Speech for Thailand Innovation Day,
Former Prime Minister of Thailand
June 11, 2001
Mr. Chairman, Vice President Mr. Kassum,
Distinguished guests and innovators, I am honored to provide a few comments in
recognition of this event, and in particular the Finalists who have come to has
share their ideas with us. Now, I know this group of guests and finalists are
anxious to find out who has won, so my remarks will be brief.
grandchildren are the true IT generation. It is my hope is that the end of the
last century will be remembered not as a period of economic crisis, but as a period
in which we determined, once and for all, to unite as a nation to address human
rights, the equitable distribution of income, and a reform of governance that
puts true power in the hands of ordinary people and enshrines the reform in our
Our Constitution is a revolutionary document
because it empowers people with real tools of governance - rights, accountability
and representation - in ways unimagined in the 15 Thai constitutions that failed
before it. The difference between this constitution and the previous trail, is
the participation of people, rather than vested interests, as its true architects.
Armed with that experience and document, we enter the Century of Knowledge. The
Era of Innovation.
Ladies and gentlemen, we have seen the great
benefits of the technological change in reducing poverty throughout the world.
Children in Brazil are learning about democracy through computers, African artisans
are selling their crafts over the Internet, and health care is delivered more
efficiently in India through handheld devices carried by rural health providers.
Citizens throughout the world are conducting government services online, and corporations
are conducting shareholder voting through Internet. We have seen businesses become
more competitive, reacting more quickly to create new and innovative products
in response to the market. Ideas are the currency of the day.
Thais are known for many fine qualities, but speedy technological innovation has
not been high on the list. We still have some ways to go in terms of education,
awareness, and access of all of our citizens to basic telephone service. But we
have started on the path, led by the example of Her Royal Highness Princess Maha
Chakri Sirindthorn, who has empowered many underprivileged communities and schools
with access to information technology. Seeing how many proposals have appeared
in such a short time, it is clear that Her Highness' efforts have raised awareness,
and that perhaps our reputation in the field of innovation will be changing soon.
potential benefits of information technology in networking in people, in providing
economic opportunity, in sharing knowledge more rapidly, in documenting local
wisdom, and in providing basic services, are amply demonstrated by our Finalists.
Our rural people, who outnumber our urban people by far, lack these tools move
than our city - dwellers. Yet for every 10 Internet users in Thailand, only one
is rural. Such is the way of the market, and this is way we must take action on
the digital divide
Information technology has its risks as
well. Many in our society fear the possibility of unintended consequences of the
wrong type of information reaching our rural communities, which are the cornerstone
of our society. This view is based on the assumption that the rural community
is closer to an ideal, and it must be protected form change. But we all know that
the change is inevitable. In Buddhist philosophy there is a saying, “All things
are in flux and nothing is permanent.” Like other problems we have faced in the
past, we will confront the challenge not by turning our backs, but by engaging
confidently, openly, and as a community, to ensure that change in a way that is
consistent with our ideals. To me, Innovation Day represents an important step
forward, because it demonstrates that people form all walks of life are able to
harness the power of information and networking for positive change. To improve
the quality of life in the rural community, to provide the right type of information
“content” that does not exploit but empowers. I am pleased that the Government
also recognizes this imperative, and that the World Bank is supporting the Government's
Through our Constitution we have determined that our
democracy and society will survive, and thrive, bused on the pillars of knowledge,
good governance, and the empowerment of people. I am pleased to say that we are
entering the Century of Knowledge determined to build our information infrastructure
on the same foundation.
We will shortly
name a selection of winners form this group of community innovators, and one such
prize will be given to the Finalist whose proposal best embodies the virtues of
good governance and empowerment of citizens using information technology. I would
like to thank the American Corporations in Thailand (ACT) for donating this gift
in my name. Let me repeat the message of Vice President Kassum this morning. All
of the Finalists are winners, and in fact, Thailand is the real winner. Congratulations
to all of the finalists who have shared their ideas openly, which are increasingly
our most valuable asset.
ado, I would like announce the winner of the Anand Panyarachun Prize for Rural