Chapter 4 : National ICT Policy of Thailand and Ict Indicators, and National Economic and Social Development Plans of Thailand
ICT has been recognized as a potential enabler for national economic and social development and for strengthening competitiveness for Thailand. In 1992, the National IT Committee was set up to be a high-level policy body chaired by the Prime Minister. The mandates of NITC were to develop policies and plans to promote ICT development and utilization in the country. The National Electronics and Computer Technology Center (NECTEC), was assigned a secretariat and to conduct supporting work for the committee.
(Ref. National ICT Policy in Thailand, By Chadamas Thuvasethakul and Thaweesak Koanantakool, March 25,2002)
In 1996, the first National IT Policy was announced as IT2000. The policy put forward the vision for the country to properly exploit IT to achieve economic prosperity and social equity. The policy emphasized three agendas:
- 1.Building an equitable national information infrastructure (NII),
- 2.Investment in people to accelerate the supply of IT manpower and to develop an IT-literate workforce, and
- 3.Achieving good governance through the use of IT in delivering public services and in government administration
From the basis of IT2000 framework and recommendations, programs were initiated by government agencies led by NECTEC.
National Internet Exchange Points, where all domestic Internet traffic get exchanged without going out of the country,
SchoolNet Thailand, a national school informatization program to empower all schools to access a large pool of information resources using the Internet;
Government Information Network (GINet), a government backbone network to facilitate intra- and inter- agencies communication and information exchanges;
Development of legal infrastructure by introducing new laws to support the application of ICT . The Electronic Transactions Bill was approved by the Parliament and enacted on December 4, 2001. The Act became effective on April 3, 2002. The Act also incorporated Electronic Signature provisions. Four other laws on data protection, computer crime law, and electronic funds transfer law were announced and became effective legal framework for Thailand to enter the new economy with more confidence. ICT 2010 is a second phase of National ICT Policy. IT2000 has provided the framework and guideline for subsequent IT policies and initiatives for the past five years. Since then, ICT has changed in terms of technological advancement, as well as application in all sectors of the economy. IT 2010 development objectives were to move Thailand to the “Knowledge-Based Society and Economy. The development focused on the good use of ICT that would drive overall national economic and social development within a framework as follows:
- 1. Building human capital,
- 2. Promote innovation, and
- 3. Invest in information infrastructure and promote the information industry.
Action Plan was drafted in 2005 to accelerate the implementation process in order that the target could be met in the areas of priorities:
1. ICT human resource development
It was realized that Thailand must develop into becoming a knowledge-based society. Human capitol is important factor for national development, and ICT workforce is needed to enable the country to progress toward the goal of a knowledge-based society. Strategies on ICT human resource development were: to add value to human capitol investment in ICT, to set up a management system for ICT personnel, to increase the opportunity of public access to information and knowledge to bridge a digital divide, to establish Thailand Knowledge Center to incorporate the knowledge websites for a single search to support broader learning opportunity.
The targets of this strategy were: 90% of educational institutions of all levels are able to link with the educational network, instruction of all levels of education must develop courseware and use computer in teaching and learning by 2006, high skill ICT personnel must be produced on the basis of SIPA capacity, ICT literate people must be increased at a minimum 10,000 in 2006, scholarships for ICT faculty be provided, and development a quality of ICT users in SMEs must be taken into action.
The plan was focused on key performance indicators which covered the promotion of ICT use by accessibility to the handicapped and senior citizens as well as to set up community ICT centers in the rural areas.
2. Development of ICT industry
Based on the baseline capacity of Thailand in software industry in 2001, it was a good chance that the country attempt to enter a world market share in this industry. Strategies were set up: to support research and development in software industry in a joint projects between government and private sectors, to create software marketing database, to develop standard software at international level, to promote Thai software developers to minimize the import spending.
The targets of this strategy were: to promote Enterprise Software / Transaction Based Software, to promote the skill development in design and development of digital content.
The plan was to promote the use of Thai software in the government sector, and to promote Open Sources Software and Open System. The implementation was aimed at transfer of technology, building new market for Thai software, to promote Thai developers and to reduce the imported products.
