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This page was last updated on 30th March, 1998.

National IT Projects in Thailand

IT Projects into the Future

See also Bill Gate's letter to Thailand on 18th February 1998.

Thaweesak Koanantakool, Ph.D., ACGI


In the middle of economic crisis in Thailand, one may wonder if Thailand has any future or competitiveness in IT after the year 2000. There are so many activities in the neighbouring countries that people begin to ask "How Thailand would progress along our national IT policy of Thailand (IT-2000)?"

Lacking the super hype activities, Thailand has in fact initiated many national-level projects which are aimed at the use of IT to raise the standard of living and quality of live of the people. We will look at some of these projects in this article. The aim of this article is to bring up all the small parts of national IT development into perspective and focus all of them into one clear collective objective of Thailand, the IT-2000.

In May 1997, the government led by General Chavalit Yongchaiyudh approved the budget commitment of about 4.2 billion baht for three major IT projects collectively titled IT Projects for national Development. These projects are Software Park, GINet (Government Information network) and ThaiSarn-III (Thai Social/Scientific, Academic and Research Network Third Generation).

The projects are initiated by the National Electronics and Computer Technology Center as part of the Thai government's IT policy. NECTEC is the secretariat office of the National IT Committee (NITC) which is formally chaired by the Prime Minister. Much of the groundwork to this cabinet's commitment was due to the efforts of the current NITC chairman, Mr. Sompong Amornvivat, M.P. and Minister to the Prime Minister's Office.

NECTEC is a quasi-government organization under the National Science and Technology Development Agency, Ministry of Science, Technology and Environment.

We will also look at these new projects in detail.

IT-2000 as the Foundation

A systematic approach to IT development Thailand was formally started five years ago (1992), when the Prime Minister then (Mr. Anand Panyarachun) founded the National IT Committee (NITC) to look after the promotion of IT usage and IT development in Thailand.

NITC activated nine sub-committees to look into strategic areas for national IT development. Several initiatives have taken place in the past four years, while the master plan was being studied and synthesized by five sectoral expert groups. Finally, the plan has been approved by the government as well as by the NESDB (National Economic and Social Development Board) as part of the Eight National Economic and Social Development Plan.

IT-2000 plan consists of three main "pillars" which are identified as the supporting infrastructure for national development through the use of IT. They are: (i) to build an equitable national information infrastructure, (ii) to invest in people, and (iii) to enhance government services and forge a strong information industry:

Plans and Actions

Here is the summary of what are already happening in Thailand right now to make sure that we will be completing the ground work for IT-2000, classified by the three proposed pillars of the IT-2000 plan. It is expected that a more "concerted effort" for global publicity of these activities are much interested by the current government. They are indeed the positive forces required to help economic recovery of the country.

Agenda 1. Build an Equitable National Information Infrastructure

  • The latest revision of Thailand's "Telecommunications Master Plan" and de-regulation precess of Thai telecommunications service industry are being made by the Ministry of Communications and Transport.

  • There is a real proliferation of high-speed nationwide optical fiber networks in Thailand by several telecomm operators such as TOT (Telephone Organization of Thailand), CAT (Communications Authority of Thailand), UCOM (United Communications Industry), TA (TelecomAsia), TT&T and the Provincial Electricity Authority.

  • Three ThaiCom satellites have been launched, with the latest one (ThaiCom III) having 39 transponders (compared to 24 each for the previous satellites), 7 of which have global beam. Thus Thailands satellites are quite ready for the International competition.

  • The formal study by legal expert team funded by NECTEC on "Electronic Commerce Laws" has been completed. This work will ensure that a new legislative committee is to be set up and implement the modernization process to laws to facilitate electronic commerce in this country.

  • The expansion of TOTs Rural-Area Telephone Project. The project targets all 60,000 villages in Thailand.

  • The government-funded "Information Superhighway Testbed" Project to explore and evaluate the feasibility of using high-speed network in Thailand. This national testbed project is a cooperation between NECTEC, CAT, TOT, universities and many telecommunications vendors. The project looks into various applications of ATM (Asynchronous Transfer Mode) applications including distance learning, multimedia networking and virtual reality. This project is also listed in the world gigabit testbed directory. Details in

Agenda 2. Invest in People

  • Several "school informatization" programs have been initiated by many organizations including the Ministry of Education. The most remarkable one is the IT-Project Initiative of Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn. This project focuses on applying IT to schools in the rural-areas, disabled/under-privileged people, and some pilot computer-assisted instruction development. Thousands of computers have been donated by the private sector to the project which then distribute these computers to many schools. The project permits several students in the rural areas to learn DOS, Windows, word processing and spreadsheets.

