Bhutan’s budding private ICT sector puts forward ideas for growth

The 4th ICT Conference was organized by the Department of Information Technology and Telecom (DITT), Ministry of Information and Communications (MoIC) on 2nd December. The conference is held once in two years to provide a platform for ICT professionals in government agencies to discuss on issues arising from the technologies and accordingly draft an action plan.

The theme for the conference was “Building A Smart Nation Through Technology”, in line with the Digital Drukyul flagship. It addressed the critical aspects of emerging technologies, its impact in Bhutan on ICT adoption, managing cyber security risk and mitigation, on collaboration between the government and ICT private sector, while also understanding the experiences and challenges of ICT.

The ICT representative from the private sector, Phub, spoke on the current phase of ICT market, ICT development and its challenges. He pointed out that ICT in the private sector is at a nascent state, and that they could not do much in terms of employee retention considering the small market, which in-turn does not add to well towards revenue generation for the private sector.

On that note, he requested for the government to look towards a feasible procurement route. He also said that currently the goal-orientation for private ICT sector is unguided and helter-skelter as there is no proper network or map. Private ICT sector has to fully rely on the government to initiate activities in order to tread onwards, he added.

He mentioned that there were no proper linkages among the government and private ICT. He stressed on the need for better academic-industry linkages. He added that the avenues for capitalizing on business intelligence, data science, cloud computing, IT infrastructure, big data, cyber security and Internet of things lie ahead of Bhutan.

ICT business does not have much scope in regard to the last two-year observation, he said, stating further that even if the private ICT business did get a project, there were breaches in terms of consultation support system and services.

“I think it is better to collaborate more often, and work as teams and not as outsiders, as different sectors; government and private, for the growth of Bhutan as a smart ICT nation,” Phub concluded.

A representative of the private sector under DITT, Deepika, shared the government’s perspective on the activities lined-up in collaboration and in-sync with nation building.

According to a government study conducted as of 2019, USD 3.7 trillion is projected as capital for IT sectors globally, of which a majority of the money is to be used for software enterprises and IT services.

She highlighted that currently, there are more than 257 ICT experts and 20 IT companies which are mostly retail dominant. The IT industry comprises of services, like software development, infrastructure solutions, net and mobile applications, to name a few, she added.

“Bhutan also has two classifications, in terms of the investment module, wherein the Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) companies are already servicing the global market. On the other hand, domestic companies do not have exposure in such areas and are only able to grasp opportunities in locally driven projects or government led initiatives,” she said.

She also highlighted the progress made in ICT development the country in the last twelve years, and how more can be achieved given the right enabling environment for ICT growth. As envisioned by the government, the way forward is to get more skilled people to execute projects and set up the proper infrastructure, among the other variables.

Reportedly, the government’s current focus is to work collaboratively with private ICT sector, and address to how they can enable the private sector to export their services. The core strategic areas, mentioned in this context, are to initially develop the capacity of the employees. According to the recent Economic Development World Forum, 54 percent of the workforce would have to adapt to reskilling, learning and unlearning for ICT standardization. “We feel that Bhutan in no different,” she added.

Other strategies comprise of export of services by the private ICT companies, which the government plans to do so by leveraging embassies around the world and standardizing products and services. Another conscious effort of the government is to establish a platform for attracting global clients for which, as stated during the conference, the local consumption of ICT services should increase, as the current scenario is unfavorable to private ICT companies to grow.

She concluded that the Nu 3 billion under the Digital Drukyul flagship is to be mainly directed towards the private sector to uptake and grasp on the opportunity.

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