This article was written for my good friend Borangdaza, the editor of Dharig magazine (now renamed to Gadget and available for sale in the market in Bhutan and India) and another travel magazine which will soon be out too :)
Information technology has been on a marathon, revolutionalizing the world on its way such that states and nations are propelled towards better economic growth, newer modes of political participation (think Opposition Leader) and renewed sense of societies and communities. Competitive companies now deploy information technology for its promises in commercial potential, be it be by customer profiling, staff empowerment or managing a project. IT has permeated every wall, every barrier, often breaking them when necessary for the possibility of a competitive advantage.

Yet to think of the varying savviness of Bhutanese people in the domain of IT is least to say astounding! This is more than evident when you are doing a shift of extending helpdesk support after office hours and on the weekends.

A colleague once received a raging customer’s call for support and the IT person, in an effort to resolve the problem step by step had asked the man at the other end what browser he was using. The reply that came hissing was: “Browser ya? I am using DrukNet browser”. So, the customer’s browser had a hangup and DrukNet was to blame for that!

Another colleague had faced similar issues with another customer who was not only raging but also had problems following instructions over the phone. Assessing the portability of the system so the IT man could personally fix it, he had asked the customer if his was a laptop or a desktop and the man had replied “I don’t know Sir but its sitting on my table”.

We have homes in remote areas without computers and we have had people who believed the mouse was really a mouse, not to forget we have even had Executive level personalities who had simply no idea how to download an attached file from an email. IT persons were then on call for duty, to fix a computer, a printer, an internet connection, an email problem and related tasks that people generally assume is the start and end of an IT man’s job. Ours is an industry with an image problem and if you are a woman, you have had it worse. You are definitely sidelined, your skills and knowledge are undermined and your participation in forums will be based on a quota system for women participation. Your fathers, brothers, husbands, male friends and colleagues will be asked for technical support and you will follow if none of them can help. They will presume you probably fall in the same line but if they are kind, they will be polite anyway. Some won’t bother even that.

So why do we have that fuzzy image?

First we have IT professionals with varying degrees of qualifications and skills. Some have pursued engineering courses in Computer Science or IT, others have BCA, B.Sc in Computer Science etc. This has confused the general lot. Which one is better and which one is not and what’s the difference? Naturally, the general consensus is that courses that demand four years to complete are better than those that have taken three years. But other than their grade of entry, their qualifications matter little in their job responsibilities. The real learning starts after their employment where they are presented with real time equipment and connections to deal with. Unfortunately, IT professionals in Ministries have a different tale to tell – a dissatisfied tale of doing nothing much of the time rather than doing paperwork, attending meetings that come with grand luncheon and tea sessions and any other tasks that least concern a technical person. In Corporations and Private sectors, you are either continuously learning hands-on or speeding towards your career’s expiry date.

What mounts the confusion is that everybody is an IT person these days. People with myriad backgrounds other than IT are entering the IT industry. This has thrown at us the question of the credibility of the undergraduate courses in IT that provide the very foundation of launching a career in IT, a pavement to a line of specialisation that best suits you later in life. This is often overlooked and IT professionals are expected to be the jack of all trades – he must ace the hardware department, be affluent with programming skills, must know the networking technologies and are expected to know the works of a system administrator. The worst part is that within the IT industry, a duty of responsibility is sometimes not seen in sufficient light. Skilled programmers may not even be recognised within their own companies, and their chances of recognition and acknowledgement may be dimmer than that of a network engineer or a system administrator who deal with mission critical systems and therefore, are more likely to bag the prize of a bonus or a fast promotion.

The bottom line is – can IT be seen as a profession in the same footing as doctors, civil engineers and other professions? The answer is yes, it can be, if the broad industry of IT can be divided into separate disciplines such that software engineers are different from network engineers and the notion of jack of all trades can be dispelled. The level of skills, both technical and professional, needs to be recognised.

However, a professional is the one who carries out his duty with an ethical approach and his duty to his profession is much much more than his duty to his employer. For the purposes for recognising IT professionals, various countries have standards that accredit them for their professional recognition. For instance, Australia has the Australian Computer Society, Hongkong has the Hongkong Computer Society, New Zealand has the New Zealand Computer Society and so on and each of these organisations has pages of codes of ethics and codes of conducts that the members must adhere to. Much of ethics refer to giving primary importance to the public, displaying professionalism, and one’s continuous professional growth through learning and development. One of the basic codes of conducts also includes avoiding misuse of office resources which is unethical. In the context of Bhutan through, adherence to such conducts is a far cry. Office resources must also supply family needs (the A4 sized papers at offices can suffice for children’s drawing canvases at home) and newfound policies to block social sites like Facebook are met with angry retorts and frenzied comments in public forums. The magic of sense have yet to play catch up with the educated lot in Bhutan.

However, not all is lost. Given that IT is a really recent phenomenon in Bhutan, the fact that we are at par if not ahead of some of the most advanced countries of the world is something to be proud of. And where the profession in the field is concerned, one step at a time and we will be there too!
3 Responses
  1. Chezang Says:

    This is really good analysis. I enjoyed reading la!

  2. Sonam Says:

    me too enjoyed this very much la, ma'am kinga!

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