How so­cial me­dia is chang­ing Lhuentse

Business Bhutan - - Nation - Jigme Wangchen from Lhuentse

In­for­ma­tion that of­ten took days and weeks to be dis­sem­i­nated among peo­ple in var­i­ous places in Lhuentseear­lier is now be­ing done with just a cou­ple of mouse clicks.

This is how in­for­ma­tion dis­sem­i­na­tion in one of the re­motest Dzongkhag in the east with one of the high­est poverty ratesin the coun­try has changed over the years and all thanks to devel­op­ment in tech­nolo­gies, es­pe­cially in­ter­net and the ad­vent of so­cial me­dia.

Apart from its Dzongkhag web­page www.lhuentse.gov.bt, the Dzongkhag ad­min­is­tra­tion uses so­cial me­dia, pop­u­larly Face­book, for dis­sem­i­na­tion of in­for­ma­tion and in giv­ing out pub­lic in­for­ma­tion

. LhuentseD­zon­grab Kin­ley Dor­ji­ac­knowl­edges that so­cial me­dia apps have helped the Dzongkhag Ad­min­is­tra­tion to reach in­for­ma­tion to their peo­ple ef­fec­tively within a short span of time.

He ex­plains that all the im­por­tant in­for­ma­tion and news are posted on the Dzongkhag’s Face­book page and that it’s up­dated reg­u­larly. “We just don’t only up­date and share in­for­ma­tion, but we also pro­vide peo­ple to en­gage in dis­cus­sion. We pro­vide cit­i­zens to com­ment on pol­icy, re­port crimes, in shar­ing and ex­press­ing their views,” he said.

He adds that the works and ac­tiv­i­ties that they post on their Face­book page are not only viewed by the peo­ple in Lhuentse, but rare also viewed by peo­ple in the coun­try and that such a trend is good. “There is more scrutiny now. We have to be on our toes more than ever. It’s good. This would also en­sure trans­parency and ac­count­abil­ity,” Kin­ley Dorji ex­plains.

Apart from the Dzongkhag Face­book page which is up­dated reg­u­larly, the Dzongkhag Ad­min­is­tra­tion also uses its web­page, gog­gle page, tele­gram, WeChat groups for sec­tor heads for shar­ing in­for­ma­tion and in keep­ing the civil ser­vants and the peo­ple in­formed.

And for civil ser­vants in Lhuentse, so­cial me­dia apps such as Face­book, Twit­ter and WeChat have not only helped them to stay in touch with their friends and rel­a­tives else­where, but they are also mak­ing them aware of the devel­op­ments hap­pen­ing in Thim­phu and the ma­jor de­ci­sions taken there.

A civil ser­vant work­ing with the Dzongkhag RNR of­fice says they rely mostly on Face­book for out­side in­for­ma­tion.

“We of­ten miss the evening news on TV. Some­times the sig­nals are er­ratic. News­pa­pers reach here more than days af­ter they get pub­lished. Thanks to Face­book, we are at least aware of what’s hap­pen­ing out­side Lhuentse,” he adds.

An­other pop­u­lar so­cial me­dia or mo­bile ap­pli­ca­tion used by of­fi­cials in Lhuentse Dzongkhag is WeChat, a pop­u­lar Chi­nese mul­ti­pur­pose mes­sag­ing and so­cial me­dia app that was first re­leased in 2011. This is mostly used by the Dzongkhag’s sec­tor heads to shar­ing in­for­ma­tion and news.

“We have two WeChat groups and it has proven to be the most ef­fec­tive method of get­ting feed­back and shar­ing in­for­ma­tion more ef­fi­ciently within a short span of time and it also acts as a dis­cus­sion panel,” a sec­tor head in Lhuentse says.

“It has helped us to dis­cuss is­sues in our sec­tor, re­view progress of the works that are un­der­way and helped ex­plore so­lu­tions to prob­lems that are there,” he adds.

Ad­di­tion­ally, al­most ev­ery gewog and vil­lage in Lhuentse has a WeChat group, that are headed and ad­min­is­tered by vil­lage Gups and Tshog­pas. They share in­for­ma­tion and lat­est news that they get from of­fices of the Dzongkhag and Gewog Ad­min­is­tra­tion.

