Photo Credit: Kaushik Ahmed Reza

A nascent Tech Industry and what it means for Bhutan

His Majesty’s Addresses, over the few years, have recurringly been on technology and innovation, and with the current time being dubbed as the Fourth Industrial Revolution, technology has become very important and urgent, especially in terms of development.

Tech industry focuses on innovation, creation and growth, and in Bhutan, the tech industry actually comprises of Information Technology (IT)/ IT enabled service companies, IT retailers and tech startups. With the world’s fast technological advancement, the growth of technology, and the need and growth of tech industry in the country is being felt.

The Fourth Industrial Revolution can be described by advances in Artificial Intelligence (AI), robotics, Internet of Things (IoT), 3D printing, genetic engineering, quantum computing, and other technologies.

Talking to former CEO of Thimphu Tech Park, Dr Tshering Cigay Dorji, the tech industry in the country is still in its nascent stage, with much dependence on the demands of government agencies.

Bhutan’s first step into the age of technology started from the introduction of television and the Internet in the country. The biggest step in the advancement for the tech industry in the country would be establishment of Thimphu Tech Park, the country’s first ICT park in 2012.

According to Deepika from Department of IT and Telecom (DITT), she shared that tech industry has witnessed a major transition from retail dominated to, today, dominated by services and solutions segment of industry.

She shared that a few of the IT companies are already catering to the global market, and shared positive reviews regarding it. 

“There are already a few IT companies catering to the global market, although on a small scale, but we believe it is only a matter of time when the majority of services will be exported, and we believe our industry has the capability.  There is a wide range of services that the industry provides from developing applications, providing enterprise solutions to offering managed services. The shift has been impressive, but the challenge is to sustain and move towards offering services globally.”

“The industry has opportunities for growth through such as collaboration in adoption of technologies by other industries and individuals. Such collaboration will boost the industry towards providing more innovative services catering to the domestic market and then moving towards the global market,” she added.

Although the tech industry is still in its nascent stage, the tech industry in the country has been creating employment opportunities for the youth.

According to Dr Cigay, development of a more vibrant tech industry will create many job opportunities. “More conventional jobs are already disappearing due to advances in technology, and many more will disappear in the years to come, but new jobs are getting created in the tech sector. FDI companies like Selise, Scancafe, and iMerit at Tech Park employ around 500 Bhutanese youth today. With more companies like them, we can employ thousands of Bhutanese youths and this will be possible with development of a more vibrant tech industry.”

“Our dream of a digital economy and developed Bhutan hinges on a vibrant tech industry,” he added.

During the address given by His Majesty in 2019 to the graduates of Royal Institute of Management, His Majesty stated, “Being a small nation makes us a smart nation, this is not out of choice but out of necessity. Technology is an indispensable tool that will be necessary to realise this aspiration.”

Technology is indispensable, and country’s tech industry has to be developed for us to achieve advancement. Country’s modernisation has been rapid and advancement of technology also has to be rapid if we are to be on par with developed economies.

Deepika shared similar sentiments, stating that tech industry can bring in growth and opportunities. “Tech industry has the potential to be one of the major contributors of high value jobs in the country, while being an opportunity to increase the sustainability of the ICT investments in the country, which could potentially contribute to GDP growth.”

A vibrant tech industry can contribute a lot and although, country’s tech industry is still in its initial stage, it faces critical roadblocks, in terms of small market, lack of sufficient number of skilled professionals and weak ICT infrastructure.

Deepika shares, “Few critical roadblocks in the tech industry are attrition, and availability of skilled HR, market, absence of association to represent tech industry, lack of platform for research and development in the industry, and financial investments from both companies and clients.”

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