Bhutan's Parliament tests ‘Virtual Zomdu’ facility

Jul 29, 2014

imageHon'ble Speaker Jigme Zangpo and UNDP Resident Representative Christina Carlson at the first "Virtual Zomdu"
The National Assembly Speaker, Tshogpon Jigme Zangpo, met his constituents in Monggar and had more than an hour of real-time discussion. But this time he did not have to travel to his constituency; the representative and the electorate were connected by video conference.

The Speaker said: “Such video conferencing facility is new and promising, said the Speaker. “Traveling to Mongar from Thimphu takes at least two days. The facility will enable close interactions between representatives and the people”.   The participants said they had never dreamed to be able to meet the Tshogpon in real time while he is in Thimphu.

Virtual Zomdu, the video conferencing facility, was prototyped at the National Assembly as part of their efforts to take Parliament to the people. The people engaged in discussion with the Tshogpon were seated in Monggar Community Information Center. Some of the issues discussed included school bus replacement, tax increases, vehicle import, requirement of community clearance for establishg mining and quarrying companies, and development activities.

UNDP’s Resident Representative Christina Carlson observed that Virtual Zomdu could allow parliamentarians to interact more frequently with their constituents. “Following today’s successful test, the challenge will now be to develop a sustainable way of bringing the ‘Virtual Zomdu’ to all parts of Bhutan, and ensure everyone has easier access to their representatives.”  

Harnessing in the power of innovation, UNDP Bhutan is working with partners to prototype “Virtual Zomdu”, using existing technologies to even greater advantage.  The plan is for members of Bhutan’s National Assembly and National Council to be connected via existing fiber optic technology within Community Information Centres (CICs).

To test out the technical aspects as well as interest and usability of the technology, prototyping sessions are being held this week between the Speaker, MP Zangley Drukpa and their constituencies in order to test the connections available at the Parliament, Districts and the Community Centres.  Considering the long time it takes to reach many communities in Bhutan, communications between MPs and the constituencies can be naturally difficult. Yet, the Ministry of Information and Communications (MoIC) Bhutan has been fast increasing connectivity between government agencies (G2G), and between government and the people (G2C).

The project is a joint effort by the Gross National Happiness Commission, National Council and National Assembly, Departments for Local Governance, Department of Information Technology and Telecom, Bhutan Post, and UNDP.

Currently Bhutan has established Community Centres (CCs) in 131 locations across the country. Almost 100 of these are now online, and connected by fiber optic cable to the national gateway (Thimphu WAN), and with internet strong enough for videoconferencing.

About the UNDP Regional Bureau for the Asia-Pacific Innovation Fund:

The “Virtual Zomdu” project is supported from the UNDP Regional Bureau for the Asia-Pacific Innovation Fund.  Earlier in 2014, UNDP Country Offices in the Asia-Pacific region submitted 60 proposals, of which 16 were selected for support during a prototyping phase.  The aim of the Innovation Fund is to provide creative space and seed funding to experiment with new ways to tackle complex development issues.

Contact Information

Annamari Salonen
Acting Head
Inclusive Governance Unit
UNDP Bhutan