Microsoft continues commitment to drive digital skills for Thais in technology-driven era

 |   Thornthawat Thongnab

In 2019, Thailand continues to be one of the fastest-growing markets in terms of digital technology adoption for national development. The public and private sectors alike are actively pushing the country towards a fully digital economy. Under these circumstances, Microsoft is continuing its commitment to provide opportunities for Thais of all backgrounds to gain access to technology, leaving no one behind and empowering everyone to achieve more.

Our quest to develop digital skills for people of all backgrounds

It is undeniable that technological advancements are creating more opportunities and improving people’s quality of life to unprecedented extents. However, inequality in technology access remains a major issue that everyone needs to address. Thus, Microsoft aims to equally support everyone with digital skills – from youth and teachers to people with disabilities and more, no matter in urban or isolated areas, to ensure that they all can benefit from technology and leverage newfound skills to drive the country forward in the future.

From January 2018 to June 2019, Microsoft carried on its mission to sustainably develop the country through digital skills training for over 1,600 teachers and 74,000 youth nationwide. Throughout the past ten years, Microsoft has extended opportunities in ICT and digital skills development to more than 800,000 youth from diverse backgrounds – including those with disabilities and residents of remote communities.

Smiling woman holding circuit board

Developing next-generation talent from the ground up and ensuring equal opportunities to access knowledge through technology

Beyond ongoing efforts in fostering digital skills among youth, Microsoft also recognizes the impact of equal access to learning opportunities and resources. As a result, we pledged support to Thailand’s first National E-Library program, an initiative that brings a collection of books to an online platform on, formed under a partnership between the Office of the Basic Education Commission, the Digital Government Development Agency (Public Organization), the Information and Communication Technology Center, Office of the Permanent Secretary, and the National Library of Thailand with a purpose to effectively develop digital knowledge and electronic curriculums in the country and facilitate fast, widespread access to useful information.

Thai Prime Minister in front of large screen talking to student

Microsoft Thailand is supporting the development of 3 key features in the National E-Library project:

  1. E-Library – Development and deployment of the application as well as all back-end systems, including library usage statistic reports;
  2. Chatbot – A book search system powered by AI, allowing users to conveniently search for books they are interested in by simply typing in the name. The chatbot can also answer questions from the users to help them find the right book on the website or the application more quickly and precisely;
  3. E-learning – In addition, Microsoft also offers recommendations on interesting courses, new lessons, class scheduling, and video content to provide an enhanced digital learning experience through technology.

For more information about our support for Thailand’s first National E-Library program, please click here.

Two men holding copies of a memorandum of understanding

Since computer science is playing an increasingly significant role in defining the workforce of the future, Microsoft has made it a priority to develop the digital skills of all Thais, especially youth of all backgrounds, in order to equip them for the future with the capabilities that enable them to achieve more in the technology-driven era and drive Thailand’s digital economy growth.

Early last year, Microsoft continued this mission by signing a memorandum of understanding with the Office of Vocational Education Commission, a government agency focusing on developing quality workforce to serve the needs of the public and private sectors, by utilizing technology to push the education sector, which is a sector that stands to benefit the most from technology. Microsoft developed an Education Transformation Agreement (ETA) to lay the basis of the partnership in 3 key areas – namely Leadership & Policy, 21st Century Pedagogy, and Technology Design. The Agreement is also part of our global mission to enhance education around the world throughout the past 3 decades.

Paving the way to a tech career path by sparking the interest in STEM education

“In the next 3 years, it is forecast that 95% of jobs in Thailand will be transformed, and 65% of the next generation will work in completely new jobs that do not currently exist.”

Executives and children in coding activity

Skills and education are key drivers for the new generation’s job market, with digital skills being the most important qualification and becoming a necessity for the future workforce.

In December 2018, we collaborated with the Digital Economy Promotion Agency (depa) and the Institute for Innovative Learning, Mahidol University, to host Hour of Code Thailand 2018 – an activity crafted to  encourage development of computer science expertise among Thai youth through basic coding skills that help them get ready for the digital era. It was also the first time they got to experience the latest game-based coding learning program, Minecraft Voyage Aquatic.

Hour of Code Thailand 2018, now into its 6th year, attracted significant public attention and drew more than 5,000 children from different parts of the country to join the campaign alongside teachers, educators and people with disabilities from NGOs.

