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How big data will power the Thai the government

A recent report noted that as the second year of the two-decade “Thailand 4.0” plan to become a value-based economy comes to a close, the infrastructure necessary to facilitate this transformation is almost ready.

The plan, which was announced in 2015, has an ambitious mission and involves delivering fibre-optic broadband to all of its 75,000 villages. After some delays, the plan is finally coming to fruition.

According to the head of the Ministry of Digital Economy and Society (MDES, all the villages in Thailand will have high-speed broadband internet access by the end of next year.

After setting up internet access for all, the government is turning its attention to another facet of Thailand 4.0: data.

The President and CEO of Thailand’s Digital Economy Promotion Agency (DEPA), pointed out the importance of data, saying that it will serve as an impetus for “strategic thinking” among people, leading to “new businesses and new innovations.”

Putting big data first

To begin, Thailand’s government will collate data its 20 ministries into a centralized big data management system. All ministries will have three initial tasks: checking lists of their data sets, identifying data sets and defining focal points of usage for public benefit.

As most of the data sets in Thailand are “traditional and unstructured”, simply converting them into electronic data will be a big challenge. However, when the system is fully integrated, every government agency will have access to the data, enabling them to better implement policies and facilitate the country’s digital transformation.

In addition, the data sets will be shared with the public, thus giving start-ups and investors access to the government’s data to develop [solutions].

Using big data in farming

One sector that could use the help of big data is the agricultural sector. Thailand’s agricultural sector has a low output and contributes only 10 per cent of the nation’s GDP, according to the CIA World Factbook.

Concurrently, however, it employs almost a third of the country’s workforce. Thus, revamping and digitalising the industry, to make it more productive is imperative.

The DEPA President also believes that by using data analysis, Thailand “can decide what kind of crops to grow for this year or next year.” That’s the rationale behind the Food and Agriculture Revolution Model Information System (FAARMis), an initiative that’s already in progress.

The project is spearheaded by the Department of Agricultural Extension (DOAE), which is under the supervision of the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives.

By collecting data on farmers, crops, and soil quality nationwide, FAARMis aims to help increase crop productivity and efficiency. Data analysis can analyse the type of soil present in farms, and suggest suitable crops to be grown, explains the director of DOAE’s Information and Communication Technology Center.

Currently, the scheme is still in the data-gathering stage, but Kittiyopas claims that the next step is to “provide plant and crop knowledge to farmers via [a] mobile application so that farmers will able to get information about plants in order to improve their productivity.”

Registration of 6.7 million farmers and 13 million farms nationwide is expected to be completed in the next couple of years.

Big data in the government

In addition to providing broadband capabilities to villages and revolutionising the agricultural industry, the government also plans to use big data to boost its own efficiency.

The President of Thailand’s Digital Government Development Agency (DGA), thinks that data will have an impact on important government functions like “budgeting, planning, and solving citizens’ problems.”

He explained that the, first, government will be able to ensure the budget goes to the appropriate avenues. Secondly, more easily accessible data will render the government more transparent. Thirdly, Thai citizens will now have the opportunity to participate more deeply in certain areas of government as they can now access a great amount of meaningful information faster.

The DGA President also agreed that an open system of big data could help combat corruption – something that’s “in the pipeline for the near future.”

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