คุณดอน สัมพันธรักษ์ (ไม่ทราบว่าสะกดถูกหรือเปล่า) เป็นคอลัมนิสต์ประจำหนังสือพิมพ์บางกอกโพสต์ ส่วน Database ซึ่งตีพิมพ์ทุกวันพุธ
ผมชื่นชมเขาตรงที่เขามี passion เกี่ยวกับความเกี่ยวโยงของ IT กับการพัฒนาสังคมไทย ผมอ่านคอลัมน์ล่าสุดของเขาแล้วรู้สึกสงสารประเทศไทยจับใจ เพราะเขาให้ภาพชัดเจนว่าความคิดที่จะรักษาภูมิปัญญาไทยดั้งเดิม เช่นวิธีตีดาบเหล็กน้ำพี้ สมุนไพรโบราณ ฯลฯ ได้ถูกดูดเข้าไปในวังวนการเมืองจนไม่เหลือร่องรอยความตั้งใจดั้งเดิมแล้ว สถาบันที่ก่อตั้งขึ้นมาเพื่อรวบรวมภูมิปัญญาไทยได้ถูกบิดเบือนเจตนารมณ์ กลายเป็นเรื่องของเปลือกกระพี้ที่ดูดีแต่กลวงด้านเนื้อหา เหมือนหลายๆ อย่างในเมืองไทยที่น่าสงสารของเรา
ก็เลยทำให้ผมยิ่งมั่นใจว่าถ้าเราอยากช่วยบ้านเมืองก็อย่าไปหวังพึ่งรัฐบาลเลย เมื่อใดก็ตามที่การเมืองเข้ามาเกี่ยว ความคิดดีๆ ไม่ว่าจะดีแค่ไหนก็จะกลายเป็นลูกกำพร้าถ้ามันไม่สร้างประโยชน์ให้กับนักการเมือง
Something to protest about
Broken promises on the way to the TKP
Bangkok Post, 30 August 2006
As violence spilled onto the streets of Rama I road from those caught up in the conflict between pro-Thaksin supporters and anti-Thaksin passers-by, one could spare a thought for Thailand Knowledge Park. This was caretaker Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra's destination that eventful day on Monday last week, and harks back to a promise he made to the people of Thailand three years ago.
Back in 2003, what was later to become TK Park was still a project under the ICT Ministry, led by then ICT Minister Surapong Suebwonglee's advisor and somewhat famous editor Makut Oradee. The idea back then was to set up a Knowledge Development Institute of Thailand, quickly renamed Knowledge Institute of Thailand (leading to the catchy acronym Know-IT) because by definition, knowledge can only be discovered, not developed, as it is static and absolute (but a body of knowledge can grow).
Makut was not an IT person but, like many in the early Thaksin years, was motivated by the possibility of what a strong government could achieve. Very much a pen-and-paper person, Makut suddenly found himself working with Dr Surapong because of the MICT's mandate on information and content.
His driving force was the urgent need for preservation of the knowledge of Thailand. By that, Makut once explained how important it was to find a way to transcribe the tacit and cultural knowledge of our elders down on paper before they die off and take their secrets with them. He was happy for these ideas to be taken down on paper. If Dr Surapong wanted them digitised, all the better.
For instance, Thai legend speaks of sword smiths with the ability to forge super-hard blades made of Nam Pee. Only whispers of the strength of this legendary material remains - not its composition or the way it was forged.
The same can be said for herbal remedies, folklore, weaving methods, methods of agriculture, rural life and, indeed, an entire generation of history. All this risks being lost as our elders die off without passing on their knowledge to a new generation.
It was in one of the first public hearings on the establishment of Know-IT in 2003, chaired by Prime Minister Thaksin, that Makut told an audience his dream and that we could not wait for the bureaucrats to act, as knowledge was dying off.
Like Queen Amidala in Episode I, he could not stand by and watch people (and knowledge) die while the matter was discussed in a committee. Action was needed now and only a strong leader like Thaksin could mobilise it.
At the event, Thaksin promised all the support needed to make Makut's dream a reality. In a way he did act, but somehow what happened got transformed into traditional power-politics rather than for the preservation of the knowledge of Thailand.
One of the first things was the surprise transfer of Know-IT to the Ministry of Education. This was because one the projects had caught the eye of the powerful Sirikorn Maneerin (nee Leenutapong), then deputy minister for education who quickly established herself as chairman of the TK Park policy board.
At first, everyone was happy - except for Dr Surapong, who had lost one of his projects to a rival within the Thai Rak Thai Party, and those working on the project within the ICT Ministry, who felt that content was all about the I in ICT and should stay there rather than move to the Ministry of Education.
Like many other powerful politicians, Sirikorn managed to commandeer a substantial budget out of the bureaucrats and at first things seemed to be going well, as she pushed for the establishment of the physical TK Park at Central World Plaza. But as time passed, things soon became fishy.
While the physical park was a success (if a bit dubious - what good is but one expensive living library in central Bangkok?), there was an undue emphasis on the presentation layer with little going on with regard to the original focus of Know-IT - the gathering of tacit knowledge.
Things got even fishier when Sirikorn left the Education Ministry. She took TK Park with her to the Prime Minister's Office, where she remains attached as an adviser to the Prime Minister.
Now, TK Park is akin to a government department. Since when do government departments follow their policy board chairmen around to different ministries, in this case to a total of three Ministries in three years? The policy board is there to set policy, not to carry out the implementation, and when government changes occur, new directions are put in place for the bureaucrats to carry out.
Only, TK Park did not have a civil servant at the head. As recently as the middle of last year Sirikorn, soon after TK Park had absorbed Sipa's National ICT Learning Centre, was still chair of the TK Park Board and, surprise, still acting director.
Somehow it is hard to believe that in a country with two million civil servants, not one of them was qualified to be TK Park director.
Back then, this writer had accompanied a certain software industry promotion specialist to TK Park to participate in a brainstorming session on how best to spend the tens of millions of budget allocated to content. Instead of spending them on re-discovering the tacit knowledge that Makut's brainchild was originally destined for, many felt gutted to see that far from ground-breaking, her efforts were centred on hiring people to do Flashy (as in Macromedia) and child-friendly modern content that populates TK park to this day.
Instead of chanting "Thaksin, get out," the protesters should have reminded him of the promise he made to Makut and the MICT Know-IT team. Someone should have pointed out how the outwardly gleaming, populist veneer his regime has delivered has not lived up to the dreams that people like Makut Oradee entrusted with him three years ago.
And someone should remind him how knowledge is still being lost as our elders die alone with no children to teach, as they have all emigrated to the cities and factories.