Mr. Panus Singhakun, a Mathayomsuksa Three student from Triam Udom Suksa Pattanakarn School, said, “I already have the opportunity to learn basic coding from my school. However, I wanted to study more, and it became my personal interest to practice coding skills in my leisure time. I believe that coding skills will lead to good opportunities for my career in the future. Today is my first time joining in Hour of Code, and I have picked up many useful tips. It is also my first time learning coding through Minecraft. I am now even more interested in coding as Minecraft made it more enjoyable.”

Microsoft remains determined to encourage adoption of artificial intelligence technology in Thailand to complement human capabilities and advance the country towards the digital future. The Hour of Code Thailand 2018 represents this commitment in its focus on fundamental learning and equipping youth as a future developer in the AI-first era while also highlighting our “AI for Thais” concept by using computer technology to spark the imagination of the younger generations.

For more information about Microsoft Hour of Code Thailand 2018, please click here.

Building new capabilities through IoT-driven coding competition with micro:bit

In addition to our strong partnerships with government agencies, we have also collaborated with partners from the private sector such as Siri Ventures Company Limited in organizing the “Smart Living with micro:bit” competition for the first time in Thailand. The contest encourages children to come up with creative ideas that make everyday life better and develop these ideas into tangible projects using BBC’s micro:bit hardware and code. The joint initiative aims to strengthen youth interest in STEM education and encourage them to pursue career paths that ensure success in the digital future.

For more information about “Smart Living with micro:bit” competition, please click here.

The technology world is open for women to take part in!

According to a World Economic Forum report, only 22% of AI professionals globally are female.

In order to achieve our goal in equally expanding opportunities in digital skills development to all youth, we understand how crucial it is to close the gender gap in STEM education. Nowadays, the number of women studying and pursuing their careers in STEM is relatively low. The reasons girls stray from STEM are many, from peer pressure to a lack of role models and support to a general misperception of what STEM careers look like in the real world. This is not only limiting chances of female success, but also wasting opportunities for new innovations as the lack of women’s knowledge and expertise in STEM education may hamper the development of new, creative solutions from their viewpoint.

In March this year, Microsoft partnered with Siri Ventures Company Limited again to organize #MakeWhatsNext – DigiGirlz 2019 Thailand as part of #MakeWhatsNext, a global Microsoft initiative aimed at encouraging young women to pursue careers in STEM. Activities at the event included an inspirational panel discussion under the topic “High-demand jobs in AI era: Why girls should study computer science,” a training session on how to code for micro:bit boards and a micro:bit competition announcement.

The campaign drew a great deal of interest from Thai girls with a total of 145 students applying to take on the challenge.

Ms. Chulaluk Tang-iam, a winning team member and a Matthayom Suksa 6 student from Angthong Pathamaroj Wittayakhom School said: “Before the competition, none of us had any coding skills. We were given the chance to learn how to code for the first time at a Microsoft training session on the first day of the program. We feel that it has opened a new world for us and it is not beyond our capabilities. Once we combined our creativity with what we had learned, we realized that we could do it. Our ‘IoT-based fire alarm device prototype’ was inspired by the increasing number of reports of fire outbreaks and we felt we could create something to prevent or reduce the damage with the help of technology.”

For more information about #MakeWhatsNext – DigiGirlz 2019 Thailand, please click here.

Enhancing the potential of teachers

We also worked together with the Office of the Basic Education Commission to organize the 15th Thailand Innovative Teachers Leadership Awards in 2019, where participants were encouraged to adapt Microsoft tools into innovative teaching practices for all subjects – including those beyond the scope of computer science. The competition, which attracted more than 1,000 teachers across the country, aimed to support teachers by equipping them with Microsoft tools and services fit for adaptation into regular classes for the enhancement of the learning process.

The five winners received royal trophies from HRH Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn and were selected from an intense competition between 14 finalists by a distinguished panel of judges made up of professors and experts in various fields. The five winning projects with integrated Microsoft technology are:

  • Gen Z’s 5-development project, focusing on the progress of intellect, emotions, social skills, languages and independent living skills;
  • Outside classroom learning project;
  • STEM education and growth mindset development project;
  • Learning through STEM thinking process for inventor development project;
  • Fun science learning through Minecraft project

Mr. Panuwat​ Kiatnaruemol, a winner from Borabue School, Maha Sarakham, who developed “Learning through STEM thinking process for inventor development project,” said, “The inspiration to develop this project comes from the idea that we can utilize technology to make learning more fun for students.  I personally feel that the Thailand Innovative Leadership Awards provides a stage for competition where technology is put to practical use. The whole process was challenging, and it has brought me heart-warming friendship from other contestants.  We all share the same goal of educating Thai youth to develop the country in the future.”

