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Thailand has potential to become digital innovation hub

I believe if all mobile operators collectively support and hand start-ups an opportunity to create and develop applications or solutions that are useful and make our lives more convenient, easier and faster, Thailand in the near future could become a digital innovation hub.

This year, dtac Accelerate has teams of participating start-ups who have amazing and innovative products. Some of them started out by trying to find a problem and finding the best way to resolve it.

The creator of Drivebot encountered a problem himself while driving in a car with his dad. A few minutes after driving out of his house, the red "Check Engine" light came on and he had no idea what to do.

The service manual suggested that he contact the dealer, but he wanted to figure out what went wrong first.

So he turned off the engine and restarted the car. The red light went off and the car was driven with no problems. At that point he thought there should be a tool to help car owners analyse car problems.

The Check Engine light is a warning of up to a thousand possible problems with the car, and gives an average car owner zero chance of working out what is happening.

After being inspired to create a tool to help car owners analyse a problem themselves, make a decision and save money, Drivebot developed a device called Fitbit for cars that connects to a mobile application on smartphones. It helps car owners save time and money in car maintenance, take better care of their car, and extend its operating life.

As we know, the new Thai generation is very technology savvy, and Thailand has over 20 million social media users.

Our smartphone penetration is growing so rapidly that technology-wise, Thai users have whatever people in other countries have. Additionally, our country is one of the top countries in the world in terms of the number of social media users.

I believe that Thai start-ups have the potential to grow and form one of strongest communities for start-ups in the region.

From my work experience in the telecom industry in Malaysia, the Czech Republic, Pakistan and Thailand, I think it is the right time for start-ups here as the country has experienced exponential growth in technology during the past two to three years.

In 2013, mobile internet usage jumped almost two times from 18.4 per cent a year earlier to 31.9 per cent. Bangkok has the most Facebook users in the world, with over eight million users out of a population of 10 million.

Suvarnabhumi International Airport and Siam Paragon are the top two most popular shared places on Instagram.

Line recently revealed that Thailand was its second-largest market, with more than 24 million users.

The extreme growth of internet and online application usage is largely the result of lower prices for smartphones, improved network quality and coverage, and increasingly popular social applications such as Line and Facebook. These are all the reasons why start-ups should focus on mobile applications and online services.

Online services reach a wide range of users and create an excellent opportunity for start-ups to connect with their customers and to market and sell their products and services.

Jon Eddy Abdullah is chief executive officer of dtac.


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