Thai Digital Development Policy

Apisara Lawariya




Excerpts from a presentation delivered by H.E. Dr. Pichet Durongkaveroj, Minister of Digital Economy and Society, 10 June, 2019, at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Thailand

In the past 10-20 years, the world has encountered rapid changes and disruption. These developments have affected every country in the world, including Thailand, and have prompted us to further develop or risk being left behind. One of the major changes that has disrupted Thailand is the phenomenon of “digitization,” which is the transformation from an analogue to digital form. This disruption opens up both opportunities and challenges. Thailand realizes that to obtain benefits from digitization, the country must be able to develop to the next level. Moreover, digitization must go together with “innovation” for the country’s advanced economic development that can help Thailand overcome the middle-income trap. 

An artistic image of a person's hands reaching out to the sky with a high-tech network.

Nation Building through Digitization

There are three main important issues that need to be considered when building a nation through digitization, which are inclusiveness, competitiveness, and sustainability. The process of nation building through digitization that the Ministry of Digital Economy and Society advocates can be achieved by applying the “SIGMA” principle.

Long-exposure photography of Bangkok with artistic renderings of IT networking.

The SIGMA principle consists of Cyber Security, Digital Infrastructure, Digital Government, Digital Manpower, and Digital Application. The details are as follows:

Cyber Security
Nowadays, we are confronted with both traditional security threats and non-traditional security threats that are not limited to military sources. Rather, new threats come in diverse forms with cyber threats being the highest cause of concern in modern times. Thailand is aware of the importance of cybersecurity and has already passed the Cybersecurity Act on 27 May, 2019, to effectively combat cyber threats and to maintain cybersecurity. The Act complies with international laws and standards.

Digital Infrastructure
To advance the country and people towards higher usage of digital instruments, Thailand needs to provide its citizens with the necessary digital infrastructure. At present, Thailand has the two following projects:   
a.  Digital Village Project: This project aims for the Thai people in every village, even in suburban areas, to have access to high-speed Internet and all kinds of digital instruments.  The project will provide more opportunities for Thais to access digital facilities regardless of their social status.
b.  Smart Cities: This project seeks to build and develop sustainable cities by using modern technology and data. There are currently three smart cities in Thailand, which are Bangkok, Phuket, and Pattaya. Phuket is the most advanced smart city in Thailand.

Digital Government
This project aims to digitise the bureaucratic system in four strategic areas: big data analytics, a Government Data Centre, a Government Cloud Service, and a Government One-stop Service.     

Digital Manpower
It is important for Thailand to develop human resources to be able to use digital technology effectively. All Thai citizens have to constantly acquire new skills and at the same time reskill. Most importantly, all Thais, especially those in suburban areas, need to know how to use digital technology.

Digital Application
Thailand needs to build an “Internet of Things Institution,” which is the extension of Internet connectivity into physical devices and objects. In terms of application, Thailand can also encourage the use of a digital ID for identity verification.

A visualization of Thailand, Thai people, and Thai businesses connected by technology.

Thailand’s Progress towards a Digital Economy and Society

The outcome of the SIGMA principle is the emergence of digital supervision and development institutions; such as, Digital Startup Thailand (DSI), Artificial Intelligence Institute (AII), and Data Protection Agency (DPA). One of the most prominent results of the SIGMA principle is Thailand’s improved ranking in the World Competitiveness Index by IMD, due to Thailand’s improved government efficiency and improved infrastructure. 

Furthermore, Thailand is now developing its cellular network technology from 4G to 5G, mainly in collaboration with Huawei, a Chinese company. The collaboration aims to test and to bring the 5G experience to millions of consumers in all industries. In fact, Thailand welcomes every company to test the 5G system, including Ericcson and Nokia. What Thailand is concerned about most is the issue of cybersecurity. Hence, it is crucial for Thailand to test the 5G network with as many companies as possible to detect any gaps in the system and to fix them.

Digital Cooperation and the Future

On the international frontThailand has collaborated with numerous international organizations on digital issues; such as, the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA) to explore outer space. Thailand also promotes digital development and collaboration within ACMECS and ASEAN. Digital development is promising in ASEAN, as ASEAN Member States agree on the importance of driving forward digital development and are prepared to cooperate with each other on this issue.

Looking ahead to the future of digital technology, Thailand will need to continue all its projects on digital development while training Thai citizens in new skills. This will enable Thailand to realize its aim for all people to have equal access to digital technology and the Internet, regardless of their social status, and to expand opportunities for all the Thai people, as inclusive development is an important national agenda for Thailand.

A woman happily working and smiling at the camera with her laptop and cell phone out.

Apisara Lawariya

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