How Thailand is using YouTube to reskill its workforce
By Yun Xuan Poon
Interview with Dr Jakkanit Kananurak, Vice President, Digital Manpower Development and Promotion Department, Digital Economy Promotion Agency (DEPA), Thailand.
Thailand’s Digital Economy Promotion Agency (DEPA) has turned to YouTube to equip citizens with digital skills. The Thai Skill channel shares tips for small local businesses, including how to buy on international e-commerce sites and calculate taxes online.
Basic digital skills will be necessary to carry Thailand into a tech-powered economy. GovInsider spoke with Dr Jakkanit Kananurak, Vice President of DEPA’s Digital Manpower Development and Promotion Department to learn its priorities for reskilling the workforce.
Reskill the workforce
Thailand isn’t alone in exploring creative means of teaching: Sierra Leone schools taught over the radio during the pandemic, while the UK broadcast lessons on the BBC. Thailand has built three platforms to prepare citizens for a digital economy. “We need about 40,000 digital manpower a year, but in reality there’s still a gap,” Kananurak says.
The first of these is Thai Skill. The channel features videos on how to keep proper accounts and start selling products on global e-commerce sites such as Alibaba. The channel has accumulated more than a million views to date.
The second platform, Digital Skill, offers more than 100 courses on “more serious issues” like data science, IoT, and cybersecurity, Kananurak shares. DEPA worked with local universities and tech companies to develop the curriculum.
These two platforms are linked to Thailand’s job matching portal, JobD2U. It posts job openings for both digital and non-digital roles, across public and private sectors. Citizens can make up for any gaps in their skillset through Thai Skill and Digital Skill before applying for jobs, explains Kananurak.
These reskilling platforms have been helpful for government officials, who are currently working from home. They can use the time saved on travel to learn something new. This has led DEPA to “consider to support the development of edtech” in the future, he says.
Third comes Coding Thailand, a website to teach children basic coding skills. Children as young as four years old can get started on programming. DEPA built this platform in collaboration with Code.org, a US-based nonprofit that works to teach computer science in schools.
Focus on schools
One of DEPA’s top priorities is to continue developing the digital curriculum for primary schools, high schools and universities across the country, Kananurak says. For instance, it will roll out AI programmes at select universities this year, the Bangkok Post reported.
The agency is looking to equip more advanced schools to teach digital skills to other schools, Kananurak shares. DEPA has limited resources, so online learning platforms like Coding Thailand come in useful. “But we need the human touch from time to time,” he explains. “These schools or teachers could be our ambassadors to diffuse the learning of digital and coding to new schools.”
DEPA will look beyond educating the young ones to reskilling the elderly, says Kananurak. Studies forecast that Thailand will become a “full-fledged ageing society” in 2021, according to Nation Thailand. The agency will equip the elderly with basic digital skills that can give them more options for part time jobs, he notes.
New futures unit
Preparing a nation’s workforce for the future can be tricky when digital disruption is happening so quickly. “You never know if what you're studying today will be obsolete very soon in the next two years,” says Kananurak.
DEPA has to foresee emerging jobs and develop curriculum for the potential skills that may not exist yet. “We have to be a trendsetter, not trend catcher,” he notes.
The agency set up a dedicated unit late last year to study what digital skills it will have to prepare the people for. It is taking stock of the latest tech advancements, their potential impact on Thailand’s economy, and how they can tie in with the Thailand 4.0 masterplan. The unit is also learning from what countries like Singapore are doing, he shares.
Tech for health
Healthcare has seen one of the biggest leaps in digitalisation over the past year. Kananurak shares three of Thailand’s latest healthtech initiatives.
First, the country rolled out an AI smart pill recogniser. Patients can take a picture of their medication and upload it onto a database to find out its name and function.
This tool ensures medical personnel dispense the correct pills. Elderly patients may not remember the names of their medication when they collect new doses, Kananurak explains.
Second, DEPA is working with a public hospital to connect its databases with an e-health open data platform. Patients who forget to bring important documents will still be able to receive treatment, he says.
Third, DEPA is running a hackathon for tech tools to help asthma. Beyond developing condition-specific innovations, the agency hopes the hackathon will have a wider impact on boosting the healthtech scene. “We would like to promote the awareness of people who are developing applications for startups in the healthcare sector for Thailand,” shares Kananurak.
There are no specific measures to upskill medical personnel for now, but this will be important when 5G is rolled out in full force, he notes. “Doctors and nurses will have to get more digital literacy and knowledge about the IoT issue in the healthcare sector,” he explains.
Nations have to be prepared for the economy’s rapid shift to digital. Early education, futures planning and YouTube explainers will help Thailand build up its digital workforce.