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Low utility due to non-availability of services

Community Centres: Non-availability of frequently used public services on the G2C (government to citizen) online platform is the reason behind its low utilisation by rural communities with access to G2C, says the operator of community centres (CC), Bhutan Post.

The company also points out that the lack of a legal framework and clear cut guidelines between Bhutan Post and the government is impeding G2C service delivery through CCs, and has actually lengthened the time taken to avail some public services, instead of shortening it.

“The nature of the services is such that it is not really required frequently by citizens,” said Bhutan Post senior manager, Norbu Zangmo.

So far, between 32-37 public services are available online in the CCs that are connected to the network that makes G2C accessible.

Norbu Zangmo pointed out that most of the public services are one-time use types, such as birth and death registration, or construction of religious structures. She added that so far the most used service has been availing birth certificates.

Department of information technology and telecom (DITT) promotions division head, Chencho, also backed this view, pointing out that the public services available on G2C are limited to specific groups. For instance, he pointed out that the purchase of explosives G2C service would be availed only by contractors.

However, G2C project director, Jigme Thinley, disagreed that the G2C services are limited to one time use types. He said that G2C services such as applying for a security clearance certificate is regularly used, and that availing birth certificates cannot be a one time type service as there are thousands of births occurring every year.

He pointed out that G2C services may be underutilised currently because utilisation will depend on how Bhutan Post markets and prices these services. He said that if a CC is connected to the internet several more G2C services can be availed. He pointed out that so far, G2C services have been used up to 41,000 times.

However, the lack of a legal framework between Bhutan Post and the government means there is no legal basis for the company to collect revenue on behalf of the government, and the company has not aggressively marketed the services in the rural communities, said DITT promotions division head, Chencho.

Norbu Zangmo added that the lack of a legal framework meant no clear cut instructions exist on how Bhutan Post applies for certain public services on behalf of a citizen. For example, she pointed out that when a citizen lacks certain legal documents, there are no instructions on how the application procedure is to proceed.

As a result of lacking such instructions or guidelines, Norbu Zangmo said the turn around time for certain G2C services have been taking even longer than the manual process, including the simple procedure of applying for a birth certificate.

G2C’s Jigme Thinley said that the issue of the legal framework has been forwarded to the Office of the attorney general (OAG). He said that the OAG has informed G2C that an Act may be required for the legal framework. But he also added that an executive order might instead replace the requirement for an Act. He could not provide a time frame for when the legal framework may be ready.

Another issue that has prevented increased utilisation of G2C services is that only 25 CCs are currently connected to high speed internet which would allow access to G2C services.

Of the 100 CCs that are currently operational, only 25 are providing both offline and online services, while 75 provide only offline services such as printing, scanning, etc.

DITT infrastructure head, Karma Wangdi, said that 131 CCs would be connected to the internet by the end of this month.

It is also expected that 185 CCs will be operational by June. The government has targeted placing one CC in every gewog.  The remaining 20 CCs has been left for the 11th five year plan given budget deficit and the rural electrification plan progress.

CCs are infrastructures that provide access to information communications technology such as computers, printers, telephones, etc., to obtain online public services. However, CCs are also designed to be a one stop shop to provide a number of other services, such as serving as a platform for education and entertainment for their communities, for instance, by being a venue for the non-formal education program, to screen films, or hold community meetings.

Additionally, department of information technology and telecom (DITT) also envisions CCs being used by the corporate, private, and non-government organisation sectors to provide their services.

The government chose Bhutan Post to operate and manage the CCs for a period of five years, and has provided them with a subsidy of 28M to develop a sustainable business model.

Around Nu 267.75M will be spent for the first 185 CCs. DITT has requested the government to fund the remaining 20 CCs.

By Gyalsten K Dorji

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