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Digital Economy and Society Ministry set up

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ICT ministry’s replacement will create new bodies, with software industry agency being dissolved and some staff transferred

The government will officially announce the renaming of the Information and Communications Technology Ministry (ICT Ministry) as the Digital Economy and Society Ministry this week, with the new ministry then setting up a number of agencies to support its work and responsibilities in the near future.
The Software Industry Promotion Agency (Sipa), meanwhile, will be dissolved and some of its staff transferred to a newly established unit under the new ministry. 
Pansak Siriruchatapong, ICT vice minister, said the government would formally announce the Digital Economy and Society Ministry by the end of this week, now that the steering committee had approved its name. 
The ministry will then establish a number of new organisations to drive the digital economy in the country as a whole.
The new bodies are the Digital Economy Preparatory Commission’s Secretariat Bureau, which will drive the national digital-economy (DE) master plan; the Digital Economy Committee; and the National Digital Economy Agency, which will develop DE funding development.
“The steering committee has already approved the announcement of the new Digital Economy and Society Ministry, which will officially take place this week,” Pansak said.
Under the new ministry, Sipa – currently overseen by the ICT Ministry – will be dissolved and some of its staff to a new unit. 
“Sipa’s direction is to support and promote the software industry, but the DE Ministry will cover more than just the software industry. Therefore, the ministry will set up a new organisation, to which some Sipa staff will be transferred in order to reduce organisational complexity. 
“The new ministry will drive the national DE master plan and help integrate government agencies, promote and support investment in the private sector by using digital economy as a tool to propel the country forward, reform public-sector work and develop human resources to support the private sector in the digital era,” the vice minister explained.
He said that in the first 18 months, the new ministry will focus on laying down information-technology infrastructure, developing and disseminating digital laws to the public and enabling government reform in terms of IT and the digital economy. 
It will also in parallel create pilot projects to support the shift to the digital era, he added. 
Jirawan Boonperm, chairperson of the executive board of Sipa, said that while the agency was waiting for the formal announcement of the new ministry, it had already prepared and trained around 120 staff members so they can leverage their skills to transfer and work at the new organisation.
Moreover, Sipa has continued to support and promote the software industry and the digital economy across the nation, as well as supporting the development of three provinces – Phuket, Chiang Mai and Khon Kaen – under the “smart cities” initiative, she stressed. 
“Sipa still has an outline strategy to support the software industry and the DE programme. We have spent money on developing various platforms, such as a tourism platform, healthcare platform, small and medium-sized enterprise [SME] platform, and smart-city projects to support the digital economy and society,” Jirawan added.
She said the agency has also linked hands with 43 universities nationwide to set up a Tech Start-up Club, which would provide knowledge and consultancy, as well as develop students into new start-up entrepreneurs as the next step. 
Meanwhile, Sipa’s online platform for SMEs supports such businesses in running their operations via the online channel.
Jirawan said the agency’s aim was to develop 4,000 SMEs and provide them with the information they require to understand how to access Board of Investment tax privileges for small tech start-ups. 
Sipa this year received a budget of Bt280 million has been allocated Bt270 million for the 2017 fiscal year, she added.

Published : September 16, 2016

By : JIRAPAN BOONNOON<br /> THE NATION