Bhutan's own "Silicon Valley" coming up with Sri Lankan help

Bhutan has been lacking in a viable information technology sector

Dec 11, 2020
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Bhutan has been lacking in a viable information technology sector. But that will no longer be the case in 2021 as a Sri Lankan tech entrepreneur, Sesiri Pathirane, with the help of Bhutan’s government, is setting up the country’s first private sector fund tech park - Bhutan’s Education and Technology Academy Park (BETA Park).

The park is expected to be launched in mid-2021 and is already being called Bhutan’s own Silicon Valley. It will have co-working spaces and academic campus of the Landon Institute of Business and Technology. 

In comparison to the west and other South Asian countries, Bhutan and Sri Lanka made a quite delayed entry into the IT sector. “When you look at Asia in general, we lag behind compared to the West but if you look at places like Sri Lanka and Bhutan specifically we are faced with many and similar challenges due to lack of understanding and enthusiasm to explore technology,” Sesiri Pathirane said in an interview to Colombo page. 

He said, to address the root of unemployment in Bhutan, especially among the educated youth, there is a need to bridge the prevailing  “disconnect between academia and industry.” Top western universities had also faced the similar problem but they sailed through it by closing the gaps, he added. 

Both Sri Lanka and Bhutan have this culture of avoiding risk-taking tendencies, and this needs to be changed. 

“We need to rethink our education & make it more job-oriented also with a focus on honing entrepreneurship,” Pathirane said.  BETA Park will provide a gamut of services, including incubators, an angel network, mentorship, and co-working spaces. 

Highlighting the importance of co-working spaces, he said, the key to success in this sector is networking; startups will benefit more from networking enabled by these co-working spaces. 

He emphasized that local tech companies in Sri Lanka and Bhutan need to go beyond offering just services and consulting. They should focus more on creating solutions, Pathirane said based on his experience in both the countries. 

Describing the role of the COVID-19 in pushing this transformation, he said, “after the COVID-19 pandemic, people who weren’t ready to embrace the digital struggled and were gravely disadvantaged compared to those who were more adaptive & savvy technologically.” 

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