Although the use of the Internet in Thailand has a short history, it continues to develop at a rapid rate. This paper presents how the Thai government adopted the Internet into their educational systems by looking at the diffusion–of–innovation theory. Also, it will briefly describe the evolution as well as criticize the adoption of the Internet in Thai education with an emphasis on academic uses. Moreover, it will explain the benefits, obstacles, and future plans of Internet usage in Thailand for education.
The early development of the Internet in Thailand
Current status of Internet use in Thailand
The diffusion of innovation and utilization of the Internet in Thailand
Internet challenges in Thailand
The benefits of using the Internet in Thailand
The future of Internet usage in Thailand
In the age of information technology (IT), there are many ways through which people can access information. Television broadcast systems, teleconferencing systems, and computer network systems are only some of the examples of information access. Among computer network systems, the most powerful and popular network is the Internet. The Internet provides swift access to an enormous amount of information for several purposes. For example, it can be used as an international information exchange system in which users from one side of the world can communicate with users from the other side. Electronic mail (e–mail) systems, and search engine systems are also examples. However, Hongladarom points out that “many fear that this power of the Internet might bring harmful results to a community” (Hongladarom, 2000). In order to avoid these issues, policymakers and users are increasingly learning how to use the Internet in an optimal manner.
Thailand’s adoption of the Internet has several benefits. For instance, it has improved the quality of education, met with economic growth, helped develop science and technology, and aided in research and trading (Koanantakool, et al., 1994). The National Electronics and Computer Center (NECTEC) is the main IT organization in Thailand that has adopted and promoted the use of the Internet . In 1992, the “NECTEC” founded the nation–wide network called ThaiSarn “to promote research in networking technologies and applications” .
This paper describes issues that policymakers should carefully consider in adopting the Internet to Thai society. These issues range from a thoughtful understanding of the history of the Internet in Thailand to a recognition of its current use to a review of obstacles preventing further application of the Internet in Thai education in the future.
Kanchana Kanchanasut was the first Thai woman to bring the Internet to Thailand, beginning with the use of electronic mail. While she was studying at the University of Melbourne (UM) in Australia she used e–mail routinely to check assignments and contact classmates. After finishing in 1984, she returned home to teach at the Asian Institute of Technology (AIT). At that time Thailand did not have Internet access, so Kanchanasut felt she had lost an important part of her routine. As a remedy, “she used a modem for dialing through the Communications Authority of Thailand [CAT]” with the only X.25 network to e–mail her friends and instructors for the next two years (Sutharoj, 1999). Because of the lack of Internet access, she tried in 1988 to establish Internet access for Thailand. Because she was a instructor at AIT, Kanchanasut had access to a Sun Unix–based workstation to use as a server to create an Internet connection with UM. This first experiment enabled AIT staff, Thai academics, and Kanchanasut to use e–mail via cable to contact others around the world (Sutharoj, 1999). As Palasri, et al. (1999) wrote:
“In early 1988, the [Australian International Development Plan] IDP helped [Prince of Songkhla University] PSU, AIT, and Chulalongkorn University (CU) set up the first e–mail network in Thailand, called the Thai Computer Science Network (TCSNet). With PSU and AIT as the main local gateways, Thai academics were able to dial–up to either the PSU (striang.psu.th) or the AIT (ait.ait.th) servers which were connected to the [UM] (munnari.oz.au). TCSNet used SUNIII software, [a] UNIX–based software widely used in the Australian Computer Science Net (ACSNet) … .”
By the mid 1988, it was time for a second try for Thailand to set up the Internet. “Australian IDP assisted PSU in the south of Thailand to set up the dial–up e–mail connectivity system with the [UM]” (Palasri, et al., 1999).
For more details about the early development of the Internet in Thailand see Palasri, et al. (1999) or visit the following site at http://www.nsrc.org/case-studies/thailand/english/index.html . Another example can be found at http://www.nectec.or.th/users/htk/milestones.html .
