The Nation



Slow development in skills holding back ICT industry

Changing fundamentals, competition in Asean pose major challenges

Thailand's ICT industry is being challenged by changes in technology and competition from neighbouring countries. Opportunities abound in the Asean market but Thai firms have to adapt their skill sets to align with new fundamental technologies such as cloud computing, experts say.

Information and communications technology is shifting from a client-server to a client-cloud base. This is a game changer in the ICT industry. Only companies and countries that see this paradigm shift as presenting new opportunities will be able to flourish in the era of cloud computing, which is becoming the fundamental technology.

Manoo Ordeedolchest, honorary president of the Association of Thai ICT Industry (ATCI), said this country seemed not to be competitive enough, especially the software industry, in four main areas.

First, the readiness for software development still needs improvement. Few Thais employed in the ICT sector are skilled in technology based on the client-cloud relationship.

More than 80 per cent are still keen on the client-server skill set and not yet aware of the need to change the mindset of software development to be ready for the cloud, in other words service-based software architecture.

"This new ICT skill set is important for the country's ability to compete with others in the Asean region. Currently, it seems only Singapore and Malaysia are aware of this change and have prepared their human resources with this kind of skill set. Thailand and other countries seem less aware of this change," said Manoo, noting that failing to adapt would reduce competitiveness.

To regain a competitive advantage, Thailand needs an urgent improvement plan for ICT human resources, he said.

The government, real business, education and ICT sectors have to collaborate on developing skilful human resources on a massive scale.

In the immediate term, the government should, both directly and indirectly, encourage professional training on client-cloud and service-based software. Longer-term, it should encourage the universities to increase their capability of producing large numbers of ICT human resources with these new skill sets. Thanachart Numnonda, president of IMC Institute, which specialises in ICT market research and training, agreed that human resources were the fundamental problem for the country's competitiveness in this industry. Too few Thais have the needed skill sets for cloud technology.

Lack of support

The second area holding back competitiveness is the lack of readiness of relevant industries to support the country's software industry. These include those industries involved in education, telecommunications, open-source technology, advertising and movies.

These industries do not open opportunities for Thai software businesses.

Third is the poverty of software-business management. Most software businesses are small or medium-sized, which means they have limited resources, few skilful developers and lack of capacity for large-scale software projects. These firms cannot grow sustainably.

"Thai software companies are mostly under family-style management, rather than professional management. They do not see professional management as a priority. The indication is that few Thai software firms have acquired the international Capability Maturity Model Integration standard," Manoo said.

CMMI is an industry standard for systems engineering, integrated product development, software engineering, and supplier sourcing maturity that is a framework for process improvement developed by the Software Engineering Institute of Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

The fourth area that Manoo identified as a concern was the fact that while the market in Thailand for software is large, this does not largely benefit the country's own ICT industry. Many large Thai organisations across industries such as banking, financial, energy and government spend a lot of money on technology but do not open opportunities for Thai software producers.

"Thai software companies do not have a chance to get large projects in the domestic market. They do not have a chance to scale up their abilities.

Therefore, once they face the AEC, they will not be ready for large-scale projects," he said.

He added that the opportunities for the ICT market were out there; the question is whether Thai companies, especially software firms, are ready for them or not. The change of technology paradigm and the Asean Economic Community are both opportunities and threats - it depends how the Thai ICT industry gets ready for them.

"The solution is collaboration among the four main sectors, business, government, education and ICT. They have to collaborate in human-resource development and create a local market for local ICT companies."

Similarly, Thanachart said Thailand had a strong business environment for the ICT industry. There are a lot of large corporates across industries including banking, energy, and telecommunications that could open opportunities for the ICT industry. However, the lack of government support and the political instability are the key weaknesses for Thailand's ICT industry when it comes to facing the Asean market.

He added that Thailand had a large domestic market that could be the primary space for the country's ICT firms to hone their skills for providing services to get ready to expand into the Asean region more easily.

He also suggested that Thailand could play a role as the gateway of the ICT industry into the emerging "CLMV" markets of Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam.

Meanwhile, Software Park Thailand director Chalermpol Tuchinda also said this country had a great opportunity to flourish in the Asean region, and the park would play the role of "gateway to the world" for the Thai software industry.

But to take advantage of these opportunities, Thai software companies urgently need to adjust their skill sets to align with the new fundamental technology that is cloud computing.

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