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Wired for a better rural future 

Wired for a better rural future 

SATURDAY, April 20, 2019
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Rollout of fibre optics in remote villages aims to boost education, healthcare and local economies under the ambitious Net Pracharat programme

REDUCING inequality, creating opportunities for people in rural areas and building the competitiveness of the country.   These are the cited reasons behind the government’s programme to bring digital infrastructure to all people throughout the country and to increase their knowledge and access to services as they use the Net Pracharat network.
Ajarin Pattanapanchai, permanent secretary of the Ministry of Digital Economy and Society, said they have educated people throughout the country on how to utilise the infrastructure network of Net Pracharat.
This is being done because the programme will have long-term benefits that include both economic and social impacts for the country.
With Net Pracharat, all Thais will have equitable and affordable access to several sources of information and services, including for education, healthcare, e-commerce and government services, said Ajarin.
This would lead the country toward the path of long-term stability, prosperity and sustainability, Ajarin said.

Hard infrastructure
The Village Broadband Internet (Net Pracharat) project’s infrastructure was completed in December 2017, when MDES and Telephone of Thailand Public Company Limited (TOT) laid down the last of a fibre cable network targeting 24,700 rural villages throughout the Kingdom. 
One of Thailand’s national flagship projects, Net Pracharat aims to ensure reliable digital infrastructure and equitable access to information and communication technology throughout the country.
Meanwhile, the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) is responsible for 3,920 villages in border areas, and the remaining 15,732 target villages in rural areas. 
In 2019, the ministry continues to emphasise the use of Net Pracharat, with volunteers in 24,700 villages, as the young generation and community leaders work to coordinate the project. They report to the ministry about the daily functioning of the high-speed internet Net Pracharat network, other infrastructure-related suggestions, as well as the other needs of local people. 
In collaboration with the Ministry of Interior (MOI), training sessions have already reached one million local people.
The ministry has also focused on the community digital centres in each village, transforming each locale into a learning centre for the Net Pracharat project and allowing further development of the network to advance local community economic benefit. 
The ministry this year will emphasise creating applications and other uses on top of the Net Pracharat infrastructure including e-commerce, telemedicine and education.
The additional activities will include Thailand Post’s Point of Sale (POS) initiative to create a logistics platform for delivering products for the villages in support of local e-commerce through OTOP and community enterprises.  It aims to expand the POS infrastructure, offering e-marketplace, e-payment, and e-logistic services for the local digital communities, from 200 units to 5,000 units. 
About 900 people have already brought some 1,700 product items onto the platform and created revenues of Bt20 million for community enterprises.
This year, the ministry will also focus on finding ways to leverage the Net Pracharat infrastructure for public health benefits. The 30/10 megabits per second (Mbps) network speed as is not enough for establishing telemedicine, so the ministry, working with the Ministry of Public Health, will next upgrade the network speed to 100 Mbps to enable it in 10 locations.

Fibre optics for schools
Fibre optics will also be deployed this year by the ministry to support school initiatives, bringing high-speed internet to 2,000 to 3,000 schools throughout the country, including the Border Patrol Police School. The Ministry of Education will also be involved.
The Ministry of Digital Economy and Society will also build the fibre optics network to reach over 800 Tambon Health Promoting Hospitals, the first level of the public health service system in  communities.  “The initiative delivering fibre optics to hospitals is to encourage telemedicine to become a reality throughout the country,” said Ajarin.
The ministry is also working to prepare for the 5G era, as it establishes a 5G test bed and conducts 5G field trials at a digital park in the Eastern Economic Corridor.