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Computer pioneer

Yuen Poovarawan was instrumental in leading Kasetsart University - and Thailand - into the IT age

Published on September 18, 2007

When he was a teenager, Yuen Poovarawan dreamed of studying abroad.

Instead, after graduating with a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering from Chulalongkorn University, he applied to become a teacher at Kasetsart University. Thirty-five years later, Yuen is an associate professor and Kasetsart University's president of information technology (IT). He also has a unique track record of achievements.

As a young man, he became a voracious reader.

"While studying in university, I was interested in computers and technology. I always bought books and magazines to read. I read a lot, in order to learn and explore anything that was new," he says.

His interest led to research and development, and he successfully developed software related to the Thai language, including a word processor, a dictionary, word analysis and a Thai spell-check computer.

Then he set up the Computer Science Department at the university, including a computer centre.

In 1990, Yuen began to build the network infrastructure to connect the university with the Internet. A few years later, Kasetsart became the first university in Thailand with a fibre-optic network.

"I'm a man who looks to the future more than the past, and I focus on achievements in the future. The past provides lessons before stepping into the future," Yuen says.

Kasetsart University now has its own wireless network, allowing more than 45,000 students, teachers and staff to access the Internet and knowledge-based information anywhere on its campuses with mobile computers and pocket computers. Wireless hot spots have been set up around the campuses.

As a result, Kasetsart is entering the era of the e-university. It plans to use IT to provide university services under the categories e-students, e-teachers, e-meetings, e-society and e-staff.

The university has also reserved an entire building for a computer centre, equipped with up to 200 desktop computers and six tutorial rooms, with each room capable of accommodating 30 students. The centre is available to the university's students free of charge, and they may access information via the Internet or the local Intranet at any time.

Yuen says students are these days less interested in studying in classrooms, so the centre is an alternative for those wanting to study alone. It is open 24 hours a day.

"We want to create a university environment that supports our students and encourages them to access new technology and knowledge for themselves," Yuen says.

Yuen is using IT to teach not only his students, but also his own three children, via the Internet.

"I know my children are the next generation. I send 'Letters from Dad's Heart' to them to teach them how to use e-mail. I have sent more than 100 letters over four years. Normally, I send them one letter a week, and I must use it these days to keep in touch, because some of my children are working abroad. My children know how much I love them," he says.

However, he admits his letter-writing comes from his long experience as an avid reader. He believes he has read, and owns, more than 10,000 books.

"I love to read books, especially when they're related to computers and science. I have the first issue of Science magazine in Thailand. I read five or six books each day."

Yuen believes we live in a new era and that it is no longer good enough to teach children "in a conservative way".

"Today is different from the past. The way of doing things has changed. I've almost stopped using a pen, because I always use a computer to do my work," he says.

These days, in addition to being a teacher at Kasetsart, Yuen also provides honorary consultative services to other organisations. Recently, he took charge of the computer and registration system for more than 20,000 students and staff at the 2007 University Games in Thailand.

 Jirapan Boonnoon

 The Nation


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