How Thai government services are moving into the metaverse
Corporate leaders and technology suppliers who gathered to discuss metaverse development at this weekend's “Thailand Metaverse Expo” were joined by government officials addressing their role in the ecosystem's growth.
Supot Tiarawut, president of the Digital Government Development Agency (DGA), said his agency's role was to “find new technologies for the digitisation of government and also equip government officials with digital skills”.
The idea of placing government services online is to give the public access at the click of a button. However, public users also need digital IDs for security.
"One service being digitised is the ID process to create standardised online identity verification for government support,” Supot told the “Metaverse Expo 2022” in Bangkok on Saturday.
The ID process is crucial for regulating digital transactions between tech providers and users, explained Sak Segkhoonthod, acting deputy director of the Electronic Transaction Development Agency (ETDA). “And this will be the same for the metaverse,” he added.
Chinawut Chinaprayoon, vice president of the Digital Economy Promotion Agency (DEPA), explained that while the DGA provides services and the ETDA regulates them, the DEPA’s role is to support growth of the digital economy sector in different ways.
These include matching promising tech start-ups with venture capital, connecting tech supply to demand (users) side and vice versa, as well as helping start-ups to access funding, he said.
Asked about their agencies’ roles in preparing for the metaverse, all three agreed that the metaverse industry was still at an early stage, but research on using it to provide services had already started and should continue if Thailand wanted to keep up with the global trend for transition from so-called Web 2.0.
Supot predicted government services such as driving licence application would remain offline but others such as complaint platforms could shift to the metaverse for added convenience. The platforms could also serve as a useful tool to update users on real-time progress in solving their complaints, he added.
Sak said the ETDA was making progress in the research and development on the effects of metaverse platforms on people’s lives.
The agency has launched a sandbox metaverse as a learning tool, he said.
He insisted there should be no prohibitions on using metaverse platforms during this trial-and-error period, which should be used to identify problems and what regulations are required.
He cited brainstorming for regulations for emerging metaverse hospitals.
"Question arise over how to regulate a hospital in the metaverse since the current Hospitality Facility Act does not cover this matter," he said, adding that this was a challenge for the EDTA.
Meanwhile the DEPA is tasked with strengthening Thai tech start-ups for the new internet era. Those efforts are being focused on Thailand’s global “soft-power” reach via TV series, gaming and tourism. Chinawut said the agency is supporting this ecosystem through projects such as the DEPA Game Online Academy and the DEPA Accelerator Program which are upskilling the workforce for the future industry.
More support is coming from the DEPA Digital Startup Fund, which is backing young tech companies invited to events like the “Thailand Metaverse Expo”.
All three speakers admitted their agencies faced big challenges ahead in preparing for the metaverse era. Thus, flexibility was the key quality for policymakers dealing with metaverse development, they said.
"Governments must play a role in facilitating the emerging industry rather than trying to control it," said Supot.
Sak added, "Rather than issuing prohibitions, policymakers should encourage the metaverse to grow and assist in finding ways to overcome obstacles."
One difficult challenge for Thailand would be to create a level metaverse playing field for large enterprises and SMEs/start-ups, he said.
"Thailand lacks the finance infrastructure for small firms that other nations have, where they can fundraise from the start," Sak added.