By Asina Pornwasin
"Infrastructure is the fundamental factor of the digital economy. We need to process this while waiting for the National Digital Economy Committee to be officially established in the next couple of months.
"Once the committee is set up, the working committee will be disbanded," Deputy Prime Minister MR Pridiyathorn Devakula said yesterday.
The new team will hold its first meeting within two weeks, he told a seminar on "Driving SMEs through the Digital Economy".
The Cabinet has approved the regulation to form the ad hoc committee.
"The National Digital Economy Committee Bill has passed from the Council of State. It is going through the National Legislative Assembly and is expected to be passed into law in a couple of months.
"During the wait for the law, we need to process the priority tasks for the digital economy. That is to get the country to have a national broadband network," he said.
The priority of the working committee is to draft the plan for the national broadband network, both wired and wireless, so that in one year and a half, the network will be available in all villages. The committee will coordinate with private and government organisations that own fibre-optic networks to launch a joint venture. The private operators will transfer their existing networks and other assets to the joint venture as their capital invested in the company.
The companies and the government will together own the joint venture, while professionals will be hired to run it.
"It takes six months to do the joint venture since it needs a study on how many networks they have and how to consolidate them as well as how many more are needed and how much needs to be further invested," he said.
The temporary committee will consider if Thailand really needs 4G services – if it does, it will tell the National Broadcasting and Telecommunication Commission to consider how to grant the 4G licences.
The NBTC is waiting for the junta to allow it to resume preparing the plan to auction the 1800MHz bands of TrueMove and Digital Phone Co to provide 4G service.
Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha said at a separate event that he wants to see the 4G licence auction take place as soon as possible, but there’s also a need to see if it could be done under the present law. If so, then the auction could go ahead.
The new committee will draft the plan to implement the National Data Centre, which consists of about 30-50 nodes countrywide, and to promote more international Internet gateways, increasing them from two now to 10.
The committee will encourage SMEs to take advantage of the digital economy policy. For example, the software industry could cash in on the automobile and banking industries.
Thailand was selected as the second manufacturing hub for eco cars by 10 car brands. That means there are huge opportunities to develop embedded software and systems to serve two million eco cars each year.
"We are also preparing the digital economy for the social sector, like in healthcare, agriculture and education. We will have a pilot project for digital learning at schools. It will start with three schools this year," Pridiyathorn said.