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Regional cooperation urged in geo-informatics

(Nov 2014) Asean countries should team up and share information gathered from satellite imagery for better and more efficient development in the field of information science infrastructure, the Geo-Informatics and Space Technology Development Agency (GISTDA) board said recently.

Board member Vichit Satharanond pointed out that each country in the region had invested in satellite imagery, but the nations had never worked together in the field.

He was speaking at a recent seminar on Geo-Informatics and Space Technology for better Asean cooperation as part of the annual “Geoinfotech 2014” exhibition. The event is aimed at promoting research in information technology and space in the public and private sectors in Thailand.

For instance, he said, using shared satellite images for mapping would help Asean countries be better prepared for disasters because the region shares a similar geography that has been made fragile by climate change.

“These maps can also be used in the tourism industry,” he pointed out.

Vichit said regional countries could turn to Asean+3 countries in terms of science and information development, adding that China – considered one of the most influential countries in the region – should be encouraged to invest in the field and provide training to other countries.

Somchai Tiamboonpresert, deputy permanent secretary of the Science and Technology Ministry, also called on the government to allocate more funds for the development of Thailand’s science and information sector.

At present, only 0.37 per cent of the national budget is earmarked for research and development, but this should rise to 1 per cent or at least Bt100 billion per year, “as this will encourage better research and attract the younger generation to work in this field”, he said.

He also explained that continuity of government policy in relation to this sector had been affected due to the unsteady political situation.

Speaker Somkiet Ornwimon, president of the TV production house Thai Witat, agreed that Thailand should invest more in the fields of science and technology.

At the seminar, he cited a study conducted by Euroconsult, a leading consulting firm that specialises in space markets including satellite communications. The study showed that Vietnam had invested US$93 million (Bt3 billion) on the study of astronomy – the highest in the region – while Laos invested $50 million, Indonesia $38 million and Thailand came in fourth at $20 million.

Somchet Thinaphong, chairman of GISTDA’s board of directors, said geo-informatics and space technology would also have a hand in boosting Thailand’s transportation and agriculture sectors.

Geo-informatics develops and uses information science to address the problems of geography, geo-sciences and related branches of engineering.

“Using this technology in transportation will help improve geo-informatics-based mapping system in the country using satellite imagery. It will also provide better guidance in agriculture planning, for instance, it can be used to pinpoint areas that need fertiliser,” he said.