About a decade ago, our policy makers recognised that technology was the answer to our rugged terrain.
The idea was that a farmer need not walk half a day to the nearest office to get a permit to fell the tree in his orchard or get a permit for a truckload of firewood. He could do it from the comforts of his fields.
The idea was good. But it really didn’t take off.
The environment is changing and it calls for change. If we don’t we are left behind. There is almost a movement now in embracing technology for development. This is a good move in the right direction.
This century is widely accepted as the Knowledge Century, largely driven by technology. Elsewhere, the past few decades have seen governments, non-government and private sector invest in technology and ride on it. We were overwhelmed and didn’t know or were not serious in making use of technology, especially ICT for progress.
The priority is set with the wisdom from the throne. His Majesty The King has asked us to “figure out ways to use technology to solve problems to improve governance, democracy, education, agriculture, to create jobs, enhance well-being, to make our cities safer and cleaner to benefit our people.”
The vision is crystal clear. All we have to do is realise this vision for the people and the country. Technology has advanced in the country. Today we are talking about space science. That is the capacity we have. But ironically, our policy makers, whether in the government or the corporate sector has not leveraged on technology.
Why should we wait in line for hours to exchange our LPG cylinder? Why should we run from office to office to get a clearance to start a small business? And why should we wait for the officer to return from his study tour to get his signature?
These bureaucratic procedures are delaying initiatives or ideas. It is hampering innovation and discouraging people. Bhutanese have seen how simple technology can make lives easier and comfortable. A classic example is the security clearance from the police.
The RBP headquarters used to be the most crowded place when students finish Class XII. They need the “NOC” to continue further studies. Today, at a click of a button, it is available unless you have adverse records. Beyond this, not much has happened.
A lot of the E or online services are cumbersome even for the computer literate. Some are defunct. There are technologies and our young people have even found out that with the help of technology we can predict crop yield. We are either not encouraging or are overwhelmed with the development in technology.
Technology has done wonders around the world in almost every field. The only positivity is that our young people will demand investment in it. There are many initiatives now to leverage on technology. It should be at the centre of our decision-making process. For a start, what about practical moves like a radical re-prioritisation of the budget?
Instead of purchasing expensive Apple laptops for public servants who only use them to check mail or Facebook, the budget could be diverted to schools, colleges and other educational institutions so that the next generation grows up being more ICT literate.