Nuttapon Nimmanphatcharin, President, Digital Economy Promotion Agency (DEPA), on achieving economic growth through digitalisation and human capacity

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TH17_ICT_EV_Nuttapon.jpgWhat are the government’s top short-term priorities in enacting the Thailand 4.0 initiative?

Nuttapon Nimmanphatcharin: The Thailand 4.0 concept is – without a doubt ­– the current focus of both the government and the private sector, as the nation attempts to advance its society and industry to the fourth level of development beyond agriculture and heavy industry, something which has not been successfully managed yet. This is the government’s challenge over the next 20-year period.

The social aspect of the Thailand 4.0 initiative is to move society towards digital transformation, blending together both the competitiveness and the happiness of the nation. The economic aspect is to achieve the transformation of key industries to evolve their value added. All ministries in the government have been asked to create masterplans and action plans based on this 20-year national roadmap, and each must be tailored to its respective tasks and responsibilities. The DEPA was recently established in large part to coordinate these efforts.

One major short-term goal is to develop and build up the digital manpower of the nation, across all levels of the education system as well as across the existing labour force. In addition, industries must be encouraged to adopt the use of digital technology for the purpose of achieving economic goals. Taking this concept to key industries, such as agriculture, food, automotive and robotics, will enable economic advancement.

How might international partnerships based on knowledge and manpower transfer be utilised to achieve Thailand’s economic goals?

Nuttapon: We must create a new ecosystem which includes partnerships and networking with nations around the world – especially those countries with strengths in digital industries – to attract foreign investment and model a regulatory framework that will give the best possible opportunity for players in these fields to succeed. New infrastructure, such as smart cities and Digital Park Thailand, are being designed in order to attract global startups to invest here.

The first step is to thoroughly study our existing laws and regulations, and amend them in order to allow entities to invest in Thailand in the easiest way possible. Major global entrepreneurs in these fields have already expressed their interest in investing in Thailand, and the government has invited them to come and discuss what the nation can do to further facilitate their needs and expectations. Dialogue with the private sector and foreign entities is therefore essential to the formation of any supporting laws and regulations.

In terms of manpower, Thailand is becoming an ageing society, so in the short term we must think about how to bring in manpower from abroad, especially those workers from neighbouring nations, such as Vietnam, Myanmar and Laos, who are graduates in engineering and technology-related fields. Developing the local education system and labour force in Thailand is a long-term goal, but building up the necessary manpower in the short term is also crucial to efficiently implement the national masterplan.

What supporting framework is being developed to allow start-ups and digital entrepreneurs to flourish?

Nuttapon: We have set a benchmark of establishing 500,000 digital entrepreneurs across Thailand. The attainment of this figure is being split between the Ministry of Science and Technology, the Ministry of Industry, the DEPA and foreign entities. The current laws in Thailand limit to some extent the ability of digital entrepreneurs to effectively conduct business, and we are relaying to the government the need to establish regulatory sandbox systems to facilitate such activity.

The financial authorities and regulators have already taken steps to achieve this. For example, the Stock Exchange of Thailand has announced the launch of a blockchain-based trading platform for financial technology start-ups. In terms of non-financial entrepreneurs, the Eastern Economic Corridor will see the establishment of special zones to ease their business activities and allow opportunities to implement their ideas without restrictive regulatory burdens.

 

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