According to Koanantakool (1999) “the Internet was introduced to Thailand in 1991 through academic and research applications,” a year before the Thai Social/Science Academic and Research Network (ThaiSarn) was established (the word “Sarn” means information in Thai). In 1992, ThaiSarn’s Internet connection began with only a 9600 bps international link; it took ThaiSarn three years to get the first two Mbps international link. As of 1999, “ThaiSarn has about 100 connections to all state–owned university sites” (Koanantakool, 1999). ThaiSarn was established in 1992 by the National Electronics and Computer Technology Center (NECTEC) for many reasons. For example, it makes computer networks more useful for the development of science and technology, encourages telecommunicating across the country and across the globe, makes Thai business and economy more efficient and competitive, supports demands for specialized communications and network applications to be build for the nation’s information infrastructure, and improves the quality of education (Koanantakool, et al., 1994; Koanantakool, 1999; Palasri, et al., 1999; ThaiSarn, 2002).
“ThaiSarn was technically supported by NECTEC’s in–house lab, the Network Technology Laboratory (NTL), and collaboratively by participating sites. The network expanded rapidly in the first year” (Palasri, et al., 1999). In order to improve the quality of Thai education, the ThaiSarn network aimed at linking all Thai schools and universities together and encouraging Thai scholars to communicate with one another by computer and with other academics throughout the world. In terms of hardware, ThaiSarn was supported by “Bangkok–based international computer vendors, such as IBM (Thailand), Digital Equipment Corporation (Thailand), and Hewlett Packard (Thailand) which donated servers for testing. Shinawatra Datacom Company [Dr. Taksin Shinawatra is currently the prime minister of Thailand], a local operator, donated the leased line circuits to ThaiSarn” (Palasri, et al., 1999).
According to Koanantakool, et al. (1994) ThaiSarn’s three major goals are: The “short–term mission” which is “to bring all universities, their libraries, colleges, and leading schools online to the global village in a professional manner,” the “medium–term mission” which is “to build up a solid information–exchange foundation for intra–organizational communication and cross–database access for the participating parties,” and the “long–term mission” which is “to ensure the nation’s readiness for the information superhighway.”
The year 1995 was designated by the Thai government as the Year of Information Technology (IT) to encourage public interest in IT and to adopt new technologies. The National Information Technology Committee (NITC) expanded on its IT year activities by initiating a school program called the SchoolNet project (http://www.school.net.th/index.php3), to assist in teaching computer networking across the country. Aspects of IT, especially the Internet, are being used to improve the quality of education, motivating students to "use the Internet as a research tool to access a vast array of information located worldwide in cyberspace" (Kiattannannan et al., 1996). As Koanantakool (1999) stated: “In 1996–97, NECTEC started the project, ‘Golden Jubilee Network’ [or the Kanchanapisek Network http://kanchanapisek.or.th/index.html] as a tribute to His Majesty the King on the 50th anniversary of his accession to the throne. The project aimed at providing massive educational content in Thai on the Web, together with a unique public access network for the public throughout Thailand. The Golden Jubilee Network was an initiative of Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn.”
The Ministry of Education and NECTEC work together to link schools to the Internet. Also, several private companies have joined this project and have donated computer software, hardware and user training (Kiattannannan, et al., 1996). According to Kiattannannan, et al. (1996), “At present, there are 50 schools in Thailand (19 in Bangkok and 31 in other provinces) that are connected to the SchoolNet. Students and teachers are learning how to surf the Net. Increasingly, many schools are creating their school homepages as part of the learning process, publicity, and fun. Internet and HTML training courses are also provided to the staff of all the schools that are participating in this project.”
In 1998, the SchoolNet project gave the opportunity for Thai schools all over the country to get access to the Internet at a minimal cost. Moreover, the “public–access” network for the “Golden Jubilee” let schools get access to the Internet without charging long–distance phone calls to connect to the main server in Bangkok. This was a good opportunity for schools to begin utilizing the Internet as a supplementary education tool. By April 1999, there were more than 850 schools using SchoolNet services, “with more than 200 schools running their own Web sites” (Koanantakool, 1999).
“As of February 1999, PIE–circulating traffic was at 6.2 Mbps average. This means that in each month, 1.93 Terabytes (1,930,000 megabytes) of data was circulating inside [the] PIE instead of traversing abroad and come back. In real money, this is a saving of no less than 60 million baht [Bt] per year [the current exchange rate 1 US$ = Bt 42]” (Koanantakool, 1999).
NECTEC (2000) [http://ntl.nectec.or.th/internet/domainname/WEB] reports that currently a number of domains and hosts in Thailand with the “.TH domains have increased tremendously. For example, the total number of the domains in Thailand is 6,412, the number of the hosts is 68,668, and the number of host names starting with ‘www’ is 3,428.”
The Thai government has recognized that the country needs more educated people to stimulate its development. In this regard, the Internet can play a pivotal role in providing mass education cheaply and conveniently. Thailand has adopted the Internet to improve educational systems because the Internet has the potential to improve the quality of education. Thus, the Thai government utilizes the Internet in an optimal manner to link schools and universities throughout the country in order to achieve basic universal literacy.
Yet to implement the Internet in Thailand, the policy makers and educators need to carefully consider the economics and cultural aspects of the country, including attitudes and opinions about the Internet. Adopting the Internet from more advanced countries is a crucial factor for Thailand because Thailand is still a developing country. Thailand lacks human resources, funding, and technology expertise. This makes it difficult for Thailand to adopt and assimilate Internet easily from Western countries.
With the wide use of the Internet today, cultural identity has become a major issue for Thailand. This issue raises some questions such as how can Thailand adopt the Internet without losing its own cultural identity? And what is the best way to combine Internet use and culture? Schramm (1977) says developing countries should first begin with “little media” such as radio, slide transparencies, etc. because they are easier to use and less expensive to install and maintain than “big media” (i.e., teleconferencing, computer–mediated communication). Schramm makes a good point of using media for developing countries like Thailand. In this case, Thailand has already adopted these technologies and continues to use them for both educational and business purposes. However, Thailand still needs “big media” like the Internet because they are now recognized as useful tools to facilitate learning in many ways and to ensure the overall development of the country.
Diffusion–of–innovation theory explains how an individual (or group) adopts technology into its society. Rogers (1995) defines diffusion as “the process by which an innovation is communicated through certain channels over time among members of a social system.” “An innovation is an idea, practice or object that is perceived as new by an individual or other unit of adoption.”
Rogers classifies the diffusion of innovation in these five stages: “1) knowledge, 2) persuasion, 3) decision, 4) implementation, and 5) confirmation.” In order to gain “knowledge” of innovation, one needs to learn the innovation and then test whether one likes or dislikes (“persuasion”) the innovation so that he or she will make a “decision” to accept or reject the innovation. After the decision, the “implementation” stage is when he or she considers whether to continue or stop using the innovation.
This theory is an on–going process of technology adoption, which explains the process of social change. For example, when an individual perceives a new idea one then determines how to react to it. It should be noted that adoption and implementation take place on at least two levels: organizational and individual. For instance, an institution may adopt the Internet and related technologies to delivering online classes. This institution may implement these technologies throughout the organization, but individuals within the university may choose not to use them. In other cases, some individuals within an organization may adopt and use the Internet and related technologies to perform some aspects of their work before an institution as a whole makes the decision to adopt these given technologies.
According to Roger, opinion leadership is the “degree to which an individual is able to influence other individuals’ attitudes or overt behavior informally in a desired way with relative frequency.” Rogers classifies the rate at which individuals or groups adopt technology in their societies. These groups are entitled “innovators, early adopters early majority, late majority,” and “laggards.” Early adopters are the most important category because they carefully consider an innovation before it is widely accepted and used. Because early adopters have the highest degree of “opinion leadership,” an organization needs them “for advice” on adopting new technologies.“This adopter category is generally sought out by change agents (policymakers) as a local missionary for speeding the diffusion process.”
Roger’s model explains how innovation is first adopted by new members of a society, and how other members then consider joining, using, or rejecting innovations. In the process, policymakers can play a role as opinion leaders because they can see how a specific innovation may fit into a culture and then decide to adopt or reject it. For Thailand, when the Thai government decided to adopt the Internet, policymakers needed to define when and how to apply the Internet for Thai education. Therefore policymakers have a responsibility to understand the impacts of this process. In Thailand, policymakers act as opinion leaders. For example, the minister of the Ministry of Education should make a decision on the best way — based on Thai culture — to adopt the Internet to education across the country.