And while the trend of Chipons mov­ing from one house­hold to an­other, from one com­mu­nity to an­other, shar­ing news and in­for­ma­tion is still preva­lent in most of the vil­lages, even they use WeChat to share in­for­ma­tion most of the times.

Mean­while, Tshog­paChoniDorji from Wam­bur vil­lage in Tshenkhar Gewog, Lhuentse, who has cre­ated a WeChat group along with the vil­lagers, says it has been ef­fec­tive in shar­ing in­for­ma­tion to the vil­lagers.

Choni Dorji, who is also the ad­min­is­tra­tor of the group, men­tions that he shares news and in­for­ma­tion that he gets from the Dzongkhag and Gewog Ad­min­is­tra­tion to the vil­lagers and also dis­cusses is­sues in the group chat.

An­other res­i­dent, AumWangmo from Tshenkhar Gewog, mean­while, also de­pends on WeChat to know about what is go­ing to hap­pen in the vil­lage or Gewog.

“Such tech­nolo­gies are very help­ful if we use in a pro­duc­tive ways. But for some, I have heard that it has even cre­ated fights among cou­ple and peo­ple sep­a­rat­ing from each other be­cause of this,” she adds.

Sim­i­larly, even teach­ers from most of the schools in Lhuentse Dzongkhag have formed WeChat groups to keep in touch and as a means to share news and in­for­ma­tion re­gard­ing to their schools and teach­ing ac­tiv­i­ties.

How­ever, as vil­lagers in­creas­ingly re­ceive lat­est news and up­dates on their cell phones, con­nect to their friends and rel­a­tives, far and near, many don’t seem to be equipped to an­a­lyze, eval­u­ate and un­der­stand the in­for­ma­tion that they get on their cell­phones. Many vil­lagers seem to be in obliv­ion when asked how they dif­fer­en­ti­ate real con­tent from fake con­tent, and real news from fake news.

Tshenkhar Gup TshetenWangdi said some ru­ral peo­ple trusted al­most all of what they see on so­cial me­dia.

“On many oc­ca­sions, they seem to be mis­led by the fake sto­ries posted and shared by their friends on so­cial me­dia. They don’t use it pro­duc­tively. And with many peo­ple ow­ing smart phones, they also have to be con­stantly re­minded to con­cen­trate dur­ing im­por­tant Gewog zom­dus,” he ex­plains.

And apart from so­cial me­dia, ra­dio, how­ever, re­mains a very pop­u­lar me­dia among peo­ple in Lhuentse. Per­haps be­cause of peo­ple’s abil­ity and its eas­ier us­abil­ity, many still de­pend on the ra­dio for news and en­ter­tain­ment.

“Phones are very dif­fi­cult to use com­pared to a ra­dio. That’s why we use ra­dio for en­ter­tain­ment and also to keep our­selves in­formed about what is hap­pen­ing across the coun­try and to up­date our­selves with the lat­est news,” says Kezangla, a farmer from Gangzur.

Lhuentse, mean­while, is a re­mote Dzongkhag with high poverty in­ci­dence in the east. The Dzongkhag is en­riched with deep rooted tra­di­tion and cul­ture. All its eight Ge­wogsare en­dowed with its own unique lo­cal cul­tural festivals which are cel­e­brated around the year.

The Dzongkhag has achieved over 98% of telecom­mu­ni­ca­tion con­nec­tiv­ity with only Tsango vil­lage un­der Khoma left un­con­nected due to the sheer dis­tance. The Dzongkhag is re­cently con­nected with 3G in­ter­net ser­vices. Ac­cord­ing to records main­tained by Lhuentse’ Gewog Ad­min­is­tra­tion Of­fice and Re­gional Of­fice, there were 136 house­holds with fixed tele­phone con­nec­tion and 88 house­holds with in­ter­net ac­cess as of 2016. While Tashi-Cell users’ num­bers were not di­vulged, there were 9,500 B-Mo­bile users in 2013 that in­creased to 10,300 as of 2016.

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