How Wechat and other social media platforms are penetrating rural Bhutan

Wechat, an instant messaging app, is the most widely used platform to communicate and share information in the central district of Dagana say local government officials.

“Be it a civil servant or a villager everyone is on Wechat,” said chairperson of the Dzongkhag Tshogdue, Lhawang Dorji. “There are very few, other than civil servants, who use facebook, viber or telegrams, but wechat is widely used.”

He said people use the apps to immediately share information on any issue or any kind of meeting. “Before we had to send a person a week ahead to inform people about meeting,” he said.

But Internet connectivity was not very stable so sometimes the app could not be used when really needed. This also affected the government G2C online services in the gewogs.

Though they have a access to newspapers and TV in Dagana Dzongkhag, some people there feel that most news covered in the media are mostly a urban based stories but while going through the social media they get to know what is happening in parts of the country that normally does not make it in the mainstream media.

Lhawang said those who can use the app in a good way leads to better impact while those who misuse the apps find various problems being created within the family.

He said that, there are a few cases of domestic violence cases due to the usage of such apps.

Phub Wangdi, vice principal of Dagana Middle Secondary School, said social media apps like wechat is useful as a mode of communication and information sharing. “If we need any medical emergency donors or any fund support for poor people for any medical reference, this is the platform where we will get immediate help,” he said.

Sangay, a shopkeeper in Dagana town, said they don’t get any newspapers on time but news is immediately available on facebook and Wechat. “In fact, on these social media platforms, you get more than what is shown on TV and published in papers,” said Sangay adding that it was also a  cost effective way of keeping in touch with far away relatives.”

Tshering, 57, said Wechat is user friendly and even an illiterate person can use it to keep in touch with relatives, get information on religious programs and keep up to date with happenings.

He also said that they get to witness news, which seems fresh. “With all pictures and videos shared, people like us are benefited a lot. Recently, we saw a video of a plastic cabbage and this made us alert,” he added.

“Many people are now going abroad where the mode of communication is too expensive with which they cannot talk much on the phone but now with these kind of mobile apps, they can keep in contact  at all times”, he said.

But Yeshi Pelzang, planning officer said that people use the Wechat platform to also misinform people and circulate obscene pictures.

“People have access to any kind of mobile apps but when it comes for important official work, the net goes down whereby they have to hold on to their work, which has to be done immediately. Therefore, it will be great if the operators can improve internet facilities in Dagana in order to keep people informed and to complete works without any delay”, he added.

He also said that, even when with the positive impact on the society, people somehow misuse the apps leading to domestic issues but people have to learn about balancing the good and bad usage of such mobile apps.

The snapshot of mainly rural Dagana shows how social media has penetrated in areas where even traditional media has not and it is also increasingly being used to communicate with each other.

This article was made possible due to support from the Department of Information and Media

 

About Damchoe Pem

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *