Digital Economy Bills condemned for ignoring the disabled, marginalised people

The Network of People with Physical Challenges has pointed out that the controversial Digital Economy bills, recently approved by the junta, ignore the technological inequity facing physically challenged people and remove the voices of the disabled from decision-making on a telecommunications-related public fund.

At a conference entitled ‘Thai civil society forum on internet governance’ held by the Thai Netizen Network (TNN) on Monday at St John’s University in Bangkok, the group representing physically challenged people nationwide stated that the controversial 10 Digital Economy bills will exacerbate technological inequality for physically challenged people, the aged and other marginalised groups.

The network’s primary concern is the restructuring of the research fund of the National Broadcasting and Telecommunication Technology (NBTC), funded from concession fees paid by telecom operators.

Under the current bill, the bill’s main objective is to develop telecommunication operations for the public interest. This includes support for greater access to telecommunications by the marginalized, the aged, and the disabled.

Under the new Digital Economy bills, the fund prioritizes digital industry operators instead of the public.

Currently the fund is managed by a committee composed of experts and representatives from civil society. There is a quota for a representative of physically challenged people on the committee. However, the new bill will remove this quota.

Moreover, the bill on electronic transactions does not guarantee universal accessibility for all groups of people. Physically challenged people, the aged, and other marginalised groups especially will still be excluded.

The network further stated that the drafters of the bill stated that its purpose is to restructure the fund for higher efficiency in its management. However, no article in the bill creates any mechanism to increase the efficiency and transparency of the fund.  

The Network of People with Physical Challenges urged the relevant authorities to revise the content of the draft and heed the comments and participation from all stakeholders in society, especially the physically challenged and other marginalised groups.

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