KENAN INSTITUTE ASIA Queen Sirikit National Convention Center 2nd Floor, Zone D, Room 201, 60 New Rachadapisek Road Klongtoey, Bangkok 10110, Thailand Tel. 229-3131-2, Fax: 229-3130PRESS RELEASE
Bangkok - US and Thai telecommunication leaders conferred
electronically Thursday, exchanging lessons learned in developing
the information superhighway.
"The technology is not the most difficult problem," said Ms. Jane Patterson, Chief Advisor for Policy, Budget and Technology, for North Carolina Gov. Jim Hunt. "The most difficult problems are setting the policies and developing the mechanisms that allow all the key parties to work together," she said. The interactive video session, delivered over high-speed lines provided by the Communications Authority of Thailand (CAT), covered a wide range of technical, financial, policy and human issues encountered in North Carolina as it developed the most advanced state-wide system for information technology in the United States. Opening the session in a video-taped presentation made especially for Thailand, Gov. Hunt said the state decided to make significant investments in the information superhighway because it believed those investments would be repaid by improved efficiency in government, education, medicine and commerce. Equally important, he said, was that the state-wide high-speed Asynchronous Transfer Mode (ATM) system would give people in rural areas equal access to information and many services to that enjoyed by people in the cities. Dr. Sippanondha Ketudat, Chairman of the National Economic and Social Development Board, said this was one of the most important lessons learned from the video conference attended by more than 200 Thai leaders from government, universities, hospitals and private companies. Patterson explained that North Carolina had set up committees that brought together government and the private technology companies. She said the two sides had worked out agreement to provide access to the superhighway all over the state. She said this w as better than the 40% area coverage achieved by private internet providers. The North Carolina team presented a two-hour review of the policies, technologies and uses of the "highway" that is built of high capacity optic fiber that allows transmission of multi-point interactive video, data and computer programs. The system, speeding information at 45 megabits per second, can transmit the entire contents of the largest encyclopedia in less time than it takes to say the word "encyclopedia." The North Carolina team demonstrated with video and on-line computer simulations how the system was used to bring better medical care and high-quality teaching to rural communities. They also outlined the savings for state agencies in handling documentsand legal procedures. Patterson said that other uses, including transmission of data, teleconferencing and commercial use by businesses and banks were expected to expand rapidly. The interactive session was followed by a discussion in Thai led by Dr. Pichet Durongkaveroj, director of the National Information Technology Committee Secretariat. The discussion focused on the need for state leadership and private participation in the information highway to ensure that it benefited as many people as possible. "The most important question is how to ensure that services reach the rural areas," said Dr. Pairash. Several speakers complained that high rates for lines to Thailand's provinces made it almost impossible for most potential users outside of the capital to benefit from the new technology. Despite much lower per capita income, Thai users were charged several times the rates paid in the United States and in Thailand's neighboring countries. Mr. Setaporn Kuseepitak, Deputy Director General of the Post and Telegraph Department, said the high costs were due to outdated Thai telecommunications laws that needed revision to allow more private sector involvement and greater competition. "Service providers must compete," he said, " but at the planning stages there must be lots of coordination between he state and the private sector." Setaporn and other speakers emphasized that the "information highway" was only as good as the applications that used it. Like North Carolina, he said, Thailand would initially focus on distance education and health. Other services, particularly data bases and software needed to be improved to take best advantage of the technology. The teleconference and discussion were organized by NECTEC. and the Kenan Institute, which has expanded from its base in North Carolina to establish a strong presence in Thailand as the Kenan Institute Asia. Participants on both sides said they wanted a second conference to follow up in what may become as series of teleconferences that focus on the particular uses such as education, business and health. The leaders also pledged to exchange visits and keep in touch via e-mail.For further information, please contact Paul Wedel of the Kenan Institute at 229-3131 or Dr. Rom Hiranpruk of NECTEC at 248-8078-84