Thailand Is Not Buying OLPC in 2007


I really wish there was a Thai-English auto-translator like the amazing Google Translate or Alta Vista's Bablefish. Then I could translate this Thairath website and understand better what is happening to One Laptop Per Child in Thailand.

As it is, we have to rely on Songphan Choemprayong, a Thai graduate student, for our Thai-centric OLPC news.

ICT Minister Sitthichai
And the news from Choemprayong isn't pretty. Based on the Thairath site, he's saying that:
In the four-billion-baht budget approved for Ministry of ICT, there is no allocation for computer acquisition project including One Laptop Per Child, said Dr.Sitthichai, a current Thai ICT minister. He gave the reasons that computer acquisition project need attentions and should be based on “reality”. (I’m not quite sure what he meant by "reality".)
It seems that the new Thailand ICT Minister, Professor Sitthichai Pokai-udom, has a different reality from you or me. In Pokai-udom's reality, according to the Bangkok Post, Open Source Software isn't a good thing. In fact, he's quoted as saying:
"With open source, there is no intellectual property. Anyone can use it and all your ideas become public domain. If nobody can make money from it, there will be no development and open source software quickly becomes outdated," he said.

Apart from Linux, he claimed that most open source software is often abandoned and not developed, and leads to a lot of low-quality software with lots of bugs. "As a programmer, if I can write good code, why should I give it away? Thailand can do good source code without open source," he said.

Why might Thailand be turning so quickly and so forcefully from Open Source Software, and OLPC, both which until recently it actively supported on a national scale?

ex-Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra

Part of the reason is disgraced ex-Caretaker Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who pushed the Children's Machine laptops as a way to replace books in Thailand's schools. But there may be a larger, more well funded reason. One that Songphan Choemprayong again references Thairath for:

[Dr.Sitthichai, a current Thai ICT minister] just brought representatives from Microsoft (Thailand) to meet prime minister, deputy prime minister and finance minister. The representatives from Microsoft offered IT supports and help to develop e-government.
Hmm.. I wonder what kind of "help" Microsoft might offer. Open Source it will be not. My best guess: cheap bloatware, freely given to addict teach the next generation of Thai students.

For all the budget busting cost when scaled to One Laptop Per Thai Child, the OLPC Sugar platform and applications as activities is a paradigm shift in software. High quality, low bug, cutting edge Open Source Software that the new Thailand ICT Minister, Professor Sitthichai Pokai-udom, would do well to introduce into his own reality.

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