Thailand has a new Minister of Information and Communications Technology. Chuti Krairiksh took the office about two weeks ago. I read a story in The Nation about the priorities he has established for the ministry and they sound promising. They include:
- encouraging e-commerce
- providing wireless networks to communities nationwide
- supporting open source software development and open standards
- promoting e-healthcare to support and treat 700,000 psychiatric patients nationwide
A few things are encouraging about that list.
For once we have a MICT who doesn’t list censoring comments insulting to the monarchy as their top priority. Prior MICTs made their main focus preventing ICT, not developing it. Chuti didn’t even include that in the list. However, I’m not going to get too excited by its absence because it may just mean they are going underground with censorship initiatives. Some recent events indicate that all forms of communication in Thailand are going to experience increased scrutiny and censoring.
Encouraging e-commerce is good from my point of view since that is my thing. I hope there is something meaningful behind that statement. There is still a shortage of online payment solutions in Thailand. When I was at the bank the other day I asked about what sort of online payment solutions they offered for small business. I was met with blank slack-jaw stares. One of the young girls eventually piped in saying she knew what I was talking about because she visits online shopping sites often, but that the bank doesn’t have anything. This was SCB, you know, Siam Commercial Bank. I naturally thought that the “commercial” in their name meant they were used to providing solutions for commerce. Not e-commerce apparently. Chuti says that an improved legal framework is needed to combat fraudulent e-commerce operators. Ok, so that’s the prevention part. Now where is the development part, like establishing standards and incentives to get more solutions providers into this space?
More wireless networks and embracing open source are both good moves. Now how about getting a DSLAM installed in my neighborhood so I can get ADSL. And who is going to break the log jam and get 3G rolled out nationwide?
The last item on his list worries me. First of all, are there really 700,000 psychiatric patients in Thailand? That’s more than 1% of the population. Is it normal to have that high a percentage of certified crazy people in a country’s population? And why do only the mental cases get to benefit from e-healthcare? It seems he should get Thailand into a leadership position with e-healthcare by leveraging off of its place as a leader in medical tourism. Put incentives in place for the private hospitals to integrate open standards electronic health records and show the rest of the world how it’s done. There is significant opportunity there I think.
In the news story Chuti invited people to email him suggestions and he gave an address. It is yeswecan555 at Hotmail dot com. Well I must say 555 indeed (In case you don’t know what that means, the number 5 is pronounced “ha” and has the same sound as laughter so “555” is like laughing “hahaha”.) I’m laughing because the MICT is using a Hotmail address to receive suggestions. They don’t receive email at their own domain yet they expect to be taken serious as an ICT organization? At first I thought well, at least this MICT has an email address which is better than the last one who, incredibly, had never used email. But now I’m not so sure.
So this is it for part 1 of my suggestions for the new MICT. I have some more meatier suggestions I will write in a future post and might even mail them to him. To summarize my first set of suggestions:
- Good move to encourage e-commerce. Now get more online payment solutions providers into this space.
- Bravo for embracing open source. Now get the universities to graduate kids with expertise in those disciplines.
- Nationwide broadband and 3G roll out is far too slow. Please accelerate it.
- Think bigger for e-healthcare and get the already successful medical tourism hospitals involved.