3. Development of ICT infrastructure
Thailand has implemented several measures to minimize the problems from digital divide. Telephone service had been expanded in rural provinces and in 2005 every 100 people have access to 11 telephones. 5000 schools were linked to Internet and it was hoped that in 2007 all government offices in the country have computers, and every village has Internet access. Nevertheless, Thailand has relatively lower level of e-readiness when compared with neighboring countries. The ration of telephone usage per capita is low and need much expansion. Strategies were to: build telecommunication linkage to cover rural networks in order to distribute equal income in rural areas, to open more opportunity and to provide equal education for better quality labor force. Promotion in computer use was focused on 3 main groups: students, community and SMEs.
The targets were planned to expand the high speed Internet to reach 5 million ports in 2007, and to increase a number of computers to 7 million in 2007.
4. Development of e-Government
The government network has been implemented in a non-conforming style with different standards for linkage and speed as well as standard on certificate authority. These problems mean difficulty to implement e-Government fully. Strategies were: to introduce e-Service and e-business at full scale, to promote electronic media in government front office and back office.
ICT development in Thailand has grown more in the public access to computers, Internet and mobile phones. ICT indicators show slow progress because the number of access to fixed line telephones for the country is still below the expected level. The increased bandwidth has been double for the past few years. The government has been able to provide e-services for people who live in Bangkok and big cities. But the aim to launch the first smart card in 2006 failed because of the political change that caused the delay to some ICT projects. A positive sign for Thailand is seen from the 10th National Plan on Social and Economic Development that focused on sufficiency economy, and budget for lifelong education as well as to establish knowledge-based society was allocated for all government departments.
Table 1 Major ICT development 2004-2007
|Fixed line capacity/100 p||13.6||14.0||16.5|
|Fixed lines in operation/100||10.7||11.3|
|Internet users||6.9 m.||9.9 m.||11.4m.||13.4m|
*TOT Annual statistics http://www.tot.co.th/images/doc_report/report2549.pdf
1Thaweesak Koanantakool “Important Internet Statistics of Thailand” August,2007 (http://internet.nectec.or.th)
The ICT development problems have reflected Thailand national development and competitiveness since 2004. The problems still exist in 2006 to 2007. The surveys from 3 institutions (IMD, WEF. and A.T.Kearny) showed Thailand’s serious weak points as internal economy, infrastructure in education, science and technology, international investment and Total Factor Productivity (TFP). Also, Thailand ICT indicators are low, especially a number of the public access to telephones. Human resources development in ICT continued to be serious problems.
So far Thailand faced with unsuccessful educational plan, and at present data showed that although the opportunity for education has increased continuously but not yet able to reach the international standard. In 2005 average learning years was 8.5 years which was below accepted standard. The quality of educational proficiency was lower than 50% passing grades in 4 subjects: Thai language, English, mathematics and science. Statistics on population who finished compulsory education showed literacy rates in Thailand in 2005 to be 98.5% for population age 15-24, and 93.51% for population from 15 years and older. Statistics was higher in 2005 than 5 years ago. Only 60% of graduates from compulsory education or grade 6 are literate in functional reading/writing and in mathematics. About 26% of the population is ICT literate. And 2006 data on labor’s skill showed that the actual ICT score is 2.02 from the expected score of 3.57. There is no current data on digital and media literacy although 2005 data on people’s spending on media and telecommunications equipments was 4.1% while people spent 2.4% out of total spending. There is no data on spending for books and newspapers. The government emphasizes on opening wider access for the public to continue lifelong education, though the communication media has not adequately been supported nor facilitated. Only 20% of the villages throughout the country have access to community learning centers. Every thousand people have access to 1 computer, and 116.7 people within a thousand have access to Internet.
