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Spotlight on digital inclusion for girls and women in rural Thailand

The priority theme of the 62nd session on the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW), taking place at the United Nations Headquarters in New York from 12 to 23 March 2018, will explore “challenges and opportunities in achieving gender equality and the empowerment of rural women and girls.”

At ITU, we recognize the incredible power of information and communications technologies (ICTs) to create economic and social opportunities for women, especially in rural areas. Thailand has recently shown great leadership in this area through rural women agricultural technology (agritech) training programs and digital skills training across the country.

Agritech training for female students and others in Thailand

As part of ITU’s International Girls in ICT Day last year, the Ministry of Digital Economy and Society of Thailand, in collaboration with the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), Microsoft (Thailand), Cisco (Thailand) and ITU, launched a capacity building program aimed at imparting digital skills to female students in Thailand.

One of the thematic areas was “Agritech Using ICTs,” in which more than 200 female students and other community members built skills and awareness to help them use ICTs for farming.

The program consisted of three training sessions of three days each primarily focusing on school children in Thailand. The workshops were conducted by the Research Center of Communication and Development Knowledge Management, Sukhothai Thammathirat Open University.

The training focused on ICT skills, knowledge and innovations that could be applied to both the ‘Smart Farm Model’ and the Learning Program of the Agricultural and Technology Schools and Colleges.

“We gained more confidence in using ICT for our own development, as well as to help our families’ farms,” one of the girls said after the training.

The students were trained to use mobile devices for farm applications, as well as raise awareness on use of unmanned aerial vehicles and drone technology as it relates to the development of agricultural and natural resources.

The girls, women, local leaders and other relevant stakeholders gained knowledge and skills on entrepreneurship, ‘smart’ organic farming, simplified agricultural linked ICT devices, and natural resources management.

Internet access and digital skills for young people in remote rural communities in Thailand

Starting in 2015, to meet the Government of Thailand’s commitment to achieve a full digital transformation to drive progress in all sectors, the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission of Thailand (NBTC) established over a thousand rural Internet centers in the country to provide remote communities across Thailand with internet access and useful digital skills. ITU and NBTC worked in collaboration in promoting ICT uptake among local communities through various activities conducted by student volunteers under a joint ITU-NBTC initiative.

The centers, known as ‘USONETs,’ give people access to computers and the Internet and aim to strengthen ICT skills among students, youth and local communities, thereby promoting social and economic development.

“The computer and the Internet are very important for students, especially when they are searching for information and knowledge, this helps them a lot in their studies. Another benefit is that they take this computer knowledge home to their family who might be selling products and can assist in establishing e-commerce for the family,” says Pornchai Nachaiwiang, Principal of Ban Pang Kae School in Nan.

ITU and NBTC select, train and dispatch a group of ICT volunteers to the various locations to provide onsite support to users of the USONETs.

“This has been a great experience and a very memorable time for me. People here treat us like we are members of their family. Benefits are not only to them, but to us also. In fact, we have gained more than we gave. This volunteering has brought a lot of good things to my life indeed,” said Chanoksuda Wongvises of her time as a volunteer.

Broadband infrastructure expansion and training for all

The Ministry of Digital Economy and Society of Thailand recently announced its initiative to expand access to infrastructure for broadband services in rural areas of the country.

In addition, it will train and prepare 1,000 digital literacy trainers with digital literacy skills for everyday tasks and business, who in turn will share their knowledge with 24,000 communities.

The government, meanwhile, plans to improve its e-services to enable underserved communities to access remote health and education support, as well as online channels for distribution of goods. Thailand continues to invest in digital technologies for the benefit of its people, clearly demonstrating its trust in the power of ICTs to empower women and communities for a more sustainable future.

ITU and EQUALS will take part in a special side session next week at Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) – “Leveraging the Power of ICTs for Rural Women and Girls.”

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