Thailand rising in ICT Development Index


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Thailand has risen 18 places in five years in the annual global ICT Development Index published last week by the International Telecommunications Union, and is expected to jump forward several more places in just over a year when the country introduces 4G wireless systems.

Although Thailand does not yet possess the reputation of countries for information and communications technology (ICT) development, the Kingdom is the second-most advanced nation in Southeast Asia after Singapore. The International Telecommunications Union (ITU), which is part of the United Nations, described Thailand as among the “most dynamic countries” globally when it comes to ICT development. The ITU singled out Thailand in the Asia-Pacific region for its dynamic development.

Thailand’s rank of 72 places it in the middle of the global pack, but the steady rise in rank and the ITU’s description and praise for Thailand are promising harbingers for the future. Several recent Thai administrations have promoted policies to evolve the country’s economy from one that depends heavily on manufacturing to one that relies on knowledge, innovation and creativity. That shift is considered essential for the Kingdom to break free from the ‘middle income trap’ that ensnares many developing economies and erodes their competitiveness.

“Thailand was the most dynamic country in Asia-Pacific, showing the greatest change in IDI ranking in the region, supported mainly by improvement in wireless broadband penetration,” said Settapong Malisuwan, vice chairman of the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission, Thailand’s regulatory authority for ICT affairs.

“Having 4G service at affordable prices for the mass market will be a major factor in narrowing the digital divide and lifting the country’s competitiveness,” he added, predicting that Thailand would be ranked 60th in the world in 2017 once 4G becomes widespread. ICT development is a key factor in attracting international investment, especially in advanced industries directly or indirectly involved in ICT, he said.

The ITU compiles its index based on 11 internationally agreed indicators grouped in three clusters: access, use and skills. The index is regarded as the most reliable measurement of how well developed each country is as far as being an information society.

Thailand’s expansion of access to ICT learning was evident last week in a local media report on a pilot ICT learning center in central Saraburi province. Funded by the government, the community learning center in Khaeng Khoi district opened less than two years ago with 85 students sharing very few computers. Over 2,500 students have now taken free courses there to develop their ICT skills. Many of the students were adult business people or villagers who had little or no experience using computers.

The Ministry of Science and Technology launched a program in 2007 to establish 2,000 ICT community learning centers nationwide. The expansion of access is an important element in the Kingdom’s improved ranking in the ITU index.

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