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Going electronic

The last few weeks had been about going electronic. We launched the Point of Sale and the government is piloting the e-procurement systems in four agencies.
The developments are a sign of Bhutan moving forward. If we can, why not, we should. But there are problems and we see that it is not going to be a smooth sailing.
The e-procurement will have ramifications. It is Internet based and at the rate of “System not working” excuses our Internet service providers are giving, the system will backfire. We will have contractors or those availing the services complaining. It will give them reasons to allege of manipulation and favouritism.
It is not easy to go electronic without having good infrastructure in place. Just ask the fuel dispensers. There are not many who avail the PoS facility. The few that want are always disappointed either because the Internet is not working or the manager forgot to recharge the “net package”. This discourages the people who already find the PoS system inconvenient.
E-procurement is the Prime Minister’s massive project. It is a good initiative if it can make procurement transparent, efficient and paperless. There is a huge volume of money involved. In fact, it is the government agencies that spend the most in procurement. With more focus on infrastructure building, a lot of works will be contracted out electronically. Therefore, the system needs to be fool proof.
The Prime Minister came up with a good reasoning, with real figures, when people complained of not knowing to use the system. He had said that when all of them can use Facebook or Wechat, the e-procurement system is no difficult. There is a point in this. This cannot be an excuse.
The hurdle, more practical, is the Internet. It is not reliable at all. When we can’t withdraw money from the ATMs as and when we want, because of Internet issues, the e-procurement is going to make some contractors angry. Beyond the anger, it is the importance of the work. Delays caused by Internet issues will delay the work process.
People should be encouraged to go electronic whether it is paying for a plate of momo or procuring a government construction work, but without reliable Internet services, it will be the biggest hurdle.
Meanwhile, another repercussion would be on the print media. If all the ministries, dzongkhags, gewogs, autonomous agencies and corporations are going to sell their advertisement for work through the e-procurement system, most of the papers would have to fold.
Today, government announcements and notifications are the major source of revenue for the papers, especially the national newspaper. If these advertisements stops coming to the papers, their only source of revenue is gone. When there is no revenue, papers will have to cut cost. Kuensel will bear the biggest brunt, as they automatically receive the bulk of the advertisement.
This will hamper Kuensel’s circulation, coverage and therefore the role of informing the people. The paper will have to cut cost. In the end, it will be the people who will be at a loss.

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