie De Silva's picture
Iresha Dilhani from the remote village of Mahavillachchiya  in North  Central Sri Lanka is one of the beneficiaries of taking  Internet into rural areas in Sri Lanka.  She works in her parents mud  and wattle house on the  laptop she bought from money she earned working  on line for business company.
Iresha Dilhani from the remote village of Mahavillachchiya in North  Central Sri Lanka is one of the beneficiaries of taking Internet into rural areas in Sri Lanka.  She works in her parents mud and wattle house on the  laptop she bought from money she earned working on line for business company.

Communicate your right to shape the world.

Say what you want to say, look at what others are saying; learn, network, communicate and shape the world you are going to live in. This is the message going out to youth as the World Bank Colombo office launches its Say it! Look@ program on the 1st May on channel ETV at 8:00 to 8:30 P.M.

The program is a convergence of new social media and the established old media of television and newspapers. The rationale is to provide an interactive space on the Web, as well as through an introductory monthly TV documentary a virtual Youth Commons where Youth can express their opinions, join in discussions, interact and build networks.

The Specific Objectives are to:

What are Key Areas for Regional Cooperation in South Asia?

Ejaz Ghani's picture

As discussed in my last two entries, South Asia's Infrastructure Deficit and Integrating the two South Asias, regional cooperation can be a key instrument in meeting the development needs of South Asia. In this piece, I will discuss specific areas that will bring the most region-wide benefits in my view.

The three priority areas for regional cooperation include telecoms and internet, energy, and transport. A regional telecom network and a high-bandwidth, high-speed internet-based network could help improve education, innovation, and health. A regional network would facilitate better flow of ideas, technology, investments, goods and services. It would facilitate greater interactions between knowledge workers in areas such as high-energy physics, nanotechnology, and medical research. There are untapped positive synergies at the regional level that would come from information sharing and competition in ideas among universities, non-university research and teaching entities, libraries, hospitals, and other knowledge institutions.