Bhutan is a small country nestled in the Himalayas with a population of little less than 8 lakhs. It is a unique constitutional monarchy. Democracy co-exists with monarchy in governance. The King retires at the age of 65 years, handing over the reins to the next generation. Bhutan is still very much rooted in tradition. But there are also signs of change. The change is driven by the youth comprising almost 60% of the total population. The literacy rate is as high as 80%. They are pushing the traditional boundaries.
Digital change is making its presence felt in the development and governance ecosystem. There is a desire by the government to engage more with public. They recognize that social media is the best tool to expedite the process of development and governance in the country.
To serve their vision, ‘Social Media for Development and Governance’ workshop was held from 27th -31st March 2017, in the capital of Bhutan, Thimphu, commissioned by the government. It was designed and organized by a local media organization called Bhutan Media and Communication Institute (BMCI). Digital Empowerment Foundation (DEF) collaborated by assigning a senior resource person as a social media trainer for the workshop. The workshop had 25 senior civil servants from various Ministries as participants, who are set to become the drivers of Bhutan’s digital future.
The workshop began with sharing the first draft of Bhutan’s social media policy and inviting suggestions and recommendations of civil servants on it. It will be introduced in the constitution once the final draft is ready.
All the ministries have a presence on Facebook, but their interaction is on a very amateurish level. The posts lack engagement and effectiveness. So the workshop started by learning how to create effective and powerful digital content in text, video and audio forms. The art of engagement through story-telling is the bedrock of any communication on social media. Second day was dedicated to developing an in-depth understanding of Facebook and how it can be leveraged for greater engagement. Importance of Twitter for governance cannot be underestimated. We’ve had several instances around the world where Twitter has been far more effective for governance than Facebook. The participants were eager to learn more about Twitter as they don’t use it as regularly as Facebook. We discussed number of case studies on the third day with regards to Twitter. Thereafter, the participants immediately started their profile on Twitter and began using it. We also discussed Instagram, which has some presence in Bhutan. Awareness towards digital rights is the key towards establishing an efficient digital ecosystem in the country. Fourth day was solely dedicated to the importance of understanding digital rights, privacy and security. We discussed how social media is being used for cyber bullying and harassment through number of case studies, and way and means to protect oneself. Crowdsourcing and e-commerce are defining the way we would conduct business in the times to come. It has democratized the entire professional ecosystem. And social media is used extensively in the propagation and execution of these ideas. Overall, we touched upon social media from the various perspective such as social media vs. traditional media; effective communication using social media as an empowering tool; art of creating content for online communication; popular social media platforms and their intensive use; measuring the impact- quantitate and qualitative analysis; marketing strategies and advertising; capacity building and strengthening; social media monitoring and evaluation; growing constituencies through social media; linking social media to programmatic goals. Besides, every day the participants took part in practical exercises of creating story driven visual content for social media, and created several graphics and promotional video. The participants also created a road map for implementing e-governance at the village, block and district level. Drugs are a rampant social problem in Bhutan. The youth is fast taking to drugs and their families are suffering. The participants conceptualized a social media campaign to address this menace. It is designed from the perspective of a mother. The mother is emotionally appealing to her child to refrain from drugs. The campaign is called ‘Be my gift not curse’. It will be officially launched with the support of Bhutan Narcotics Control Authority.
The five days training on ‘Social Media for Development and Governance’ for civil servants concluded with the Minister of Information and Communications, Lyonpo D.N Dhungyel, kindly gracing the closing ceremony and awarding the participants with certificates.
Bhutan is surely and securely on the path to digital renaissance.