Thailand has passed its 20 year Digital Thailand plan, which prioritises rural areas and small businesses.

It is being led by the Ministry of Information and Communication Technology, which will be restructured to become the Digital Economy and Society Ministry. The government has set a budget of US$105 million for the programme.

Thailand’s first priority is to improve rural access across the country. It plans to install broadband connections to 30,000 villages, with 10,000 getting free WiFi access. It will also setup 600 “community digital centres” to train the elderly and poor to use the internet.

The government wants farmers to become “small-scale entrepreneurs”, and will encourage more to do business online with training for 1,600 farmers.

It will also upgrade municipal services, with Phuket and Chiang Mai selected as the first two smart cities. Phuket has already started on projects to improve transport and public safety, including a new operations centre to monitor the city.

The government in Phuket plans to provide the initial investment, with local startups being encouraged to take up the projects and carry them forward.