  • The Kanchanapisek Network Project began its service since December 5th 1996 to celebrate His Majesty the King's golden Jubilee. The project contained two major parts: WWW contents and nationwide access service.

    The contents part is a collection of web pages related to the royal activities and several royal-initiated projects. The major volume of this web site contains the Junior Encyclopedia by the Royal Command of His Majesty. This web tree is being enlarged at the rate of one volume of encyclopedia per month.

    This unique network has a nationwide access points in 20 provinces for all Thai residence to access free of charge. This access network was designed and implemented to make sure that the rural communities do have access to some form of "limited" Internet. In other words, it is the country's largest BBS in terms of number of access lines, its geographical coverage. The network access service is by far larger than any commercial ISP (Internet Service Provider) in Thailand. The WWW contents are also made accessible from the Internet at

  • Academic and Research network (ThaiSarn) gained wider access both into the international side (2 Mbps to USA, 2 Mbps to Japan) and greater bandwidth domestically. Notable examples are the high-speed 2 megabits per second links between NECTEC and Kasetsart University (KU), King Mongkut's Institute of Technology at Lad Krabang (KMITL) and Thammasat University (TU). Speed runners up are KhonKaen University (512 kbps), Prince of Songkla University (256 kbps).

  • SchoolNet Thailand Project, the inter-networking project for Thai schools was initiated by the National IT Committee. It is operated jointly between NECTEC and Ministry of Education using the existing resources of ThaiSarn project.

    So far, over 74 schools have joined the project with 99 more in the process. In 1996, MicroSoft, Intel, Compaq and Powell Computer ran a special programme to donate 30 sets of hardware and 50 sets of software to the initial "founding" members of SchoolNet. This year (1997) seven more computer/telecommunications vendors have also started strategic partnership with NECTEC to speed up the network development.

  • Ministry of University Affairs launched its distance learning "IT Campus" project in 1996, with the initial pilot phase operations with 15 campuses in 11 provinces. The full project will be implemented in the following years to cover 30 provinces by 1999. The estimated total spending is approximately 3 billion baht. Details.

  • The National Multimedia Institute (NAMMI) project is being studied by NITC, with some expert advises from MIT professors and input from local content producers and authorities such as the Office of the National Education Commission. This institute is planned to speed up the local creation of multimedia contents, especially for education and self-learning. On the other hand, the project will enlarge the local multimedia markets and strengthen the content producers. The initial step of NAMMI will be focused on digital archiving of Thai contents and some infrastructure for Thai language processing.

  • Electronic Industry Institute project is being planned in order to enhance manpower in the industry to be more competitive, especially when the Information Technology Agreement (ITA) is becoming effective in the year 2000.

Agenda 3. Enhance Government Services and Forge a Strong Information Industry

  • EDI-Tradesiam Project, a government and private sector joint venture, was set up to operate the nation's Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) for international trade. The joint-venture deal was publicised by the Deputy Prime Minister for Economics, Dr.Amnuay Viravan, on 29th May 1997. TradeSiam will be run by private-sector partners to ensure the timely development of EDI services for the Customs Department by August 1997. TradeSiam will shorten and eliminate cumbersome the paperwork process between importers/exporters and the Customs.

  • Government Computerization Programme - initiated in 1995 with a series of measures to make sure that Thai government agencies and their staff are well developed to server the people better. The initial measure was to make sure that each government agency will be equipped with sufficient amount of office automation and IT. Other additional measures include the compulsory computer appreciation programme for all government officials above the C-5 level, and the target for government inter-networking and EDI within 1998.

  • Government Information Network (GINet) Project to empower Thai government agencies to automate inter-office communications and information processing within the agencies. This was planned as the second step in the government computerization programme. The GINet project, planned as a government private network, will be running on high-speed optical fiber backbone capable of data transmission at 620 megabits per seconds across the country. Details.

  • Thailand Software Park Project to support the development of software industry in Thailand. There are several attractive measures already made available to any software developers to enjoy the benefigts of producing software here. Details.

