Microsoft Thailand and the Population and Community Development Association (PDA), a well-known NGO in Thailand, has kicked off the ’Chumchon Dot Net’ project to establish 20 Community Technology Skills Centers for villagers in Thailand’s Northeast region.

Started in March, the project aims to provide information technology (IT) access and training to villagers—allowing them to learn new IT skills and boost their income opportunities. Approximately eight million people in Thailand live on less than two dollars a day. They reside mainly in the Northeastern part of Thailand, also known as the Isan Region. Over 80 percent of these people are rice farmers who depend on good weather for a fair harvest, resulting in erratic income.

 

The poverty situation is worsened by the increasing migration of people from these regions to urban centers, especially Bangkok. This has resulted in less able-bodied men and women available to tend the crops, thereby perpetuating the cycle of poverty.

The project will train more than 1700 farmers and youths. A web portal was designed to link at least 10 websites created and maintained by the villages to provide information that will facilitate the buying and selling of goods in the surrounding communities. Microsoft and PDA aim to increase the villagers’ income by at least 20 percent after the first 12 months.

An organic farmer, Mr Wanchai Soiprapai, is one of the participants of the Chumchon Dot Net project in his village. He had moved from Bangkok to the Nongkratum village in Buriram to become a farmer after suffering health problems while working in the city. "I have been interested in computers and IT for more than 20 years and IT is a tool to for me to succeed in organic farming. I need to have access to information such as effective fertilizer-soil formula, right plant species and updated information from agriculture agencies,” he said.

Through this project, Microsoft strives to boost the IT capabilities of the people in the region, facilitate e-commerce and expand market opportunities to help alleviate some of the economic hardships endured by the villagers.