Rogers explains the role of a change agent as “an individual who influences clients’ invention–decision in a direction deemed desirable by a change agency. The change agent usually seeks to obtain the adoption of new ideas, but may also attempt to slow down diffusion and prevent the adoption of undesirable inventions.” Currently, the Thai government is trying to educate a new generation about Internet technologies in order to prepare the country as a whole for a new IT era. To achieve this goal, policymakers have to understand their role as change agents. Therefore, they will take responsibility in making decisions on the overall integration of the Internet into education. In schools, teachers and administrators will then decide on the best specific roles for the Internet in the curriculum.
In adopting the Internet for educational purposes, Thai educational administrators need to consider the following factors:
Cost — what the cost of investment for hardware, software, and human capital? Policymakers must consider both the initial budget to purchase the computers and software and the ongoing costs of maintenance (i.e., upgrade hardware and software) as well as technical and staff support. There are also additional costs for Internet service providers (ISPs) that must be considered. Given the rural nature of much of the country, and the lack of telephone service in many regions, an overall telecommunications infrastructure will need to be developed that addresses the needs of all Thais, both rural and urban. Without this infrastructure, the Internet will make little impact on the country as a whole.
Experts — there are two kinds of experts: people who take responsibility to adopt the Internet (based on the diffusion of innovation framework) and those who train, teach, and maintain the Internet and related technologies. Additionally, teachers will need to be trained in using and applying these technologies in the classroom.
Language — a great deal of information on the Internet is in English. Some Thais therefore may be unconfortable with the Internet until more resources are developed in Thai (Hongladarom, 2000).
Culture — policymakers need to implement programs that will encourage the use of the Internet in meaningful ways. Otherwise, the Internet may be abused, becoming a widespread problem rather than an asset.
Resources — there should be online resources, such as online libraries, databases, journals, and search engines for all to use. In addition, a national plan should be created to encourage the optimal use of the Internet for educational purposes throughout the country.
The costs of hardware and software are the largest problem facing Thailand because both the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of University Affairs have inadequate budgets, especially during the current economic crisis. As a result, most public colleges, universities, and schools cannot afford Internet–related technologies. Private colleges, universities, and schools in Thailand’s urban areas addressed this problem by simply increasing tuition and fees. This option is not available to public institutions because they need to make educational opportunities affordable for all.
The complexity of the Internet is certainly another factor. Some fear new technologies, intimidated by them. Some may have had unpleasant experiences in their initial experiments with the Internet. This problem is not confined just to Thailand. These negative experiences will then slow the use of the Internet in classrooms across the country.
The success of ThaiSarn has encouraged NECTEC to move forward with plans to provide Internet access to schools throughout the country. A pilot project, known as SchoolNet, has been launched to install Internet for secondary schools in Bangkok and other provinces. The use of the Internet will eventually improve the quality of Thai education.
When incorporating the Internet into classrooms, those responsible for this technology should consider the following criteria:
All students should have computers with Internet access to facilitate the learning process.
Instructors should encourage students to use Internet tools such as e–mail and discussion lists to work collaboratively on assignments and projects related to the curriculum. Instructors should provide specific means for students to post assignments or projects for other students to read.
Instructors should set up specific classroom conferences for fostering ongoing discussions of specific hardware and software problems that may help students to solve problems on their own.
Using the Internet, educators can use a variety of techniques to make learning more enjoyable for students. Teaching and learning via the Internet can make students excited about specific subjects because the Internet is a multimedia environment. In addition, Internet–based learning is advantageous to students because they can learn at home, provided of course they have Internet connectivity.
