Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Thailand 'must invest in education'

Database News : Thursday December 06, 2007

Thailand 'must invest in education'

IBM executive sends a strong message


Thailand must invest in multi-disciplinary education if it is to take a slice of the 100 million new IT-related jobs that will emerge by 2010 and the government must commit to a clear public policy towards open systems if the country is to prosper and not fall behind, according to IBM.

Delivering his keynote on the second day at the recent ICT Forum, Stephen Braim, IBM vice-president for government programmes in Asia-Pacific questioned where Thailand was on the world stage in terms of IT penetration. ICT as a percentage of GDP is only 2 percent, whereas Australia, New Zealand, Singapore and Korea all invest between 4 to 4.5 percent. More importantly, he claimed that it was IT that helped those economies weather the 1997 financial crisis.

Thailand needed to integrate globally through local capabilities, he said. "If there is one thing Thailand can do it is to invest in education, higher education and new IT service skills," he said.

Braim also showed a slide on the corruption index which showed Thailand 84th worldwide. Thailand does not fare too badly with Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam was worse off, but we had to compete with game-changing economies such as New Zealand (1st), Singapore (4th) and Australia (11th), he said.

IBM itself has evolved from being a US-centric company selling through dealers out of the US, to a multinational with 163 mini-IBMs all over the world to today's globally-integrated company. For instance, all of IBM's procurement happens out of China and there is only one government programmes office for the 11 or 12 regions in Asia-Pacific. "We have global resourcing, global production underpinned by global infrastructure.

"There are no boundaries anymore. The way governments respond must be global solutions. Is Thailand ready to compete in a world that is underpinned by those changes? Do you have the resources and public policy to take advantage of this?" he questioned.

Braim pointed to the success of Vietnam stemming from its openness. It is one of only a few countries in the region that allow the free flow of people, and therefore, the free flow of consultancy and it has a clear public policy that supports open standards, the Open Document Format and Open Source Linux. It also has an IT university with over 100,000 students.

Going the opposite way, Thailand recently refused to sign the Hanoi Pathfinder Agreement committing to open standards, Open Source and the Open Document Format and new open intellectual property practices. Thailand was only one of four countries that refused to sign and this sends a worrying signal out to the industry, he warned.

Worldwide by 2010, up to 100 million new IT-related jobs will be created, most going to India and China. However, Braim said that Thailand still had many opportunities. Housing for expats and their families in Delhi and Schools in China are major problems, and properly managed, Thailand could take a fair share of this boom with 50 to 100 thousand new highly paid IT sector jobs which would greatly benefit the economy.

Aside from political stability which should take care of itself in due course, the most important thing Thailand must do to tap into this new wave is to build up a skilled workforce, in particular cross-disciplinary skills; fusion technology bringing together technical expertise with industry specific knowledge. This required collaboration between government, academia and industry, he said.

"I talk to many governments. The enlightened ones say they get it. Today we need ITSM (IT Service Management) and let's get on with it. Others say, 'That's great IBM and how much money are you going to put in?' I say, 'Hold on, we're paying taxes. I am telling you what we need, what jobs we want and that your social infrastructure is not going to deliver that'."

Academia must also change, breaking down the silos and allowing more cross-disciplinary education. Today IBM is working with over 60 universities across the region to help redesign curricula.

"Today [lack of] skills is the hand brake keeping the industry from taking off. It's a no-brainer. If you do nothing, nothing will happen and your competitors will win," he said.

By : Bangkok Post

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