Wed, January 26, 2022


Understanding the journey to Digital Thailand

The Thailand 4.0 policy is a new economic model aimed at developing a value-based economy. The goal is to change the country’s traditional farming and SME’s to “smart” enterprises, and traditional services to high-value services.

The policy seeks to promote creativity, innovation and the application of technology in various economic activities. Ten target industrial groups will become new engines of growth, with seven industries forming the backbone of an emerging digital economy.
The four key focus areas of Thailand 4.0 national development goals are: 
Human resources
Research and development
Agricultural and manufacturing development by utilising technology and innovation to improve competitiveness
A smart social environment to help leverage the country as a whole.
The National Science and Technology Development Agency (NSTDA) is spearheading the application of smart solutions for industry under its 4th plan vision for “a knowledge-based economy and society”.
The Information and Communications Technology Ministry has come up with a four-phase digital road map covering the next 20 years with a view to develop the country into a fully digital Thailand.
Case studies from other countries conducting the same transition offer interesting lessons for Thailand 4.0 goals.
The term “digital economy” was coined in Don Tapscott’s 1995 book “The Digital Economy: Promise and Peril in the Age of Networked Intelligence”. This was among the first books to consider how the Internet would change the way we did business. The digital economy has already impacted many governments in a profound way, both in terms of government-to-business, and government-to-consumer (citizens). 
Digital economy blurs the traditional boundaries of economic arrangements, thereby making inclusive growth in its truest sense a possibility. It potentially provides a level playing field that reaches all sections of the society and its remotest citizens. 
It also makes the world truly connected and provides opportunities beyond a country’s boundaries (read exports). Thus there can be no argument – except that of increased global competitiveness – against the rise of the digital economy. And competition, by nature, drives innovation and in the long-term always does good.
The three core components of the digital economy can be identified as: 
The supporting infrastructure (hardware, software, telecoms, networks, etc
e-business (how business is conducted) 
While new applications and innovations like social media are adding complexity, the basic tenets of a digital economy remain.
Thailand has an enviable reputation for building core infrastructure such as roads, bridges, airports and sea-ports. Leveraging its well-developed infrastructure and with its free enterprise economy, pro-investment policies and strong export industries, Thailand has achieved steady economic growth over the last few decades. It is now considered a newly industrialised country and is the second largest economy in Southeast Asia after Indonesia. Thailand also functions as anchor economy for the neighbouring developing economies of Laos, Myanmar and Cambodia.
There’s a striking similarity between the 20-year Digital Landscape Plan and Thailand’s transformation of its core physical infrastructure. 
You could argue that, unlike physical infrastructure development, the building of digital foundations is rapid and disruptive. Yet most of these disruptions are happening on the usage side and, unlike physical infrastructure like roads, technology can be easily upgraded and “moved”. Finally, all countries embarking on this journey face the same challenges and limitations.
Careful examination of the four phases of Thailand’s 20-year Digital Landscape plan reveals a road map focused on building the enabling environment and on providing basic amenities and social services to its citizens. 
“The government sector can play a crucial role in building an environment and regulations related to the development of the economy and businesses in order to drive the country towards the digital era through the ‘Digital Thailand’ scheme,” said the ICT minister.
In summary, the country is heading in the right direction with a focus and plan to make Digital Thailand a success and beneficial to its citizens, thereby help achieve the 4.0 National Development Goals.

Suryanarayan Kasichainula is head of business (ERP) at 3i infotech, a global IT company with a base in Thailand.

Published : January 25, 2017

By : Suryanarayan Kasichainula Special to The Nation