the project | 2017-2019

Newton Fund –
Thailand Research Fund
Institutional Links 2017/18

The Newton Fund &
Thailand Research Fund

Centre for Contemporary Social and
Cultural Studies, Faculty of Sociology
and Anthropology, Thammasat University

Media Ethnography Group,
Department of Media and Communications,
Goldsmiths, University of London

Digital Ethnography for Digital Empowerment: Towards a Knowledge-based
and Inclusive Implementation of the ASEAN ICT Masterplan

This project focuses on the contribution that ethnography can make to policy development on digital empowerment and digital divides, priority objectives of the ASEAN ICT Masterplan (AIM 2020). We approach ethnography as a dynamic set of research methods centred on extensive participant observation and in-depth interviews, which privileges the interpretations of actors, yielding rich data on their communication environments, networks and opportunities. Our project aims to foster dialogue and knowledge exchange between ethnographers based in academia researching digital practices among underserved communities, and civil society and government practitioners, influencers and policymakers promoting digital empowerment and inclusion initiatives.

Our project will conduct three case studies on marginalised and underserved communities, their use of digital technologies and the impediments and obstacles to digital empowerment. These case studies, based in three different ASEAN countries (Thailand, Laos and Vietnam) will provide the basis of a cross-country comparison of dynamics of marginalization and integration with respect to a range of digital infrastructures and services. Equally, our project is designed to engage in knowledge exchange, bringing together policymakers and influencers in the public and private sectors of the digital economy in the three countries of the primary research. Our aim is to collaboratively enrich the knowledge base and extend the methodological repertoire that informs digital empowerment initiatives enacted by public and private stakeholders. We envisage more responsive, more meaningful, and better targeted action to address digital divides and inequalities as a consequence. Guided by the priorities of the AIM 2020 Masterplan our research addresses a need to build research capacities and expertise in innovative digital ethnographic research through the establishment of a centre of research excellence at Thammasat University.

Our associated partner, The Foundation for Internet and Civic Culture (Thai Netizen Network), has been building up network with local, regional and international network of public research agencies and public policymakers through its significant contribution in multiple non-conventional platforms. It has recently become more evident that these platforms will also benefit from academic insights and vice versa. Digital Ethnography in particular has strong potential to constitute an open space for knowledge exchange.

This project is supported by the Newton Fund Institutional Links grant, ID 332437827, under the Newton Fund - Thailand Research Fund partnership. The grant is funded by the UK Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) and Thailand Research Fund, and delivered by the British Council. For further information, please visit