How strengthening community innovations can support the recovery of COVID-19 in Thailand’s poorest provinces
The Minister of Finance, HE Mr. Arkhom Termpittayapaisith, opened a clear message during his opening speech, affirming the importance of empowering local communities, especially vulnerable groups, to participate and receive the necessary support, and build the resilience of communities to cope with uncertainty or shocks. “Focusing on people-centered development and providing digital socio-economic support to local communities is a critical path for sustainable recovery and resilience,” said the Minister.
As a case study of the CDD approach, Ms. Alka Upadhyaya, Additional Secretary at the Ministry of Rural Development and Director General of the National Rural Livelihood Mission (NRLM), shared India’s experience with the NRLM, one of the greatest livelihoods and economies of women. empowerment program around the world. The large program has a federated structure made up of “self-help groups” at hamlet, village and cluster level, covering about half of all rural households in India. It offers a range of financial services, from bank credit to insurance to financial literacy training. It also targets the skills of young people, particularly in the area of entrepreneurship.
“In response to COVID-19, self-help groups have demonstrated a strong capacity to respond to the impact of the pandemic at the local level, for example by mobilizing people and resources to produce face masks, disinfectants and protective equipment, ”said Ms. Alka. “As large supply chains collapsed due to necessary COVID restrictions, rural local supply chains have been able to scale up and support neighboring areas. “
Mr. Nirat Phongsittithaworn, Deputy Permanent Secretary of the Thai Ministry of Interior, also shared Thailand’s experience in strengthening its basic economy through the One Tambon One Product (OTOP) program which was launched there has two decades to support local economic development at the sub-district level. . The program has more recently expanded to e-commerce platforms, particularly in response to the impact and restrictions of COVID-19, thereby leveraging the digital economy for local development.
“Sparsely populated areas often mean a lack of critical mass for public services and infrastructure development, resulting in low rates of business creation and jobs,” said Dr Anna O’Donnell , Chief Social Development Specialist at the World Bank, who presented the Smart Village approach in Indonesia to drive rural transformation through community-driven digital innovation. “Digital solutions can help break the cycle by reducing the costs of providing services and fostering business development. “
A panelist from Indonesia, Dr Suprapedi, further described the smart village model as a way to tackle the digital divide and help communities use digital technology effectively to achieve local development priorities. An example of a Smart Village application that brings local innovation on a digital platform and benefits many villages is Anak Bunda, which helps village clinics collect health data and provides graphical analysis.
Similar to Indonesia’s approach, Dr Piyanuch Wuttisorn, Inspector General at Thailand’s Ministry of Digital Economy and Society, explained how digital community centers were created to provide internet access, host training digital and entrepreneurial skills and facilitate access to digital public services.
Participants raised interesting questions regarding the application of the CDD approach in a middle-income country like Thailand, and the role of the private sector. Panelists indicated that applying CDD in Thailand can be even easier and more promising, as some of the typical challenges such as access to finance, connectivity or business development capacities are less restrictive. In addition, the private sector, especially larger players, can support communities in areas such as product development, standardization, marketing and the transition to e-commerce.