  • Additionally, there are several computerization projects currently on-goinh in many departments/ministries with the goal to enhance the efficiency of public services and administration. Examples are:
    • tax computerization projects (Revenue Department);
    • geographical information systems by Ministry of Agriculture, Ministry of Science, Bangkok Metropolitant Administration;
    • population database (Ministry of Interior);
    • labour information system (Ministry of Labour and Welfare);
    • import/export duties automation (Customs Department)
    • etc.,

Highlights of the Recent Government "National" Projects


ThaiSarn Project, the Thai Social-Scientific, Academic and Research Network, was initiated in 1991 to support the needs of universities to contact and retrieve information from their international academic circles around the world. ThaiSarn-I, ie. The first generation network, began with only 9,600 bits per second (about 1,000 characters per second) speed for information transfer between Thailand and the rest of the world. Later it was enlarged to multiple 64 kbps links and in 1995, 512 Kbps link, with the number of downstream sites around 40 organizations.

The Internet traffic among the academic users increased dramatically as in 1996 the total number of host computers connected to the Internet in Thailand went above 10,000 units, ThaiSarn's bandwidth was quickly become a bottleneck just like its own funding from the Thai Government regular budget. Thanks to the sibling organizations of NECTEC which are under NSTDA (National Science and Technology Development Agency) and NACSIS (National Center for Scientific Information System) in Japan, new grants were made available to expand ThaiSarn to reach the outside world at 4 megabits per seconds in 1996. The provisions were named as ThaiSarn-II to denote its second-generation status.

ThaiSarn-II became a faster network with new service levels:

  • most of its downstream sites are now running at 64kbps or higher;
  • several schools are not joining ThaiSarn as a sub-project called "SchoolNet Thailand";
  • three major universities connect to ThaiSarn at the speed 2 Mbps each (with one more coming, and others running at 512k, 256k and 64 kbps;
  • NECTEC demonstrated the "CLASSROOM 2000" concept to the public which embraces high-speed networking applications like lesson-on-demand and several Java-based virtual experiments for kids.

The new ThaiSarn-III initiative starts in FY1998 (2541) budget, with a budget of 376 million baht from the government covering the next four years. The project objectives are to make sure that ThaiSarn network can cope with the heavy growth of demand of the users from all parts of the country: both in terms of increase in data volume and geographical coverage. This modest budget no longer covers the need of all universities anymore as it wil be supplementing Ministry of University Affairs "IT Campus" Project with the budget of about 8 times larger.

Both projects, ThaiSarn-III and the IT-Campus were developed in close coordination by the respective project teams and are made to complement each other's goals in terms of geographical coverage; networking experts and learning resources for tele-education services such as the video-on-demand services pioneered by NECTEC.

ThaiSarn-III will be running its backbone on ATM (asynchronous transfer mode) technology at the speed of 155 to 620 megabits per second. The technology chosen is the most popular solutions for this kind of applications.

Specifically, in FY1998, ThaiSarn-III will be linked to at least one university at the speed of 155 Mbps. In addition, NECTEC's hub will also be linked to MUA's IT Campus gateway at the same speed to ensure that any university can reach both ThaiSarn and IT-Campus networks at all time. NECTEC's training room at the Bangkok Thai Tower is also equipped with tele-education equipment that is compaitble with the world standard and is capable ot teaching for any remote classroom in the IT-Campus project (and vice versa).

The number of high-speed links will be extended to 9 sites in the year 2001, when the IT-Campus reaches 30 provinces throughout Thailand. However, due the the present reliant of universities to ThaiSarn, it is utmost important to make sure that ThaiSarn is well capacitated while the new "superhighway" is being constructed in the next 1-2 years.

Another most important contribution of ThaiSarn-III project to the nation is to make itself a reliable backbone for many other new academic networks being incubated in Ministry of Education, Ratcahbhat Institute, Ratchamongkol Institute. All of these new academic networks share the common ancestor: ThaiSarn-I.

Thailand Software Park

In 1995 NECTEC commissioned a research on "Approach to Development of Software Industry in Thailand" as part of the efforts to promote IT activities of the IT 2000 national IT policy of Thailand. This study found that software industry is one of the sunrise industries in Thailand that is a strong force on the IT front since software is a major component of IT.

