Free WiFi and Sungjoen App faces reality of cost and tech

The government promised to set up the Sungjoen App and provide free WiFi to all citizens within the first 120 days of its governance. However, this didn’t take place, and people are still wondering about the pledges.

According to the Information and Communication Minister Karma Donnen Wangdi, the ministry is still exploring suitable ways forward for free WiFi and SungJoen App. 

Lyonpo said that it is extremely difficult for a government agency to handle commercial deals while also managing the operations and maintenance of such deployments across the country.

“The ministry has done a considerable amount of research and works on these issues, in terms of determining the economic and technical requirements for the development and operations of the platform, keeping our current and long-term national interests in mind,” Lyonpo said.

As per Lyonpo, the findings reveal that the government will need to implement a system similar to WhatsApp, WeChat, and Zoom, which would necessitate huge investments in infrastructure to handle hundreds of thousands of transactions reliably.

Lyonpo said that it would also require the establishment of online support services (24X7), and would require domestic capabilities with high technical skills, to develop and operate the vital components to ensure reliable services.

“Moreover, the budgetary impact that the initiative will have on the overall development and the huge costs to operate it over the years would be significant,” Lyonpo said.

Lyonpo added that since the government’s ultimate intention is to reduce communication costs and make ICT and media services affordable and accessible for all the citizens, it is exploring all ways and means to achieve the objective.

“We are, therefore, working closely with the regulator to identify practical solutions to bring down the costs of internet connectivity, which would not only help the government take prudent decisions, but will also help us meticulously avoid crowding out technological innovation in our private sector,” Lyonpo added.

The Sungjoen App will be updated in the future to serve as a universal modular platform, with functions such as making or receiving payments, G2C services, and government notifications/ announcements, among others, being added.

In terms of Free WiFi, through local ISPs, the ministry proposes to install at least one Starlink WiFi hotspot in each of the 1,044 chiwogs and 100 WiFi hotspots in urban areas. For a period of five years, the project is expected to cost Nu 2.930 billion.

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