The Internet is becoming more familiar to Thais, especially to a younger generation that regard it as a revolutionary technology that will permanently change the nature of data collection, storage, processing, transmittal, and presentation. Information technologies have become essential to enhancing the economic, social, and educational development of the country. The Thai government declared 1995 as the Year of IT and announced a National Information Technology Policy. It has become a major policy initiative whose plans have been subsequently followed by the eighth National Economic and Social Development Plan and the National Education Development Plan. The IT 2000 plan emphasized three projects (IT, 2000). Palasri, et al. (1999) said that:
“The first project is to build a national information infrastructure (NII) to use existing telecommunications resources, including a nation–wide fiber optic network with satellites, to expand Internet service into rural areas. The NII intends to facilitate remote schools connecting to the Internet. … Currently, schools that wish to get on the Internet can either cooperate with local universities or dial in to ThaiSarn’s hub in Bangkok.
The second project is to invest in people, and intends to concentrate on transferring IT knowledge to Thai children. Free universal access service began late year to celebrate His Majesty the King’s Golden Jubilee called Kanchanapisek Network Project. The network provides limited access to the World Wide Web to students and anyone with Internet access.
The third project is called the Government Information Network (GINET), and plans to link all government agencies in 76 provinces together on the national fiber optic backbone as well as encourage government officers to become more computer literate … .” (Palasri, et al., 1999).
Since knowledge of English is one of the biggest problems facing greater use of the Internet, NECTEC have been developing software to translate English to Thai digitally. It is hoped that this software will give the chance for all Thais to utilize the Internet.
It is suggested that the use of IT in education in Thailand should not be restricted to science and technology, but also to include the humanities and the arts by
Giving all teachers, college lecturers and professors, and all school children and college students opportunities to learn and use information technologies. The objective is to use these technologies as an enabling tool to access information and gain knowledge through self–paced learning or through interactions with teachers and other students;
Linking schools, colleges, universities, and libraries electronically to provide students, teachers, and lecturers with an enriched environment in which distant learning resources can be made available remotely; and,
Making full use of IT and distance education facilities to meet the needs and aspirations of all citizens for continuing education and upgrading of skill without regard to age, profession, distance, or geography. Special attention must be given to the disabled, in particular .
There is a need for effective coordination among Thailand’s many IT government users. These government entities include the military, budget bureau, ministries of finance, communications, and so on. Each has its own computer systems, guidelines, and procurement policies. There is also a need for IT training at all levels of the government workforce.
Successful adoption of the Internet to Thailand demands that technology adjust to Thai social structures. Policymakers should be encouraged to incorporate the Internet into all future educational plans. Thai government administrators needs to act as opinion leaders to provide plans and policies to support this technology. Moreover, both policymakers and administrators should work with educators as change agents.
Educational administrators need to consider all of the costs of the Internet as well as the attitudes and skills of potential end users before framing policy for adopting the Internet.
The growth of the information technology sector in Thailand has been noteworthy over the past decade. Many in Thailand now use networked computers as both personal and professional communication tools. According to NECTEC and NSTDA , there are 3,536,001 individuals out of total population of approximately 62,000,000 using the Internet in Thailand, or only 5.64 percentage of the Thai population. This result is directly due to the Thai government lack of initial enthusiasm in acknowledging the importance of the Internet. Instead of promoting technology and Internet usage, the government’s first reaction to the new technology was to reserve facilities only for state academic institutions and government agencies. Political uncertainty, changes in the government, budget revisions, and corruption have hampered the growth of the Thai IT industry. Thais are also discouraged by the predominance of the English on the Internet and in related software applications. Unless Thailand develops more local software products and more Thai Web sites, use of the Internet will be limited to only English–speaking Thais, a small percentage of the total population.
There are some solutions to these problems. For example, the IT–2000 Project, part of the Telecommunications Master Plan and the Eighth National Economic and Social Development Plan, emphasizes the need to solve problems pertaining to human resources, local development of technology, and expansion of the Internet by using the existing telecommunications infrastructure. The success of these plans will in large measure determine the economic fate of the country in the future.
About the author
Noppadol Prammanee holds a B.A. from Burapha University, Chonburi, Thailand and a M.S. from Fort Hay State University, Hays, Kansas. He is currently an Ed.D. candidate in the Department of Educational Research and Assessment at Northern Illinois University in DeKalb where he focusing on instructional technology. His research interests include attitudes and perceptions of interactions in online classes, instructional design for online classes, computer–mediated communication (CMC), human–computer interactions, and engaging learning with technology. The title of his dissertation is “Understanding participation in online courses: A triangulated study of perceptions of interaction.”
