Domestic ICT companies are a bright spot in the COVID landscape

As compared to many other sectors which have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, many ICT companies stated that they were comfortable enough and in fact, these companies stated that they saw future opportunities.

 The Thimphu Tech Park Limited (TTPL) showed positive employment growth during the COVID-19 pandemic, even though the FDI companies situated at the TTPL did suffer a repercussive effect following the effects on external markets.

 Similarly, Yeshey Tshogay, CEO, iTechnologies said that their firm which has a good number of software developers recruited about 6 additional employees in the span of last 3 months. She said they did not have any negative impact since they cater to the government and other private firm software requirements.

She added, “I think we are at a nascent level when it comes to catering to services for external markets, but I think now that COVID-19 in general has made us realise the importance of IT services, I see more incorporating ICT services into their businesses.”

 She added, “I think now we should be able to improve our workforce and make it available to external markets as well in the future in our own capacity and scope of expertise as we envision more demand for ICT services from the domestic market.”

She said that in terms of coping up with COVID-19 situation IT is something that transcend all areas or fields of work.

She cited that so many businesses have not really transformed themselves or made themselves available to work from home and all those things became difficult.

She added, “Even with e-commerce we don’t have proper mapping system, proper logistics businesses, and I think there are a lot of businesses where IT can be used to leverage and makes services simpler and more efficient, and make the resources available more efficiently.”

 The CEO thinks that there are still prevalent limitations such as internet connection being comparatively expensive as compared to other countries in the region.

Another challenge she mentioned was in terms of the skill capacity of the workforce which she hopes that the upcoming generation of technical graduates from places such as Gyalpozhing institute and CST may address the gap and make leaps on those.

 Tek Karki, CEO, Netware Solutions Private Limited said that they had not lost as greatly as other sectors but have been slightly affected as they used to cater their service to FDI hotel projects which completely declined.

He said that if government to private entity support was well planned and teams of professionals were enabled, the domestic IT firms could definitely be able to cater to external markets as well.

He added, “Just running some training and crash courses will limit the development and genuine advancement.”

He said that the government must award contracts to local vendors with Joint Venture partners rather than bidding internationally to support local IT development.

He added that for the current time, the local vendors might not have the capacity but after two projects of similar kind, capacities are developed.

He added, “Also a contract should be divided among the genuine bidders too, so that private entities get their share of business at least to sustain the company and their staffs.”

 Sangay Tshering, CEO of Green E or otherwise known as Drukhost said, “It was an opportunity for an IT firm like ours to try out remote working, as our office was closed for 3 months.” 

He said, “We do not really have huge turnovers but we are quite a comfortable IT firm, as we had money in our bank account to sustain the team and were not in a financial crunch.”

 Reportedly the firm volunteered for a pro bono work for the Ministry of Health’s (MoH) defense against the COVID-19 situation by providing additional workforce to work along with DITT and TTPL coders.

He said that there is definitely an opportunity upcoming for IT firms in the future and that there is a role that Bhutanese could be playing.

 He said, “We are about 10 to 15 active ICT firms in Bhutan, let’s say that there are specific projects like ePIS, government taxation system etc. and, currently the trend is that the lead is taken up by DHI, but what I realized when our firm started volunteering with the government and the strong message that I was trying to send out to the government was that private businesses do not necessarily have to be just about money.”

 He said that among the 10 to 15 active domestic ICT firms, if the government could trust one such big project to them, they would actually lead the project for a lifetime and dedicate the work on the product.

“Before expanding into external markets our own local market is being catered by international vendors, so when we have the capacity but the project is given outside, when our own local authorities cannot trust us, the rhetoric of exporting services is out of the question” he added.

 He said, “With my 10 to 11 years of experience working with government agencies, corporate sectors, private sectors, when I meet head of government agencies, they are actually in shock that local firms have that much talent and capacity.”

 He believes that in terms of infrastructures Bhutan has come up a long way but there are still limitations in terms of limited access, cost, and the Internet Service Providers who could do a lot more.

He added, “At the end of the day, it is basically really up to them in terms of how they want to do it and then entry of another telco ISP would definitely make some impact.”

Another limitation he stated about is that we do not have a robust and innovative culture which makes people want to be something different.

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