IT Park down but not out

Setting up an IT park is one of three components of the Bhutan Private Sector Development Project, which was initiated by the Royal Government of Bhutan. Its main objective is to support the private sector-led economic growth that is capable of combating youth unemployment and to help to diversify the economic base of the country. Conceptualized in consultation with the World Bank in 2006, two years prior to the country’s first democratic election, the project has been facing difficulties in coming up with practical and sustainable solutions to the current state of Bhutan’s economy.

Thimphu TechPark, the one and only IT park currently under operation, inaugurated in May 2012. Thimphu Tech Park Private Limited (TTPL) that financed the construction cost of

around Nu. 300 mn will operate the IT park for 30 years and its public-private partnership (PPP) contract can be renewed twice on mutual agreement. There are four international companies (Scan Café, Southtech, SELISE and Respect Point) and four Bhutanese (iSOFT, Data Centre Services, Bhutan Telecom contact centre and Thimphu TechPark Ltd) operating from there currently.

The Chief Executive Officer of Thimphu TechPark Ltd, Tshering Cigay Dorji explained that the company would naturally succeed if Bhutan becomes more successful in promoting itself as an attractive investment destination especially in the IT/IT Enable Services (ITES) sector. The future of the park hinges on how investors rate Bhutan as a home of their business. “We work very closely with the relevant government agencies

in promoting the IT park to foreign investors as there is a strong need for a holistic approach in promoting the country to the foreign investors,” he said.

The CEO pointed out investors were concerned about the availability of reliable power, the Internet connectivity and an adequate pool of human resources, which they presumed Bhutan might not have. “In fact we do have all of these in place. So we try to clear their misconception and tell them that we have infrastructure, redundant power and fiber-optic communication facilities. And above all the country has thousands of well-educated young people.”

As widely shared in Bhutan youth unemployment is a major challenge the country faces, but there are plenty opportunities to create jobs in the IT/ITES sector only if all parties in

concern put more effort to tap this huge potential. CEO stressed that the IT park surely offered hope to the situation that didn’t seem to have many solutions. “There are already about 360 youths employed by various companies here. The number will surely grow by leaps and bounds if all stakeholders in the sector work together.”

The criticism to the project, however, is that Thimphu TechPark has failed to make an achievement worth the huge investment. CEO argued that the company had reached a modest level of success, mentioning the park has another four start-up companies operating from the incubation centre in Bhutan Innovation and Technology Center (BITC). The company has stepped up an effort to do more focused and targeted marketing. He added that they are in close discussion with at least two companies that may come in soon.

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