"It is crucial that a domestic software industry is developed to help this computerization process in order to conserve foreign exchange as well as to create a locally sustainable computerization process. It is undeniable that software industry has to become one of the strategic industries and partly replaces traditional cheap labour/local raw materials industry" said the study.

The study recommended that one way to help develop software industry in Thailand is to set up a software park (SP) to support and sharpen the potentials of domestic software industry to an international level in terms of quality and capability. SP will be the center for all types of necessary facilities, amenities, resources and training. It will be the center for high-speed telecommunications, training, consultancy, high-technology automation of offices as well as business cluster for softwa re businesses.

The facilities will attract both local and international businesses related to software including software and hardware vendors, training companies, system integrators, multimedia products and content producers, etc. In this regard, the Board of Investment (BOI) of Thailand is playing a crucial role in providing economic privileges to many of the software companies both inside and outside of the SP. Special privileges are also given to companies that wants to set up another software park. Details.

Software park will have both the physical facilities and facilities in cyberspace to help with training and technology transfer as well as being a marketplace for software producers and customers.

SP will provide six core service centers for tanants. These centers are: Business Information Center; Training Center; Information Technology Center; Software Tool Application Center; Validation and Verification Center; and Telecommunications and OSI Compliance Testing Center.

In the short term, SP will operate as an incubator facility with a permanent office that help support all the necessary functions of the park including public relations, information services, facility services, fund raising, etc. In the long term, SP will operate more as an industrial park much like the existing software park in operation in many other countries today.

Administration of SP is expected to be based on non-government management of the park. This may be in the form of granting management rights to companies to run the park or forming new companies to run the park. Revenue for the running of the park will be from renting of office space, and other commercial services to the users within the park. Companies that are allowed into the park will be selected by a review board setting up by the management of the park, primarily only software related firms will be allowed.

Software companies will be attracted to SP on special promotion programme initiated by the Board of Investment. These privileges are: (i) permission to bring in foreign technicians and experts to work in promoted projects (ii) tax incentives for project located in Zone 1 and 2 (Bangkok and surrounding provinces in terms of exemption of import duties on machinery and equipment and exemption of corporate income tax and income tax on dividend for the first 8 years after the start of operation.

Government Information Network

GINet is a nation-wide high capacity network for government services that will provide channels for delivering government electronic information within geographically dispersed ministry and for inter-ministry communications. The network to be set up will have 155-620 Mbps backbone to all provinces, with several 2 Mbps links to every district. The basic network serviced is part of the plan to computerize Thai government with IT applications on top of this network.

The implementation schedule of GINet will start from October 1997, with technical specfications being developed during July and September. In the first six months, first ten major provinces will be connected. Full connectivity to all 76 provinces is targeted in 18 months. The complete delivery to all 680 districts would be completed in the third year.

A quasi-government unit named Government Information Technology Service(GITS) will be established to initiate and manage all of GINet activities and applications of Ginet.. GITS will act as a contract manager to provide network management and network backbone infrastructures for government organizations.

In addition to the basic network service, GITS will be responsible for (i) developing standards for government network which are necessary for both intra-ministry and inter-ministry information sharing for various applications; (ii) providing consultation services on the development of information systems to various government; (iii) support the development of standard generic government applications such as budgeting, accounting, procurement; (iv) supporting development of uniform standard for information systems development methodology. This is crucial to the success of systems analysis, design, and implementation of large scale information systems.

The present government sees GINet and GITS as the important keys towards government reengineering and empowering the agencies to reform themselves towards the slimmer but smarter government. The Prime Minister once said on public television that he would stop building roads for a day or two to funnel the money for making this important network.

The Future Vision

Information Technology is seen as a very hot topic for the current administration of Thailand. The recent approval of multi-billion baht for three IT projects are atypical, and can be seen as a clear commitment from the whole cabinet to focus on national competitiveness. With several initiatives taking place, sooner or later, Thailand will be in a position to promote its readiness as the economic center with great IT supporting facilities.

All of the national projects are complemantary to one another and are architected along the IT-2000 national IT policy and the Eight NESD plan. With strong fundamental support from the National Scientific and Technology Development Bill of 2534 (1991), NECTEC has been appointed to handle the project management tasks for a few of the projects due to its flexibility in employing highly competitive staff, which are the keys to the success in most, if not all, of the projects here.

It is anticipated that, with IT initiatives, economic recovery of Thailand may be brought forward through Thailand's NII.

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