ICT policy on political parties' agenda
As Information and Communications Technology (ICT) is vital for development, political parties have put a focus on ICT to move the country forward.
Published on December 4, 2007
During a seminar last week on the ICT policy of the new government, held by the Information Technology Press Club, five parties outlined their ICT vision.
Democrat Party: ICT accessible to all
Since the Democrat Party's main agenda for the election is a focus on people, the party believes ICT is a key tool to drive the country's economic and social development.
The party has a plan to utilise ICT as a new learning tool to enhance people's skills and knowledge so ICT for Democrat Party will be developed along with an education policy.
"To offer people at all levels better knowledge, we have to make ICT accessible to all," said the party's leader Abhisit Vejjajiva.
Apart from having telecommunications infrastructure reach every part of society, the party will focus on bringing computer technology into schools to allow Thai students - even in remote areas - to use the new technology to improve their learning.
The computer penetration rate in schools is now estimated at one computer per 40 students. Abhisit said the party planned to increase ICT penetration to reach one computer per 10 students within four years.
Meanwhile it will set up learning centres in each community so that people in the area can better utilise technology to improve their learning.
He said that to make technology accessible to all, investment was also required. The party will encourage investment from the private sector in telecommunications infrastructure, especially new wireless technology including 3G and WiMax, and importantly, reform existing government telecommunications organisations and push for clean and fair competition.
"We think that revising concession contracts to make it fair for all is inevitable," he added.
Meanwhile, the party also focuses on applying ICT to reduce operating costs and increase efficiency for businesses. The development of electronic logistics and the single-gateway project are also in the pipeline and these, he said, would help Thai businesses increase competitive advantages and reduce costs.
Matchima Thipataya: Moving towards a digital society with competitiveness
Matchima Thipataya has put a focus on using ICT to increase people's income, reduce production and capital costs and lift the country's competitiveness.
"We have a vision to apply ICT to solve people's problems so we have to give people at all levels access to ICT by reducing the gap between technology have and have-nots, and develop a digital society in the next five years," said the party's representative Veerasak Jinarat.
To reduce the digital divide, the party announced a plan to offer free Internet to all Thai students so they have a chance to access any kind of knowledge equally. Meanwhile, it will push for better quality telecommunication services at a lower cost so that people can access ICT to improve their capabilities, which would later increase the country's potential.
Importantly, Veerasak said instead of buying technology, the party would encourage local development and push the country to eventually become a producer of technology, especially software.
"We have to recreate our culture to become producers instead of being only users, so we have to push local people to be able to create and innovate technology and become technology owners," he said.
For Matchima Thipataya, he said ICT would be a tool to create intellectual property and productivity.
People Power Party: Build an intellectual superhighway
To develop the country into a knowledge-based society, the People Power Party has a plan to build a Bt130-billion "intellectual superhighway" to use ICT to create competitiveness for people at all levels.
The party believes the new infrastructure would stimulate investment in the private sector, which in return will improve the country's economic status.
To encourage broadband infrastructure investment, Kanawat Wasinsungwork, a member of the People Power Party's economics team, said the party would offer a tax reduction on broadband equipment of between 5 to 30 per cent for two years. This, he added, would stimulate the country's economy.
Of the Bt130-billion investment, the party will encourage Bt30 billion of private investment to build the Government Broadband Information Network and other electronic government projects while the other Bt100 million would be investment in fixed and wireless broadband including 3G and WiMax networks.
"This information superhighway will be a key infrastructure, which will support the country's e-transformation of e-government, e-commerce, e-industry, e-education and e-society," Kanawat said.
In parallel with the development of infrastructure, the plan will push the establishment of ICT services and learning centres in every community. Kanawat said the centres would be places where people in the community could learn about ICT and use various government electronic services as well as conduct e-commerce for the community.
The country now has only around 20 centres, and the party plans to roll out this kind of centre to cover 8,000 tambons nationwide.
In the short term, Kanawat said people would see the establishment of new broadband networks and ICT learning centres become reality.
Chart Thai Party: Reducing the digital divide
Having focused for years on laying down basic infrastructure by building roads and utilities for communities, the Chart Thai Party believed that making basic telecommunications infrastructure reach every community nationwide is also a must. The party's key ICT policy, therefore, is aimed at telephone networks for every community.
"As we believe that having equality in phone connections will improve people's living, we've a plan to bring telephone networks to every household in the country to reduce the so-called digital divide," said Varawut Silpa-archa, the party's IT project manager.
Thailand still faced a technology gap between people in the city and those in remote areas and this represented inequality in society. Varawut said that apart from making phone networks accessible, the party would offer every educational institution Internet access while developing the necessary ICT facilities in communities.
"For the Chart Thai Party, giving people an equal chance to access the network will improve their knowledge and this will be a foundation for the country's development," Varawut added.
Along with building basic infrastructure, content development is also the party's major concern.
"The problem of ICT in society is not the use of IT but rather how to use it properly, so to help solve the problem, especially for children in the city, there should be a way to filter Internet content for our children," he said.
The party has proposed establishing what it calls a White ISP, which would filter content for children and deliver Net services with only clean content to users.
The IPS would educate parents on how to use the new technology as well.
Puea Pandin Party: Pushing Thailand as a digital hub by encouraging local development
With the belief that Thailand has potential in ICT development, the Puea Pandin Party has a policy to use ICT to improve industry as a whole. The party plans to push Thailand to become a digital hub for the development of digital content, animation, training and other services.
To achieve the goal, the party focuses on training people.
"If we have qualified people, we can draw investment from aboard, especially in technology, and turn this country into a technology hub," said the party's ICT team leader Wuttipong Pongsuwan.
The party meanwhile also plans to encourage local development of both hardware and software to reach industry standards.
Since ICT is a tool to improve productivity for both business and government sectors, the party has a strategy to help local small and medium businesses use ICT to increase competitiveness while pushing the government sector to use ICT to develop electronic government services and make government management more transparent.
While the use of technology brings new concerns in society, Wuttipong added that the party's policy involved protection of privacy as well. The enactment of the Privacy Act is in the plan. The plan, he said, also included the establishment of the Computer Emergency Response Team and inspectors within the ICT Ministry to monitor the country's information system and security to prevent problems that may occur from the use of ICT.
To reach the goal, it's necessary to develop an ICT plan with practical outcomes. This is the most urgent issue for the party on ICT development.
Meanwhile, the party will push the development of Thai Linux, an open-source operating system, to be the national operating system and encourage the government sector to be a model in the use of open-source software.