Employment skills - Thailand workforce still lacks both quality and quantity. Although the in 2005, a number of workers who finished primary education, was increased from 36.5 % in 2002 to 39.8 %. A number was still insufficient to meet the industry need of the country. The target of the 10th National Plan is to encourage young people to enter vocational education, to set up parental networks, in order to help in social development services and to encourage the graduates to return to work in their hometowns. Lifelong learning will be promoted to all citizens along with distance and e-learning for employment skills development and to increase higher literacy rates. The 10th National Plan aimed at providing lifelong learning especially for workforce who had been deprived from formal education. A number is approximately 14 million in 2006, and this means 20% of total population and represented 32.2 of population within a range of 15-59 years of age
Overall statistics on ICT from NECTEC survey in 2005 from a sample of 22,880 showed that 50% of Internet users live in Bangkok, and 25% of the users live in provincial urban areas. Statistics showed that more than 65% used Internet from home, 40% from work and 30% from schools. It is interesting to note that 64% used Internet for e-learning and those were people who live of towns. 50 % have access to high speed network, and 87% used xDSL while the rest of them used cable modem and ISDN. Data on Internet facilities, connectivity, bandwidth, reliability are in general similar to other places.
Table ICT/PAC/Internet facilities in libraries 2007
* Approximate number
Projects/initiatives to develop ICT-based networks and services in libraries
Bangkok Metropolitan public libraries approved the 2007 plan to install computers and Internet in all libraries. Non-formal Education library network has planned a library network by initiating library automation in public libraries at all levels. This is a preparation for providing a web-based library network at a national level. In 2006, 2 pilot projects were initiated in Petchabur Province in the North, and Amnajcharoen Province in the Northeast.
The Ninth National Economic and Social Development Plan or the 9th National Plan (2002-2006) adopts the philosophy of sufficiency economy bestowed by His Majesty the King to his subjects as the guiding principle of national development and management. The Philosophy of sufficiency economy, based on adherence to the middle path, is advocated to (a) overcome the current economic crisis that was brought about by unexpected change under conditions of rapid globalization, and (b) achieve sustainable development. The objectives of the 9th National Plan are: to promote economic stability and sustainability; establishment of a strong national development foundation; establishment of good governance at all levels of the Thai society ; and reduction of poverty and empowerment of Thai people. The Plan had four targets, namely, Balanced Economic Development Targets, Quality of Life Targets, the Good Governance target, and Poverty Alleviation Target. In order to achieve the aforementioned plan objectives and targets, seven strategies were identified as following:
The first strategy - the good governance. This strategy emphasis on upgrading the efficiency and effectiveness of the public sector, decentralization of works and responsibilities to local administrative organizations, prevention of corruption, development of checks and balances mechanisms, promotion of corporate good governance in the private sector, and promotion of strong families and community ties.
The second strategy - development of human potential and social protection. This strategy focused on empowerment of the people to cope with changes, promotion of self-employment and small-scale entrepreneurship, improvement of the social protection system, prevention and suppression of drug abuse and increased public security, and promotion of development partnership with family oriented institutions, religious organizations, schools, communities, non-government organizations, voluntary organizations, and the mass media.
The third strategy - restructuring of management for sustainable rural and urban development. Its major targets included empowerment of communities and development of livable cities and communities, alleviation of rural and urban poverty through the process of popular participation, establishment of linkages between rural and urban development, and management of integrated area-function-participation development.
The fourth strategy - natural resources and environmental management. This strategy focused on upgrading the efficiency of natural resources and environmental management, preservation and rehabilitation of natural resources, rehabilitation and preservation of community surroundings, art and culture, as well as tourist attractions, and management of pollution abatement.
The fifth strategy - macro economic management. This strategy emphasized on implementation of monetary policy, consolidate of the fiscal position, and decentralization of growth, in/to region areas, and strengthening of the socio-economic system.
The sixth strategy - upgrading national competitiveness. It emphasis on restructuring production and trade sectors, upgrading the quality of infrastructure services, development of local economies, and cooperative systems, and improvement of the trade negotiation system and international cooperation.
The seventh strategy - strengthening of science and technology development. This emphasis on development and application of technology, development of human resources in science and technology, development and application of information and communication technology, and managed commercialization of science and technological development.