For more information about Thailand Innovative Teachers Leadership Awards 2019, please click here.

Building technological readiness for an entire workforce

Microsoft understands the significance of fulfilling future demand for workforce, especially in terms of digitally oriented job opportunities opened up in the Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC) as part of the government’s plan to enhance the country’s overall image, attract more investment, and elevate the industrial sector’s capabilities. Hence, Microsoft partnered with the Digital Economy Promotion Agency (DEPA) and Pattaya Redemptorist Technological College to launch a digital skills training initiative for 500 teachers from 500 schools in the Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC) that will enable them to share their expertise with more than 50,000 secondary students. Under this initiative, Pattaya City 7 School (Ban Nong Pang Kae) has been selected as the model school where ongoing intensive training sessions will be held until the end of 2019. The aim is to develop a high-quality workforce that supports the job market’s future needs, especially in sectors with a digital core.

Group of men and women doing thumbs-up gesture with in room with computers

A study commissioned by the Eastern Economic Corridor Office of Thailand, which surveyed the workforce demand of all industries in the EEC area between 2019 and 2023, predicts that 475,668 new hiring opportunities will open up in this area alone, with 24% or 116,222 of these opportunities involving digital technologies.

The initiative covers digital skills trainings for 10 groups of elementary school teachers and 10 groups of secondary school teachers from schools in the 3 EEC provinces of Chon Buri, Rayong and Chachoengsao. They will be taught coding skills through different courses – including Microsoft’s Minecraft and MakeCode as well as Python, HTML5 and CSS programming to create websites by the trainers from Pattaya Redemptorist Technological College, all of whom have disabilities.

YouTube Video

Ms. Sopita Jantaros, a trainer from Pattaya Redemptorist Technological College, said, “I believe that digital skills will increase opportunities to children. It is a teacher’s job to figure out how to inspire them to learn these skills. I focus on teaching them in a way that makes them enjoy themselves, such as through games, and will try to make the skills feel relevant to them – such as by teaching them to code text that appears on an LED display. By building these skills and knowledge at a young age, they will be given more opportunities in the future. To me having a grasp of digital skills is like knowing the third language of the future.”

For more information about the digital skills training initiative for teachers and students in EEC, please click here.

Providing equal educational opportunities for all

For over twenty years, Microsoft has always believed that technology can empower everyone, and this belief translates to continued support of diversity and inclusion for everyone in Thai society – leaving nobody behind.

Only 5.8% and 9.2% of people with disabilities are active users of computers and the Internet.

Currently, there are over 3.7 million people with disabilities in Thailand. According to Section 33 of the Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities Act, employers or enterprise owners and governmental agencies must employ 1 disabled person per 100 employees to support people with disabilities to be able to independently make a living and earn income. Thus, Microsoft is aware of how important it is for them to be given opportunities to access digital skills, which will enable them to sustain themselves and thrive in the ‘Industry 4.0’ era where digital skills are critically necessary.

Microsoft has continued to empower people with disablilities through skill development. In 2018, we supported the organization of the of “Accessible Learning Hackathon: Solving the Right Problems for Students with Disabilities” competition, which was open to high school and university students with an interest in technology and a desire to learn about challenges that students with disabilities encounter on a daily basis. Teams of participants worked together to come up with an innovative solution of an application that could help eliminate various issues making education more accesable to them. The competition was held under a partnership between Microsoft Thailand and several organizations including Office of the Basic Education Commission, Ministry of Education, UNESCO Bangkok, Social Technology Institute, Faculty of Engineering, Chulalongkorn University and National Electronics and Computer Technology Center (NECTEC).

Group of people with three students in wheelchairs holding certificates

Team Reborn to Step, the winning team of “Accessible Learning Hackathon: Solving the Right Problems for Students with Disabilities” from Pattaya Redemptorist Technological College who received the royal trophy from HRH Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn, came up with the idea of an application to assist the people with mobility disability with an AI chatbot that excels in quickly providing information that is crucial for the people with disabilities to live their everyday lives and an ‘SOS’ feature the people with disabilities can use to ask for help from volunteers nearby.

