ICT Future: Lets Start with Participation in Thailand

Often young people are the first to take advantage of information and communication technologies. I see this in developing countries within the region, a prevalent desire for continuous content consumption, be it via sharing on social media, engaging on the internet, advocacy with mass dissemination and, or simply for one’s private entertainment. Traditional sense of socializing, at least during the “old days” of my youth, have been aggressively challenged and even in this day and age of modernization, we still see the present socialization challenged by young people and by people of my generation.

New technology is not only bringing about the uniformed culture of information. There has been frequent outbreaks of anti-conformism to this culture, bordering on the right to internet freedom to socio-political self-awareness of ideas and propagandas. Such culture is visible in almost every corner of the youth community, where experimentation, tentative prodding and the curiosity swells.

Though often, such in Thailand, this behaviour of internet autonomy is discouraged by the cultural conservatives, right-wings and the authorities. Some groups, traditionalists fearing a backlash to their lives or to their sense of “order” and make it a point to exclude young people in decision-making process, such as in consultation for the country’s national internet-related policies.

I’ve noticed, such exclusion takes place when authorities demand for development (in this case, a so-called “reform”) of national strategies with the secret introduction of a new set of laws, governed by a rebranded government strong-arm, called “Ministry of Digital Economy“. Though in truth, its a far-removed agency with politically motivated individuals championing its conception. I worry about the digital divide, in itself caused by the junta-inspired groups of decision-makers, with unsolved social inequality, marginalization and that obvious institutional desire to ensure conformity.

So let’s start with basic questions, by facilitating the brain juices of young people:

Are there government programs and policies that specifically address the right of participation of not just young people but also the masses into consultation in drafting laws that affect ICT? If so, what areas of focus?

Are there government-related programs to empower young people to be part of the growth of ICT in Thailand? What about NGO programs? Is the private sector involved, and what about individuals?

Have young people or youth organizations been involved with the present planning of the proposed laws? And what about the evaluation of the future impact of such laws on them?

Without their active participation in decision-making and problem-solving, and without taking into account of their concerns on censorship, surveillance and other internet regulations, the government will surely place young Thais on the wrong side of the digital divide.

 

Zashnain

An avid blogger, twitterer and photojournalist, Zashnain Zainal suffers from an incurable addiction to social work, helping marginalised communities since 1989. Nowadays he travels from the plantations of Malaysia to the slums of Thailand. He can be found at zashnain.com and @bedlamfury

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