The global economy is forecast to be digitalized by 50% in 2025. Among the countries seen to have accelerated its digital transformation, Thailand targets to increase its digital economy to 50% by 2030. The Southeast Asian country has been among the fastest-growing digital economies in the region in the last two years. It has since started increasing its cloud technology to government agencies to 30% and to the private sector at about 70%. Data monetization is meanwhile predicted to multiply six times by 2030, and the digital economy is also predicted to generate 60–65 million new jobs as it develops in the future.
Thailand ranks 46th out of the 131 economies included in the 2022 Network Readiness Index (NRI), jumping from 54 last year. And it holds third place among eight Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) economies with a score of 56.
The NRI was introduced by the World Economic Forum in 2002 as part of the Global Information Technology Report and was revised in 2019 to indicate current information and communications technology issues.
According to the report, in terms of both NRI score and GDP per capita (PPP), Thailand has a greater network readiness than would be expected given its income level. Thanks to its government’s policies, the country is moving ahead of its neighbors in the regional bloc in terms of its fast-growing digital economy.
Thailand is seen to have been a model in digital transformation with its investment in ICT infrastructure and digital technologies. The country has gradually developed as the digital hub for ASEAN.
Among its latest move to promote its rapid digital development, Thailand’s Board of Investment announced that the government has launched new incentives to support high-tech industries, among other sectors.
In fact, a 2021 report by the economic consulting firm AlphaBeta suggests that digital transformation in the country could produce up to $79.5 billion in annual economic value by 2030.
And during the APEC Finance and Central Bank Deputies’ Meeting in March, officials there said that existing digital infrastructure and platforms would allow the government of Thailand “to improve the digital delivery of economic measures and other government services, moving Thailand into the era of the digital economy and contributing to the inclusive growth of Thailand.”
Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha also called on regional bloc members to get involved in digital cooperation during the ASEAN Business and Investment Summit. He stressed the importance of advancing initiatives to produce a better environment for digital business integration. And to accomplish this, investments in the upgrading of digital infrastructure are seen as vital steps.
On the first week of December, Thailand’s Prime Minister General also led the National Artificial Intelligence Committee convention to push for the development and application of AI by fast-tracking infrastructure growth, technology and innovation development, and skill development through partnerships between the public and private sectors.
According to a government press release, Prime Minister Prayut also urged government agencies to level up the implementation and execution of the National AI Strategy and Action Plan (2022– 2027). He also urged them to engage the public, particularly the youth, in the design and implementation of activities to accomplish the common goals.
In his speech during a mobile forum in Thailand in October, Thailand's Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwan said that for the past few years, the Thai government has made it a priority to develop digital infrastructure, which he said was the basic engine to drive the country towards a digital economy. The government has implemented policies to support the development of infrastructure as well as propel Thailand towards Thailand 4.0, which is to promote investment in digital and telecommunication infrastructures.
He added that the progress of the creative digital economy would link all industries and enable citizens to use digital technology, especially the development of 5G digital infrastructure, cloud, big data and AI, to be able to open opportunities for all industries.
According to a white paper released by Huawei last October, the government will focus on working together with the private sector to put up hard infrastructures to bolster the local digital economy.
Another large-scale initiative by the government is the National Broadband Network (NBN), wherein Thailand is deploying a telecommunication infrastructure to deliver high-speed internet services to the entire population. The NBN plans to provide coverage and high-quality broadband service across the country at affordable costs.
As the country continues to move forward towards Thailand 4.0, here’s how the government is further expanding the country’s digital landscape and how players in the local digital industry are performing their roles in achieving the country’s digital goals.
Thailand’s 8-Step Strategy
Thailand’s National Digital Economy and Society Commission (ONDE) recently unveiled eight projects for 2023 that aim to propel Thailand’s digital development as it continues with its plans to expand existing progress and strengthen the foundation that has already been built.
Puchaphong Nodthaisong, secretary-general of ONDE, said that these eight steps are designed to be compatible with the technological dynamics and the current economic situation in Thailand and other parts of the globe. These will also help shape the future development trends to ensure that Thailand is ready to enter Phase 3: Full Digital Transformation in 2027 as well as Phase 4: Global Digital Leadership.
He said that they are committed and ready to integrate the contributions of all sectors for the development of the country’s economy and society.
The first is the management and follow-up project for the curriculum accreditation of government agencies. This will allow government officials to undergo training on 70 courses on digital education.
The second is the Thailand Digital Outlook Study Project for 2023. This project is expected to provide data support for the country’s digital development for the economy and society, which the government has been actively working on. ONDE will be following the parameters consistent with the guidelines given by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) to assess Thailand’s digital transformation.
The third project is meanwhile aimed at improving the efficiency of assessing the digital economy following the direction of economic structural changes
The fourth step is to enhance the efficiency of determining the digital economy following the direction of economic structural changes. The purpose of this project is to expand digital access among the local community and educate the public with digital knowledge and skills to allow them more opportunities to earn income from technological projects.
The fifth project includes initiatives to foster the 5G ecosystem for the commercial application of 5G technology. A draft guideline promoting the second phase of 5G technology among Thailand’s main industries is currently underway.
