THE GOVERNMENT must ensure sufficient IT graduates are in the pipeline for the hi-tech industries that draw on artificial intelligence, machine learning, robotics and the Internet of Things, as part of efforts to position the country as an Asean digital hub, a panel discussion was told yesterday.
While the inclusion of Digital Park Thailand under the Thailand 4.0 technology policy is positive, it was not enough on its own, some of the panellists told a seminar titled “EEC: The driving force for Thailand towards CLMV, leading Thailand to become a hub of Digital Asean”. The event, hosted by Nation TV, explored the potential of the proposed Eastern Economic Corridor and the increased trade that it will promote with countries in the subregion: Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam.
Participants in the discussion heard that Thailand was well served by its location to be a hub of what was described as north Asean or the CLMV bloc, but some said that more was needed to be done before the country could become a hub for the whole Asean region. They cited the need for action in the fields of labour skills, infrastructure and laws and regulations.
Thanachart Numnonda, director of the IMC Institute, said so-called disruptive technology opened up opportunities for Thailand as industries and enterprises had to change their way of doing business and manufacturing.
The government should pick the right technologies and focus on them, especially to build up the skills people required in these fields, Thanachart said.
The Thailand 4.0 policy, which aims to upgrade the country’s industrial base, is a needed initiative, Thanachart said, but the government should focus on human resources, laws and infrastructure – with the latter taking in more than just Digital Park Thailand.
“The government should focus not only on IT people, but it should also empower ordinary people to benefit from digital technologies under the Thailand 4.0 policy,” Thanachart said.
“The opportunity is out there since technology forces industry and business to have a different way of doing business. Among these changes, human resources are the crucial factor.
“The government should invest in human resources in the high-potential technology fields and shouldn’t expect a ‘quick win’, since it needs time, for up to 10 years, to build sustainable competitiveness in the digital world.”
That’s why, he said, the government should not limit its focus to the physical digital park, as people can work from anywhere in the digital era.
Pathom Indarodom, an adviser for e-commerce at ICC International, said it was possible for Thailand to become a digital hub in Asean, but not in the near future.
The important thing Thailand needs to make happen is the creation of a critical mass of skilled computer engineers and computer scientists to overcome the country’s shortages in IT talent.
“That’s not easy and it will take time, maybe five to 10 years, to build the country into an digital hub in Asean, but it is possible,” Pathom said.
“The government should increase the popularity of studying computer engineering and computer science while encouraging companies to turn their factories into research and development centres for industrial problems.”
Lertratana Ratananukul, senior vice president and head of government relations at Total Access Communications, said that from a telecommunications operator’s view, the country’s spectrum arrangements gave it a crucial advantage in the digital world.
Yuttasart Nitipaichit, assistant vice president in the data centre department of CAT Telecom, said Thailand has the potential to become an Asean digital hub, especially when looking to the CLMV countries, but it needs to address costs and risks.
Pawise Jaishuen, sales manager for enterprise clients at IBM Thailand, said that having people with the skills of the future is necessary for Thailand, especially in data science, digital-client experience design and securities.
“Incentives for greater use of technologies are also required from the government. It needs to make technologies accessible and affordable for everyone. That is the real driver for the country to become a hub in the digital age,” he said.
Pichet Durongkaveroj, the Minister for Digital Economy and Society, said that under Thailand 4.0, a three-pronged strategy will be implemented for public-private partnerships, the capacity for Digital Park Thailand to build up industries and the smart-cities scheme.
“There are 33 companies from the US, such as eBay, Microsoft and Google, visiting Thailand to see what the government is doing and what they can participate in,” Pichet said. “Aside from the US firms, there are companies from Japan and Hong Kong also interested in joining in.
“We have tangible crucial actions to drive the country forward with sustainable competitiveness. Digital capability is an important weapon for developing the country.”