Training programme to help boost online business skills of hill tribes
Ethnic hill-tribe communities in northern Thailand are expected to benefit from a training programme on digital entrepreneurship and marketing skills.
This is a collaboration between the Social Development and Human Security Ministry and mobile network operator DTAC.
The ministry and DTAC signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) on Thursday to form a partnership aimed at empowering indigenous people through digital and entrepreneurial skills while improving their economic well-being and promoting sustainable tourism.
The programme focuses on residents of 24 villages in the mountainous areas of seven northern provinces — Chiang Rai, Chiang Mai, Mae Hong Son, Lamphun, Uthai Thani, Nan and Phayao, according to Anukul Peedkaew, director-general of the Department of Social Development and Welfare.
He said the villagers would be provided with knowledge and training and career opportunities as online entrepreneurs.
“Our partnership with DTAC will help indigenous people promote their products in the online market, thus expanding their potential market regionally, nationally and even internationally,” Anukul said.
According to him, DTAC’s Net-for-Living team teaches digital skills to ethnic villagers with the aim of raising their incomes by 50 per cent. Meanwhile, his department provides knowledge on business management, accounting, product development and registration with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
“This initiative is a critical part of the department’s efforts to create opportunities and address the inequality issue,” said the official.
Stephen James Helwig, DTAC’s interim chief corporate affairs officer, said the collaboration illustrates his company’s efforts to reduce the digital divide among indigenous people through the Net-for-Living programme.
“DTAC’s business operation is based on human rights, particularly in terms of promoting equality without any discrimination — whether it is race, gender, or nationality,” Helwig said.
For him, mobile network operators play an important role in connecting all parts of society with the digital economy, which will help create jobs, income and better quality of life through mobile technology.
“This project will equip [ethnic villagers] with digital entrepreneurial and marketing skills, together with a plan from the Department of Social Development and Welfare focusing on advancing their economic potential, leading to grassroots economic development and sustainable economic recovery for their region,” he said.
According to the executive, DTAC’s Net-for-Living programme has managed to raise the participants’ income by 40-50 per cent, allowing those living in vulnerable conditions to step into new frontiers and opportunities to work with confidence.
Through this initiative, DTAC’s immediate goal is to increase income per head by 15-20 per cent in six months after completing training, he said.
Meanwhile, local villagers voiced optimism that their participation in the training programme would boost their skills in online commerce.
Lapawan Semu, an Aka tribe villager in Chiang Rai province, said she expected to start an online business selling clothing with the knowledge from the programme.
Sophon Sae-lee, a Karen villager from Chiang Rai, said that e-commerce would help her village boost their revenue from selling their silverware products and expanding the customer base, after their business was hit hard during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Thailand’s indigenous population is estimated at six million, covering 70 ethnic groups across the nation. Most of them live in mountainous areas of northern and southern Thailand.
According to United Nations data, more than 86 per cent of indigenous people globally work in the informal economy, compared to 66 per cent for their non-indigenous counterparts. Indigenous people are nearly three times as likely to be living in extreme poverty compared to their non-indigenous counterparts.