AI Insights

Launch of AI Lab Program in Bhutan

June 14, 2024

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Artificial Intelligence (AI) continues to shape the future of humanity with its transformative potential across numerous domains, shaping economies, societies, and individual lives in profound ways. AI has transformed many aspects of daily life, streamlining repetitive tasks, freeing up human workers to focus on higher-value activities that require creativity and problem-solving skills. Bhutan as a nation committed to Gross National Happiness (GNH) and sustainable development, stands to benefit and tap AI’s potential to enhance productivity & efficiency, improve service delivery and foster innovation. As AI continues to evolve, the opportunities for innovation and positive impact are boundless, shaping a more interconnected and technologically advanced world. 

Investing in AI is one of the strategies of the Government Technology (GovTech) Agency to tap on the opportunities and potential of AI to transform the nation and lead in the digital world. GovTech’s strategy here is to establish the AI Lab program in the country in collaboration with Druk Holding and Investments (DHI), Thimphu TechPark Limited (TTPL) and Omdena. DHI’s involvement as an implementing partner for this initiative is important, given DHI’s mission to strategize technology and innovation pathways to propel the nation into a tech-based economy through collaborations, research initiatives, startups and national capacity building. This program is a first of its kind designed to cover the complete ecosystem needed for building a niche in AI. The program was virtually launched on 8th June 2024 with 219 participants and partners joining the official launch.

“The AI lab program is designed to provide a complete experience for AI enthusiasts from building the capability, collaborating in real world projects with global experts to promoting AI startups with global market access. The exciting part of this program is also the collaboration and connection that will occur between the local engineers and global developers/experts”

– said Secretary of GovTech

The AI lab program is a 5 year project consisting of 4 components that will run simultaneously within each year. The components are upskilling local tech talent, establishing local Omdena chapters to help bridge the gap between societal impact and AI, building tools and solutions at scale to cater to the country as a whole, and create a startup incubator whose goal will be to launch a minimum of two to five global AI startups. The key project targets are to train over 1,000 people, establish about five local communities of AI practitioners, develop 10+ AI tools/solutions, and create a startup incubator with the goal to launch a minimum of two to five global AI startups.

“Bhutan is a unique country where Gross National Happiness is more important than Gross Domestic Product. Its primary focus on the well-being and happiness of people makes it the perfect place to build AI solutions for Good. Thus we are super excited to be part of building the AI Lab program in Bhutan and help it move towards the new ethically based AI economy whilst engaging the local community”

– said CEO of Omdena

The project has built-in sustainability through the third phase of the project focused on evaluation of the overall project success and assessment of the operation with complete local engagement.

“The collaboration amongst GovTech, Omdena, DHI and TTPL to put up the AI Lab Program but more significantly the overwhelming interest from participants to be a part of this journey is a testimony that we are all committed to developing AI capacity and talent pipeline in building the next generation of industries from Bhutan. The AI Lab Program is an important component of DHI’s Innovation Strategy in building the Innovation Ecosystem for a Startup Economy.”

– said CEO of DHI

The first AI lab program will be set up at the Bhutan Innovation and Technology Center (BITC) operated by TTPL. It is an important undertaking to fulfil TTPL’s vision to “inspire, enable, and develop Unicorns” in the country. 

“TTPL is excited to be a partner to advance the education on Artificial intelligence in the country. We will establish an AI Development Center with support from the National Information Agency (NIA), South Korea that will complement the AI Lab program in July. We believe these initiatives will help the country venture into the digital economy.”

– said CEO of TTPL

The project is led by GovTech Agency in partnership with Druk Holding & Investments Ltd. and Thimphu TechPark Limited as national partners and Omdena as the international partner. 

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