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Bhutan’s digital identity | Ujjwal Deep Dahal, VOX 81

The CEO of Bhutan’s sovereign wealth fund talks about building out decentralized digital identity.



Ujjwal Deep Dahar, DHI

Ujjwal Deep Dahal is CEO of Druk Investment & Holdings, the sovereign wealth fund of Bhutan. Ujjwal is unusual in that he is not a banker or asset manager, nor a career civil servant. He is an engineer.

Bhutan is a small country of 800,000 people locked in the Himalaya Mountains. DHI has a mandate to transform it into a hub for digital innovation. The foundation of this is its ongoing rollout of a national digital identity, built on blockchain so it’s distributed and self-sovereign, rather than a centralized database run by the government.

DHI owns stakes in the country’s key businesses, which it is pushing to create new services and products on top of the digital ID.

Bhutan is also ‘carbon negative’, that is it sequesters more carbon than it uses, so DHI is also looking at tech-enabled carbon markets or other means of leveraging this natural resource heritage.

  • Timecodes:
  • 0:00 – Ujjwal Deep Dahal, DHI
  • 1:51 – What’s different when an engineer runs a sovereign wealth fund
  • 3:16 – Introducing Druk Holdings & Investments and its venture agenda
  • 8:52 – Can Silicon Valley-style venture capitalism work within Bhutan’s promotion of “Gross National Happiness”?
  • 12:09 – Leveraging Bhutan’s forests and tech to develop carbon markets
  • 17:00 – Introducing National Digital Identity
  • 19:20 – Why design NDI based on blockchain and decentralization?
  • 21:00 – Rollout risks and challenges
  • 24:15 – Deploying services and apps on top of NDI
  • 27:30 – DHI’s big-picture strategy around NDI, Bitcoin, the Metaverse, and other tech
  • 33:59 – Does DHI use next-gen tech in its daily operations?
  • 35:42 – Opportunities for international fintech companies in Bhutan

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