By JIRAPAN BOONNOON
The Office of National Economic and Social Development Board (NESDB), the National Electronics and Computer Technology Centre (NECTEC), the National Science and Technology Development Agency (NSTDA) and the Ministry of Science and Technologies have joined up to help alleviate poverty in Thailand.
Sarun Sumriddetchkajorn, executive director of NECTEC, said the centre had developed the Thai People Map and Analytics Platform (TPMAP) to pinpoint the problems people in different parts of Thailand are facing.
He explained that policymakers can use TPMAP to come up with precise poverty programmes that are suitable for each poverty-stricken person in each province, district or sub-district.
TPMAP’s “Big Data” system can help improve the quality of people’s life in terms of increasing income, reducing living costs and boosting employment opportunities.
Suttipong Thajchayapong, a senior researcher at NECTEC, said that to understand poverty in the country, three questions first need to be answered: Who are the poor? What are their basic needs? And how can their poverty be alleviated?
These questions can be more precisely answered using the TPMAP, which integrates data from different government agencies.
The individual data sources do not need to be 100-per-cent accurate and different sources can be used to confirm facts.
At present, TPMAP uses the census-based Basic Minimum Needs (BMN) data of approximately 36 million individuals from the Interior Ministry’s Community Development Department and register-based data of approximately 11.4 million
individuals from the Finance Ministry.
“Basically, if a person is found to be poor from both sources, then he or she can be identified as the target poor,” Suttipong said.
He explained that TPMAP uses the Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI) developed by Oxford Poverty, the Human Development Initiative and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). TPMAP also uses five poverty benchmarks: healthcare, education, income, living standards and access to public services.
As for answering the question of what poverty-stricken people’s basic needs are, the TPMAP uses details from the BMN data collected annually by the Community Development Department.
The platform processes and analyses BMN data to calculate the number of individuals who can be identified as the target poor.
TPMAP also compares individual indicators from one year to the next to see if poverty has in fact been reduced.
These year-to-year comparisons can be used to assess and choose suitable poverty alleviation programmes.
Following the yardstick
As for its benchmarks, in healthcare, for instance, it focuses on information such as the weight of a newborn in a family – if it is above 2.5 kilograms and if medication is used in a suitable manner.
In terms of living standards, the condition of the house is checked, along with whether there is access to drinking water and if it is in a tidy and hygienic condition.
In terms of education, which is designed for children aged between six and 14 in the household, the survey checks to see if the children have received their mandatory nine years of education.
The platform also checks to see if the family earns less than Bt2,667 per head per month, and for access to public services, it focuses on the elderly and disabled people in the household, to see if they are properly taken care of by their family, the community, government or private agencies.
Sarun said 36,647,817 people were surveyed according to TPMAP this year, and 1,032,987 were targeted as poor people.
The top five poorest provinces in the country were identified as Mae Hong Son, Nan, Tak, Chiang Rai and Chiang Mai.
Chiang Mai has the largest number of poor people at 54,887, and Mae Hong Son has some 22,783 people living in poverty.
Samut Songkhram appears to be the richest province in the country, with only 903 people living in poverty. “I think TPMAP will help provincial authorities come up with policies that help poor people and improve the quality of life for Thais in general,” Sarun said.
Suttipong added that TPMAP will also provide an insight into the problems that contribute to
poverty in certain regions, which in turn will help policymakers and government agencies formulate and implement “solutions” more precisely.
TPMAP will also integrate more data from other government
agencies, which will cover a
larger section of the population, and in turn enhance data analysis for optimising government welfare programmes.
He added that TPMAP has been made available in Lamphun, Mukdahan and Nakhon Phanom provinces, and local officials have been trained to use it.
Feedback from these agencies will be further used to adjust and enhance the abilities of TPMAP, so precision in poverty alleviation can be realised.