Thailand’s ‘smart cities’ dream will first focus on environment and smart power
Thailand is working to develop smart cities to stimulate the economy and improve people’s quality of life, Digital Economy and Society Minister Chaiwut Thanakamanusorn said at the virtual "Thailand Move On: Reshaping Smart City Landscape" forum.
The forum, organised by Nation TV, kicked off on December 15.
The development of smart cities is part of the government’s 20-year Thailand 4.0 strategy.
A smart city is defined as one that utilises modern technology and innovation to sustainably facilitate management, boost economic value and improve residents’ quality of life. This can be achieved with the cooperation of the public and private sectors.
A prosperous future
Chaiwut said the environment and energy play a key part in development, especially since cities are expanding exponentially.
He pointed out that the Asean population is expected to rise by 84 million people by 2030. As of 2020, the region’s population was estimated at 661.5 million.
"Expanding cities offer opportunities in economic growth, employment, a better quality of life, trade, investment and business,” he said.
“However, they also pose challenges such as pollution, crimes, traffic jams and dangers to life and property.”
He explained that Thailand is working to develop smart cities based on citizens’ demands, terrain and culture. The focus is on:
- Environment: Ensuring all operations are eco-friendly.
- Economy: Helping residents use technology to generate revenue.
- Mobility: Making infrastructure convenient and safe.
- Governance: Making governance fair and transparent, and also encouraging people’s participation.
- Living: Giving residents easy access to medical services and keeping the crime rate low.
- People: Improving people’s skills to improve their opportunities.
- Energy: Using energy efficiently and sustainably.
“Up to 50 areas in 29 provinces have been earmarked and 15 have been approved by the smart cities committee,” he said. “Up to 36 areas in 23 provinces are getting ready to propose development plans.”
To promote the development of smart cities, the government has launched measures to encourage businesses to develop digital infrastructure and improve the skills of their workforce.
"Smart city development will also focus on sustainability, so residents have a clean environment, clean energy and good quality of life. Hence, public cooperation is very important,” he added.
Metropolitan Electricity Authority (MEA) deputy governor Jaturong Suriyasin said a smart grid was necessary for a smart city.
He added that MEA’s mission is to meet rising demands and ensure that quality and stability is maintained to ensure confidence among users. He also said that power cables are now being laid underground and modern power systems developed to support fast-moving digital disruption.
He added that MEA also has several ongoing projects to produce and consume power in eco-friendly ways, such as building smart grids, solar rooftops and promoting electric vehicles.
“In the future, solar panels will be installed on the roof of every house to enable people to generate and sell electricity,” he said.
"The Cabinet on August 24 approved the use of electric vehicles [EVs] by all government agencies from next year. The project will start with agencies located in the capital.”
Jaturong added that MEA plans to set up charging stations across Bangkok, Nonthaburi and Samut Prakan next year to encourage people to use EVs.
He added that the agency will also help set up EV chargers in people’s homes if they want.
Meanwhile, Digital Government Development Agency (DGA) president Supot Tiarawut said the agency was working on digitising government services from three aspects – eservices, data sharing and staff development.
He added that DGA has launched an “open government data” website that provides information on different subjects like road accidents, population and other statistics.
Power of change
Assoc Prof Wisanu Subsompon, vice president of Chulalongkorn University’s Property and Innovation Management, said smart cities aim to improve people’s lives, so focusing on residents’ demands is necessary.
“Many factors can improve life, such as transportation, clean energy, environment and recreation,” he said.
“These factors directly affect us, so we have to find out how we can improve them so they are more convenient and can improve our quality of life.”
Samyan smart city, he said, still has a long way to go even though it is in the heart of Bangkok with Chulalongkorn University, schools, offices, residences and shopping malls in the vicinity.
“We may not have to apply high technology to our smart cities, but we should apply technology that meets people’s demands,” he said.
He added that apart from innovations and cooperation between public and private sectors, studying smart cities overseas is also important, so similar systems can be applied and Thai smart cities can become internationally well-known.