Ministry eyes digital skills for 4 million
The Digital Economy and Society (DE) Ministry aims to train 4 million people in digital literacy through its Net Pracharat course, as well as in the Sustainable Thainess programme offered by the Office of Non-Formal and Informal Education (NFE).
The plan is an attempt to lessen the digital divide in the country and build up e-commerce capability among communities nationwide, in line with the national broadband network for villages.
The DE Ministry and the NFE started providing the digital literacy training course to villagers in December 2017 after the first phase of the Net Pracharat project finished in 24,700 villages, with 1 million trainees passing the course.
DE Minister Pichet Durongkaveroj said the government's Net Pracharat project aims to roll out free WiFi and low-cost broadband infrastructure to more than 40,000 villages that broadband internet has not reached.
The second phase of the project is being built under a budget of the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) to cover 15,723 villages. Completion is scheduled for mid-2019.
The Net Pracharat project is the backbone of the government's Digital Thailand transformation roadmap.
Mr Pichet said the government is encouraging traditional merchants in communities nationwide to become online merchants in the e-commerce marketplace.
There are 2.9 million enterprises in the country, including 500,000 registered as juristic persons including SMEs and 6,000 large corporations.
The DE Ministry aims to have 10,000 Thai startups by 2037 under its 20-year roadmap, up from 2,000 at present.
Thailand must become a value-added economy with innovative tech embedded in all communities, said Mr Pichet, who also urged the private sector to continue pushing traditional merchants to capitalise on the e-marketplace.
Mr Pichet was speaking on the sidelines of a digital community showcase called "Net Arsa Pracharat", which began in 2016 through a partnership with Total Access Communication (DTAC) and four ministries -- Education, DE, Commerce and Agriculture -- to develop and deliver best-in-class digital skills training to communities nationwide.
Digital technology contributes 2.7% of Thailand's GDP, according to a Google study.
Expanding the Net Arsa Pracharat model is seen as an urgent need to achieve the 20-year national strategy.
DTAC chief Alexandra Reich said it's important that everyone have access to the internet.
Citing the GSMA, she said Thailand's digital divide has narrowed over the past decade. Mobile internet penetration dramatically increased from 21% in 2010 to 62% as of Q3 2018.
Digital literacy, which is the essential enabler of mobile internet adoption, has declined, however. Internet users are not creating added value despite the fact that they have access to the internet, ICT devices and applications.
"Without proper education and skill training, the potential of digital technology cannot be fully tapped," Mrs Reich said. "Digital literacy is key to enable citizens to use the internet."
Net Arsa Pracharat has reskilled 1 million teachers and digitised 340,000 traditional vendors by educating them about selling and marketing online.