To sum up, the 9th National Plan’s strategies comprised of the strengthening of economic and social fundamentals, in order to life up the quality of life of the majority of people to achieve well-beings, rational sufficiency and immunity to adverse changes, in concurrent with the development towards quality in all aspects, especially the development of human to possess knowledge, wisdom, and intelligence regarding global changes, and the establishment of good governance at all levels in order to enhance national competitiveness. (NESDB, 2002)
The 10th National Economic and Social Development Plan B.E.2550-2554 (2007-2011) stated that the country needs to implement ICT for overall system of knowledge management, to build local knowledge, to apply technology appropriately in order to strengthen the strong points from Thai wisdom and integrate with national culture. A focus on the use of intellectual property, and licensing of products and services to gain added values to the economic growth were included in the national policy. The policy also pointed the problems from the rapid change of ICT to Thai society that has serious impact of public access to information that has influence upon lifestyle of young generation. The government takes action to consider preventive measures concerning intellectual maturity of young generation as well less educated population who may be led to inappropriate social behavior. The 10th National Plan mentioned the investment in ICT for the development of lifelong education especially in providing more computers for schools in the communities, and in creating contents needed for improving people’s ability in critical thinking as well as to provide current statistical data on economic and natural resources.
ICT strategy is set to increase investment in building ICT infrastructure for enabling Thailand to the e-society. The government supports the investment in e-government for example e-health systems, and e-services for government at all levels both for public and private sectors. The government will create more opportunity for the people in all sectors especially for people living in remote areas in the rural provinces to have access to public services in telecommunications and in educational sectors. The government will invest in database development in GIS, biodiversity and local wisdom.
The 10th National Economic and Social Development Plan aimed that Thailand becomes knowledge and learning society focusing on preservation of local wisdom as well as from universal knowledge. It was stated that the country had faced with the global economic and social changes, and the country has performed relatively low in terms of science, technology, and industrial innovation. Therefore investment in knowledge resources acquisition from western countries was necessary. The 10th National Plan aims Thailand to become “a green and happiness society”. The underlying principle of the plan is the sufficiency economy, essentially sustainable development with a dose of common sense. By promoting a national development plan based on self-sufficiency, the plan offers protection against sudden economic disruption and secures the steady export-oriented sustainable development of the nation. The 10th National Plan has 3 major goals, namely (BOI, 2006, online) In order to achieve the aforementioned plan, 5 strategies are identified as following:
The first strategy is designed to strengthen social conditions and human development through improved education and health care, morals and ethics, as well as the safety of the individual and of property. The Plan visualizes a knowledgeable and virtuous Thai society and with resiliency of the citizens to meet changes. The plan aims Thais to be strong physically and mentally and to be a unified and peaceful society.
The second strategy plans to build strong communities to serve as building-blocks for the nation and to develop a dependable community-level economy to co-exist harmoniously with nature and the surrounding environment because a balanced development within the community is also essential. Inherent in this strategy is improving communities through increased participation, planning and knowledge management and the strengthening and establishment of linkages between local communities and also through external linkages.
The third strategy falls in the area of national economy. Thailand needs to improve production methods to be competitive on a global scale. Furthermore, Thailand should create value-added goods while retaining Thai identity to differentiate from competitors. Moreover, Thailand should improve its economic and investment infrastructures to attract foreign direct investment.
The fourth strategy focuses on environmental issues. The aim of this strategy is for people to co-exist with the environment to ensure good quality of life and to preserve, as well as, protect nature for the future generations.
The last strategy of the 10th national development plan concentrates on good governance. This strategy calls for Thailand’s strategic management sustainability for long-term national development, which requires superior government management and good governance to distribute income and authority to the rural communities.
To sum up, the plan takes a unique approach to development in that it not only aims to enhance the quality of life for Thais by addressing traditional economic and social issues such as unemployment and education, but also aims to create social harmony: “a green and happiness society”. (NESDB, 2006, online; BOI, 2006, online)
BOI, “Thailand Investment Review”, available http://www.boi.go.th:8080/issue/200609_16_8/41.htm
National Economic and Social Development Board (NESDB), 2002, Government of Thailand : The Ninth National Economic and Social Development Plan (2002-2006), Bangkok: Kurusapa.
National Economic and Social Development Board (NESDB), 2006, Government of Thailand : The Tenth National Economic and Social Development Plan (2007-2011), available http://www.nesdb.go.th
* TOT Annual statistics http://www.tot.co.th/images/doc_report/report2549.pdf
1Thaweesak Koanantakool “Important Internet Statistics of Thailand” August,2007 http://internet.nectec.or.th