E–mail: nprammanee [at] yahoo [dot] com.
1. The National Electronics and Computer Center (NECTEC) is an organization that is in charge of the development of Information Technology (IT) in Thailand “to ensure Thailand’s competitiveness in Electronics and Computer and the use of IT to stimulate economic and social impact through own R&D programs as well as R&D funding services to universities.” See http://www.nectec.or.th or http://www.nectec.or.th/home/.
2. Thai Social/Science Academic and Research Network (ThaiSarn) was established and funded by NECTEC in 1992 to promote the use of the Internet in Thailand. “ThaiSarn is currently in its third generation, denoted as ThaiSARN–3, where the main mission is to promote research in networking technologies and applications. At present, ThaiSARN–3 is currently connected to three major international research networks.” See http://www.thaisarn.net.th.
3. Sirin Palasri, Steven Huter, and Zita Wenzel, 1999. The history of the Internet in Thailand. Eugene, Oregon.: Uiniversity of Oregon Books, and at http://www.nsrc.org/case-studies/thailand/english/index.html. This case study is recommended for readers who are interested in the history of the Internet in Thailand.
5. See note 1.
7. See note 2.
9. See note 3.
11. National Electronic and Computer Technology Center (NECTEC) and National Science and Technology Development Agency (NSTDA), 2000. “Internet user profile,” at http://www.nitc.go.th/it-2000/full.en2.html. This site contains information about IT in Thailand and around the world.
Soraj Hongladarom, 2000. “Negotiating the global and the local: How Thai culture co–opts the Internet,” First Monday, volume 5, number 8 (August), at http://firstmonday.org/htbin/cgiwrap/bin/ojs/index.php/fm/article/view/782/691. http://dx.doi.org/10.5210/fm.v5i8.782
IT, 2000. “Social equity & prosperity: Thailand IT policy into the 21st century,” at http://www.nitc.go.th/it-2000/full.en2.html.
Paisal Kiattannannan, Pichet Durongkaveroj, Thaweesak Koantakool, and Adshariya Agsornintara, 1996. “National information infrastructure in Thailand,” at http://ish.nectec.or.th/apii_paper.html.
Thaweesak Koanantakool, 1999. “Getting ready for the new millennium,” at http://www.nectec.or.th/it-projects.
Thaweesak Koanantakool, Trin Tantsetthi, and Morragot Kulatumyotin, 1994. “Thaisarn: The Internet of Thailand,” at http://www.nectec.or.th/bureaux/nectec/ThaiSarn.book/index.html.
National Electronic and Computer Technology Center (NECTEC) and National Science and Technology Development Agency (NSTDA), 2000. “Internet user profile,” at http://www.nitc.go.th/.
Sirin Palasri, Steven Huter, and Zita Wenzel, 1999. The history of the Internet in Thailand. Eugene: University of Oregon Books, at http://www.nsrc.org/case-studies/thailand/english/index.html.
Everett M. Roger, 1995. Diffusion of innovation. Fourth edition. New York: Free Press.
Learners W. Schramm, 1977. Big media, little media: Tools and technologies for instruction. Beverly Hills, Calif.: Sage.
Pongpen Sutharoj, 1999. “Internet pioneer maintains high ideals,” The Nation ByteLine (April), and at http://www.thnic.net/byteline.html.
ThaiSarn, 2002. “Thailand’s next generation Internet,” at http://www.thaisarn.net.th/.
Paper received 16 September 2002; revised 2 January 2003; accepted 3 January 2003.
Copyright © 2003, First Monday.
Copyright © 2003, Noppadol Prammanee.
A critical analysis of the adoption and utilization of the Internet in Thailand for educational purposes
by Noppadol Prammanee
First Monday, Volume 8, Number 1 - 6 January 2003
A Great Cities Initiative of the University of Illinois at Chicago University Library.
© First Monday, 1995-2017. ISSN 1396-0466.