Digital dopes

Something called OpenGov sells itself as “entrepreneurial” and with a “purpose” to “Inform and Empower,” but unfortunately chooses to do this by being “dedicated to sharing ICT-related knowledge and information between governments.” Naturally enough it seems to reside in state-heavy Singapore.

Its recent article on Thailand it claims that “Thailand” is “looking to promote equality when it comes to digital access. The Thai government has partnered up with Google in a bid to reduce the digital divide that exists in Thailand.”

Interesting indeed that the military dictatorship is partnered with Google.

It reports on the “first Google for Thailand event … held in Bangkok yesterday under the theme of ‘Leave No Thai behind’. During the event [G]oogle announced a series of initiatives that it will be undertaking, in partnership with the Thai government. These initiatives include, free high speed public Wi-fi that will enable more Thai businesses and consumers to contribute to the growth of the digital economy.”

No Thai left behind, in Bangkok. As might be expected, Bangkok already has the highest internet penetration rates, with one measure listing it among the world’s top 25 cities. For the country, with about 33 million users, Thailand ranks 116th in percentage of population served.

But back to the article. Back in 2013, it says, the “Thai government announced that it was working towards increasing digital access in Thailand through increasing mobile penetration from 52% to 133% in 2020.” In terms of smartphone penetration, Thailand actually ranks about 31st in percentage terms.

So Thailand ranks reasonably high and Bangkok is probably fully saturated. So the deal seems to be about business and providing (precarious) employment for more people.

In other words, the “partnership” is about assisting the military dictatorship, but the article says nothing about the junta’s efforts to control the internet, its massive censorship of online discussion and its ubiquitous snooping.

So all the text on “opportunities.” “easy access” and feeling “more secure with accessing national and important information online” is waffle and ignores the basic political fact: Thailand is not open.

And neither is OpenGov when it mentions “the Prime Minister of Thailand” and its “government” without noting that the former is a military dictator and the latter is a military junta.

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