To mark the 15-years milestone since the creation of the World Summit on the Information Society, the 15th annual World Submit on the Information Society (WSIS) Forum 2020 was held virtually over the summer months culminating in the final week of the Forum running from 7-10th September 2020.
For the first virtual WSIS Forum 2020, the theme was “Fostering digital transformation and global partnerships: WSIS Action Lines for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)”. The Forum featured special tracks with thematic topics, high-level sessions, regional workshops, as well as a series of WSIS Action Line facilitation meetings. For the last 15 years, the WSIS Forum has proven to be an efficient global multi-stakeholder platform that is open and inclusive for all to exchange knowledge and information, enhance collaborative networks, and to share best practices in the ICTs sector. The WSIS Forum 2020 also saw the launch of the United Nations E-Government Survey 2020 by UNDESA. Since its inception in 2001, the United Nations E-Government Survey has become an indispensable “ranking, mapping and measuring” tool for policymakers and analysts engaged in comparative analysis and contemporary research on e-government. The E-Governance Development Index (EGDI) for Bhutan in 2020 climbed to 103rd position from 126th in 2018 among the 193 countries in the world.
The Hon’ble Secretary for the Ministry of Information and Communications, Dasho Phuntsho Tobgay attended the Ministerial Round Table Meeting of the WSIS Forum on 8th September 2020 along with Ministers and Deputy Ministers of ICTs from around the World. In keeping with the overall WSIS vision of connecting the unconnected and bridging the digital divide, the Hon’ble Secretary highlighted on the activities initiated by the country to achieve the target such as the implementation of the Rural Connectivity Project (RCP) to connect all the economically non-viable areas with mobile network services through the Universal Service Fund, and also on the implementation of the National Broadband Master Plan to lay down fiber optic networks in the country. As of date, 742 economically non-viable villages has been connected with mobile cellular networks. Further, OPGW network has been laid down in 18 Districts with the remaining 2 districts and 201 Gewogs being connected with ADSS.
During the Forum, Bhutan pledged to rigorously work towards bridging the digital divide by connecting the unconnected through the implementation of the Digital Drukyul Project which primarily aims to enhance the ICT/Telecommunication connectivity in the country, digitization of the schools, integration of the online public services, integration of the taxation system through the use of ICTs, development of an e-patient information systems and improvement in the ease of doing business by leveraging the ICTs. Nonetheless, the Hon’ble Secretary highlighted on the difficulties that a developing and a land locked country like Bhutan faces in providing cheap access to the internet services due to the inherent higher cost of bringing internet to the country.
Additionally, sharing Bhutan’s experience on the new normal caused by the global COVID-19 pandemic, the Hon’ble Secretary underlined how Bhutan was able to leverage the ICT and the e-learning platforms to provide education continuity to our students, and successfully adopt a tracing app called Druk Trace to trace contacts of Covid-19 patients. Further, drawing on the lessons learned from the Covid-19 pandemic, the Hon’ble Secretary underscored the significant role that the ICT sector is expected to play, and thereby, the need for the sector to rise up to the challenge of being an enabler for all sectors.
Contact Person:Mr. Thinley Dorji