The sixth project is to strengthen the country’s Digital Security and Infrastructure Service Development Project as well as the Government Data Center and Cloud Service (GDCC). The ONDE’s target in 2023 is to upgrade GDCC services from infrastructure services (IaaS) to platform as a service (PaaS) and software services (SaaS).
The seventh project involves the promotion of the transfer of national cultural resources in the form of digital content as part of the second phase of the Digital Cultural Heritage scheme. This aims to produce soft power that can generate profit for the local economy.
And lastly, another project is being formulated to promote, support and provide assistance and research grants for innovation and digital transformation through the Digital Economy and Society Fund. The project aims to boost the capacity for the development of Thailand’s economy and society with digital technology.
How the Telecom Sector Is Scaling Up Contributions to Digital Economy
Thailand’s 5G network is now expected to reach 85% of the population by the end of 2022. And the country’s largest telecom and digital providers are now also ramping up their 5G rollout.
Among the local companies actively supporting Thailand’s digital transformation, dtac has continuously been introducing new 5G IoT technologies and the 5G Private Network to support economic development in the country, especially during this post-pandemic recovery period. In particular, the company aims to facilitate the digital transformation of the industrial sector by promoting Smart Factories, Smart Logistics and Smart Utilities.
In a statement, Sadat Ibne Zaman, chief business officer, Total Access Communication PLC, or dtac, said, “Investing in 5G is key to the revitalization of the industrial sector, and it is essential today to transform digitally to support business recuperation. As an enabler of digitalization for the industrial and corporate sectors in Thailand, dtac believes that 5G is essential to unlocking Thailand’s full potential during this period of economic and tourism recuperation.”
This year, dtac has launched 5G IoT solutions for three core markets: factories, logistics and utilities. According to dtac, its Smart Factory Solutions will digitally transform factories and traditional or analog manufacturing practices with big data support. The company’s solution developers can evaluate the available systems and foster digitalization plans with IoT capabilities to collect, analyze and monitor data in real-time and remotely improve efficiency, reduce operating costs and conform with future digital platforms.
dtac’s Smart Logistics Solutions is meanwhile designed to transform warehousing and transportation, with IoT and smart sensors providing precise real-time monitoring of goods as they are transported, enabling businesses to track progress and improve security.
And its Smart Utilities Solutions are expected to deliver efficient, timely 5G-based processes for both water and energy management. For example, Smart Water Management can remotely measure pH and chemical residue levels in wastewater and the water level in the wastewater pond in an industrial estate. And, its 5G Smart Energy Management can allow for substantially more reliable energy management, which can prevent, mitigate and minimize power.
Another major industry player in Thailand, the integrated digital services provider True Digital Group, is also pursuing projects to help digital development across the manufacturing and industrial sectors.
The company has set different pillars to enable digital transformation. The third pillar is Digital Solutions, which the company stressed is focused on B2B by helping enterprises across various industries maximize advanced technologies such as analytics, IoT and other engineering technologies.
Staying true to this initiative, the company has recently announced its collaboration with PTC, to help develop and advance market-specific standardized solutions to better cater to the needs of local industrial companies. True Digital Solutions will co-build a digital factory platform with the company to deploy integrated, end-to-end Industrial IoT solutions.
True said this partnership will generate more value and business impact for their customers at True Digital Solutions, and together, they will serve global industrial companies that are planning to establish production facilities in Thailand. The company added that it will pursue nationwide adoption of Industrial 4.0 in targeted industries such as next-generation automotive, smart electronics, food for the future, automation and robotics, as well as aviation and logistics.
Bringing transportation to the next level in Thailand, telecom giant AIS has partnered with Huawei to develop autonomous vehicle systems powered by 5G remote control for industrial zones in the country.
AIS said they have jointly revolutionized a full system to be inaugurated in real-time at SCG’s remote industrial locations, powered by AIS’ 5G network, for the first time in Thailand.
The company stressed that its unmanned EV Truck and Remote Control Vehicle innovations on AIS 5G foster productivity remotely and minimize risk to personnel while enabling an eco-friendly system with the use of electricity instead of hydrocarbons.
AIS’ CEO, Somchai Lertsutiwong, said in a statement that this collaboration was “all about deploying 5G technology to upgrade industry, which is at the heart of the nation’s progress.” He added that they were able to deliver the most bandwidth in many frequency bands, with a total of 1420 MHz of spectra solely dedicated to 5G, for the use of our customers and industrial partners.
Another major project involving AIS, in partnership with DEPA, is the establishment of the first 5G innovation center and laboratory, tentatively titled the Digital Park Thailand. This new 4,500-square-meter digital hub is expected to advance the digital transformation of enterprises in Thailand, especially in e-commerce and logistics-related services.
During the Thailand 5G Summit 2022 in June, DEPA announced the establishment of the 5G Alliance, which involves several government agencies and major telecom firms such as AIS and True as well as global ICT giant Huawei.
The main objective of the Thailand 5G Alliance will be to boost domestic economic value by fostering the use of industrial 5G applications to accomplish service system upgrades in public health, security, education, transportation, factory management and modern agriculture.