For more information about the “Accessible Learning Hackathon: Solving the Right Problems for Students with Disabilities” competition, please click here.

Mr. Kittipop Kingskul, a Reborn to Step team member, said, “Every member of our team has mobility disability, lives in upcountry, has faced inequality in education and challenges in schools that struggled to accommodate us. So, we wanted to raise awareness of the numerous challenges that the people with mobility disability face in their daily lives society and help address these issues. We were aware that many Thais are willing to help or volunteer but do not know where or how to start. Then we learnt that technology can ease these challenges and support the education of the people with disabilities by sharing crucial information with them more conveniently and quickly. It can also serve as a platform that connects them with the volunteers. That’s when we decided to develop this application and hope it will be beneficial for a wider group of people in the future”.

Building national foundations for a better future by empowering teachers with digital skills

In the Thailand 4.0 era, industrial development is not the only path to success, and equipping people with digital and analytical thinking skills is just as crucial. By doing so, we can bring about new innovations that will be the foundation of the country’s development in the future. Hence, current teaching methods need to be changed to match the country’s shifting needs and to drive youth to successfully realize their full potential as the future of the country in the Thailand 4.0 era – and teachers represent a central component to this change.

Four people and two laptops in front of Microsoft signage

Microsoft has hosted digital skills trainings and competitions while also integrating technology into the teaching process for teachers across the country throughout the past 20 years.

Aiming to help Thais get ready in the digital economy era, Microsoft (Thailand) and partners – including the Institute for Innovative Learning, Mahidol University and ChangeFusion – jointly organized an operational training session, titled “How to Educate Secondary and High School Students on Python Programming for Project Development,” in April to enable over 50 Thai teachers to teach Python programming and equip their students with the necessary digital skills for the future. Held at Mahidol University Salaya, Nakhon Pathom, this training was part of the “ASEAN Digital Innovation” program, held to equally equip ASEAN population from all walks of life with crucial digital skills.

The ASEAN Digital Innovation Program aims to reach 46,000 underserved youth in seven ASEAN countries including Thailand and equip them with digital skills that enable them to thrive in the fourth industrial revolution. To achieve this objective, local partners from each of the seven countries will be brought in to deliver capacity building workshops for over 500 educators by harnessing specifically developed learning modules.

For more information about the “How to Educate Secondary and High School Students on Python Programming for Project Development” operational training session, please click here.

Long-standing public sector partnerships to push the country towards Thailand 4.0 era

Three men and one woman doing thumbs-up gesture in front of signage

In the past year, Microsoft has continued its partnerships with government agencies such as the Digital Economy Promotion Agency (depa), Digital Government Development Agency, Information and Communication Technology, Office of the Permanent Secretary, National Library of Thailand, Office of the Basic Education Commission and Office of Vocational Education Commission.

These efforts complement the government’s own mission in supporting and developing digital workforce and innovations to directly address demand in the country and is also in line with the Coding Thailand initiative, which aims to develop a computer science learning website that offers curriculums and resources catered to Thai students and teachers at no cost. We truly believe that the partnership will allow us to develop quality personnel and successfully address the market’s needs.

Beyond this, Microsoft is also sustaining its commitment to strengthen digital skills at a regional scale through the ASEAN Digital Innovation Program, which covers 7 ASEAN countries – namely Thailand, Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia and Cambodia. In Thailand, Microsoft has partnered with Digital Economy Promotion Agency (depa), ASEAN Foundation and Pattaya Redemptorist Technological College to teach the necessary skills for personnel and youth to be ready for the coming digital era.

Mr. Dhanawat Suthumpun, Managing Director, Microsoft (Thailand) Ltd., said, “Microsoft is very proud to play an important role in providing opportunities for all Thais to be able to access to technology and encourage them to equally achieve more. I would like to thank all of our partner organizations – ChangeFusion, Pattaya Redemptorist Technological College, Institute for Innovative Learning, Mahidol University, and Digital Economy Promotion Agency (depa) – for the collaborations to drive the country towards ‘Thailand 4.0’. Microsoft believes in the role of technology that is applied to make a positive impact in the society. That is why we carry on our digital skills development initiatives for the future, so that people of all backgrounds in the society can benefit from advanced technology, with no one being left behind.”