By JIRAPAN BOONNOON
The government yesterday announced the five themes of its effort to make the country a "digital economy", while also planning to change the name of the Information and Communications Technology Ministry to "Digital Economy Ministry" early next year.
Deputy Prime Minister Pridiyathorn Devakula said the digital economy would strengthen the country and drive it forward in the region.
The five themes of the programme are hard infrastructure, soft infrastructure, service infrastructure, promotion and innovation, and society and knowledge.
Under the hard-infrastructure theme, the government will cooperate with the private sector to provide suitable information-technology infrastructure to support a digital economy, such as high-capacity broadband Internet, various data centres, and digital gateways.
For soft infrastructure, the government aims to boost confidence about online transactions such as verification systems to identify individuals online and cybersecurity in order to encourage e-commerce.
Pridiyathorn said the Electronic Transactions Development Agency (ETDA) would introduce e-documents so government offices could offer faster services to the public. Laws will be pushed to create connectivity among offices. Moreover, the government will set up an “ICT Law Centre” to provide legal information to every party involved in online business and online transactions.
ETDA director Surangkana Wayuparb said the agency was ensuring high standards of its e-documents and setting up ICT processes crucial for online transactions. It is also pushing a draft Licensing Facilitation Act to improve the connectivity among government agencies.
“The ETDA is committed and ready to be part of a digital economy so that Thai people can use digital tools to create economic value and improve their quality of life,” she said.
She added that the agency planned to push for legislation supporting e-invoices, e-receipts, and e-contracts, which would allow the private sector and government to communicate via a paperless system. Last year the private sector spent around Bt3 billion on paper invoices alone.
Pridiyathorn said that under the third theme, service infrastructure, the government would create a platform to support the private sector.
For the promotion and innovation theme, the government will develop the digital skills of entrepreneurs to improve their efficiency. It will utilise digital tools to support the business growth in sectors such as banking, services and manufacturing. It will utilise IT to support small and medium-sized enterprises.
Under the last theme, society and knowledge, the government will provide universal access to online channels, ensuring everyone can access the Internet at an affordable price.
Pridiyathorn said the government would set up a National Digital Economy Committee to make policy. Six subcommittees will support this policy, staffed by people from both the private sector and government, to accomplish the digital economy within one year.
Thailand now has more than 26 million Internet users, 33 million Line members and 28 million Facebook users.
“Thailand has an opportunity to utilise digital tools to drive the economy, and the government will set up a venture-capital funding organisation such as cloud funding to help start-ups and other businesses run their operations smoothly,” Pridiyathorn said.
“The government will also have data centres to provide analytic business information to support small and medium-sized businesses.”
The military regime will submit a draft digital-economy law to the National Legislative Assembly next month. The draft will be based on more than 10 existing laws such as the Computer Crime Act and the E-commerce Act.