MoIC minister updates parliament on the status of Digital Drukyul Flagship Program

Minister for Information & Communications Karma Donnen Wangdi. (Pic: National Assembly of Bhutan)

72 percent of Digital Drukyul flagship program completed according to report from 30 October 2022

The Member of Parliament (MP) for Chhumig-Ura constituency questioned Karma Donnen Wangdi, minister for information and communications, on the status and financial details of the Digital Drukyul Flagship Program during the question hour session on 8 November.

In response to this inquiry, Lyonpo stated that 72 percent of the program was completed overall as per the report from 30 October 2022.

According to the minister, almost Nu 1.716 billion (B) of the revised budget’s total of Nu 2.676 B has been spent thus far.

There are eight significant projects under the flagship program. Lyonpo said the national digital identity initiative is 77 percent complete while 482,341 biometric data have been acquired thus far under the biometric data collection project.

Only the three dzongkhags of Sarpang, Samtse, and Thimphu remain unfinished out of the 20 dzongkhags. The Ministry of Information and Communications (MoIC) minister said that he hopes the national digital identity project would be completed by April or May 2023.

The government-initiated network, which is 97 percent complete, is another major project.

“A fiber optic government network connects many government institutions, including hospitals, schools, and research centers. Nearly 1578 institutions and government agencies are now connected,” Lyonpo said.

He added that the government is working on a project called the domestic network ring closure as part of a plan to stabilize network and internet connections.

Four of these endeavors have been completed including the ring closure from Kanglung to Dewathang, Semtokha to Lobesa, Dagapela to Lhamoizingkha, and Ura in Bumthang to Maedtsho in Lhuentse.

Lyonpo added that the off grid three gewogs of Naro, Lingzhi and Seo also have seen fibre optic government network being initiated.

The third major project of Information and Communications Technology (ICT) capacity building has seen the project completion of 86 percent according to the Lyonpo. Under this, digital adoption project has seen 6,039 Bhutanese citizens being trained.

In addition, around 50 Small and medium scale businesses have also been given the same training and requirements.

Cyber security and fibre network management under the ICT capacity building project has seen 10 digital contents being made. Hybrid training mode and Udemy online learning platform under the project have trained 2,184 ICT personal on block chain technology and micro service architecture among others.

On the other hand, integrated citizen service project according to the minister has seen 86 percent completion.

This project comprises student information system, vehicle information system, visa permit service, dead reporting service, marital status checking service, group service, provident fund service, birth registration service, construction approval service, and rural timber service.

These services are being studied and by February and June 2023 the services will be inaugurated and established.

He added that parallel corpus for artificial intelligence (AI) machine training has resulted in more than 825,000 English words translated into Dzongkha out of the targeted one million.

In order to keep check of the network connectivity in the country, the ministry would be introducing an app in collaboration with Bhutan InfoComm and Media Authority (BICMA) and will be launched in Apple Appstore and android Play Store.

Project five of the digital Flagship includes Digital School in which, Lyonpo said that they have completed around 84 percent of the work.

In this project, Learning Management System (LMS) and Education Management Information System (EMIS) are also nearing to its completion and launch. However, for EMIS there is monitoring work still in progress and to put the system into use the government is training the teachers on the use of the system.

Integrated Business Licensing System (IBLS) project has provided a trial e-registration system which was recently launched in August but Lyonpo said that they have faced some technical difficulties and that they are still working on it to improve the system.

On electronic patient information system, Lyonpo Karma Donnen Wangdi said that at initial stage they faced some difficulties as the ideas, plans and technologies were old and difficult to implement with the modern ideas and implementation.

“It took us around six months to clear the difficulties. The Outpatient Department Module work has been completed and that they are going to launch by the end of November this year,” Lyonpo said.

Bhutan Integrated Taxation System (BITS) which is the most important project under the flagship program includes direct tax system, good and services tax system and integrated revenue and payment system.

Lyonpo Karma Donnen Wangdi is hopeful that all the projects under the flagship program can be completed in the current government’s tenure except for BITS project.