Upgrade of NBTC suggested for coordination of digital economy 

Economy September 02, 2017 01:00


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THAILAND needs to upgrade the National Broadcasting and Telecom Commission (NBTC) to focus more on coordinating various elements of the digital economy and society.

The suggestion was made by Rajnesh Singh, director for Asia-Pacific of Washington DC-based Internet Society, an independent body.

Singapore’s Infocomm Media Development Authority was an example, he said.

The agency both develops and regulates the island republic’s converging infocomm and media sectors in a holistic fashion to create a dynamic and vibrant ecosystem for new players as well as consumers.

In the case of Thailand, the NBTC’s role is more like a regulator. 

The lack of effective and holistic coordination among key components of the digital economy and society will lead to the development of crucial industries in bits and pieces.

Governments need to avoid the missing links among information, communication and media technology vis-?-vis various industries such as energy, commerce, transport and finance.

A high-level coordination group is required to ensure maximum benefits for the convergence of these industries using infocomm and media technology.

Digital technology has a powerful, disruptive force as evidenced by the advent of Uber and Grab for taxi and other transport services or AirBnb for the hotel and tourism industries. To develop the likes of these digital disruptive services, the high-level coordination body needs to both regulate and promote new players.

In Thailand, the tourism, agriculture, automobile and food and beverage industries have high potential for digitalisation and convergence.

For example, the Internet of Thing can be used to increase the efficiency and sharpen the competitive edge in farming by installing sensors to measure soil and water conditions to achieve higher productivity in plantations.

Big data and artificial intelligence can also be used in logistics and tourism management for safety, efficiency and other benefits.

The digital economy and automation in manufacturing will displace many jobs at a faster pace in coming years so people need to acquire new skills for employment.

This will make science and technology education much more important in national human resource development.

On e-commerce taxation, it is time to explore a fairer tax system for online transactions given that there have been big loopholes used by multinational |companies to evade taxes around the world. 

For example, renowned giant tech firms regularly book their revenues in low and tax-free locations such as Singapore and Ireland to avoid paying higher taxes in countries where their customers actually reside.

In the case of Thailand, the Revenue Department, for example, is attempting to require domestic banks and payment platforms to withhold taxes on e-commerce transactions.

On tech start-ups and the “sharing” economy as exemplified by the likes of Uber and AirBnb, the trend has led to new business models and new types of demand and customers, so these businesses will have to be reclassified and subjected to separate rules vis-a-vis existing rules, which currently apply to the older and more traditional businesses, he added.