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Plan to make Phuket and Chiang Mai 'smart cities'

Sep 14. 2015
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By Asina Pornwasin
The Nation

Focus on tech start-ups amid Kingdom's bid to become digital hub of Asean
THE INFORMATION and Communication Technology Ministry is eyeing Phuket and Chiang Mai as ‘smart cities’ that focus on tech start-ups as part of a move to turn Thailand into the digital hub of Asean. 
ICT Ministry Minister Uttama Savanayana said under the policy the ministry planned to roll out pilot projects to drive the country forward, with the “smart city” plan one of them. 
Uttama spoke yesterday in a special interview at the Consumer Insight seminar hosted by Nation Broadcasting Corporation. He was interviewed by Suthichai Yoon, adviser to the Nation Multimedia Group’s editorial board. 
The minister said Phuket and Chiang Mai could be piloted as smart cities because of their technology readiness, location, and internationalism. 
Ministry’s two main tasks 
He said another possible model for rolling out smart cities was establishing technology hubs in special economic zones. 
“Currently, there is a lack of direct governmental support in terms of direct investment and direct policies to support tech start-ups, but there are relevant supports such as the support scheme provided by the Software Industry Promotion Agency,” he said.
Uttama, who was given the portfolio last month, said there were two main tasks the ministry would tackle over the next three months.
He said the first task was to formulate a solid digital economy master plan, which is currently being developed. 
The draft of the plan would consist of five main domain missions – hard infrastructure, soft infrastructure, service infrastructure, digital economy promotion, and a digital society. 
The second task involved delivering the pilot projects including projects centred on e-commerce, e-education, e-industry, and e-government. 
Uttama said the Ministry would work with other ministries, such as Commerce, to set up an e-commerce platform to help businesses go online, especially small and medium-sized enterprises and those in agriculture. 
Hi-speed Internet 
for every village 
“The plan is to have a national e-payment platform as a crucial part to help drive e-commerce,” he said. “Moreover, the government can also play a role to verify online merchants through the Trust Mark.”
For education, he said the plan was to have hi-speed Internet coverage for every village in the country by 2016 so as to connect remote communities and schools. 
He said the e-industry pilot project focused on encouraging SMEs to benefit from using technology. 
The 2,000 ICT centres nationwide could be utilised to leverage SMEs’ capabilities.
Uttama said the e-government agency was playing a big role in the planned roll-out of the e-government pilot project.
‘Smart cities’ would be the fifth pilot project introduced over the next three months, he said. 
“The ICT Ministry plans to steer the existing budget, especially the budget for the student tablet scheme, to be used for running the pilot projects,” he said. 

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