SATURDAY, February 24, 2024

Experts identify 3 obstacles to Thailand’s push for global digital competitiveness

Experts identify 3 obstacles to Thailand’s push for global digital competitiveness

The government must readjust its focus to facilitating and regulating digital commerce if Thailand wants to break into the global top 30 digital competitiveness ranking, according to experts and industry figures.

Their comments came during a Thursday seminar marking the International Institute for Management Development (IMD)’s 2023 digital competitiveness ranking, which saw Thailand rise five places from last year to 35th.

Panelists hailed the rise as good news as it would boost foreign investors' confidence in Thailand.

However, the country still faced three big challenges to becoming a top global digital hub, they added.

Hosted by the Electronic Transactions Development Agency (ETDA), "Thailand Digital Competitiveness: Way Forward for National e-Transaction" aimed to identify paths for public-private partnership in digital technologies and innovations.

The panelists identified the three main obstacles to Thailand’s digital competitiveness as:

  • Lack of digital talent
  • Insufficient collaboration and integration between the public and private sectors
  • Lack of coordination between government agencies

The digital development roles of the public and private sectors must also be clearly defined, they said.

Government should focus on its strong points as regulator/facilitator and leave the role of operator to the private sector, which has expertise, they added.

(from left) Patcharee Pakdeenurit and Tyn Tawitaranond

Vera Verakul, vice-chairman of the Digital Council of Thailand, said the government was eager to provide direction and a strategic framework but digital development was still disorganised and scattered with overlaps between agencies.

As a result, time and money were being squandered with little improvement or progress.

ETDA deputy executive director Tyn Tawitaranond agreed, saying that the transition to e-government was hampered by the absence of a central agency to oversee standards, directions, regulations, and measures for digitalisation.

E-government was crucial to attracting foreign investors to Thailand, he added.

(from left) Pipat Pichetjumroen, Kulthirath Pakawachkrilers and Terdpong Honghiranrueng

Terdpong Honghiranrueng, a board member of SET-listed digital developer TBN, agreed that the better the e-government system, the easier it was for businesses to operate.

Kulthirath Pakawachkrilers, CEO of Thailand e-Business Centre (TeC), said that more and more Thai businesses are expanding via online marketplaces. They already know what to do, but they need the government's help to move forward, she said, adding that more collaboration between the public and private sectors is required.

(from left) Panachit Kittipanya-ngam and Pipat Pichetjumroen

Pipat Pichetjumroen, CEO of Witsawa Corporation, said the collaboration should also focus on equipping Thai citizens with understanding of digital technologies and innovations, as well as digital skills to meet the demand.

"We have to take action now," he said.

Meetham Na Ranong

Meetham Na Ranong, deputy director of ETDA, said Thailand’s electronic transactions plan for 2023-2027 will provide an ecosystem that creates opportunities, sustainability and competitive advantage.

The agency’s plan has two goals: Increasing the digital economy to 30% of GDP and boosting Thailand’s IMD world digital competitiveness ranking to the top 30.

According to WDCR advisor Booskorn Tanasomboonkit, Thailand is already doing a good job in building a digital ecosystem, but there is still room for improvement.

She pointed out that Internet Retailing and e-Government are two areas that need to be pushed even further.

While leaving Internet retail to the private sector, the government should concentrate on the development of government services. 

In addition, the government must integrate services with Digital ID to ensure that they are secure and easily accessible, while also incorporating the use of AI technology to assist with service delivery.

Meanwhile, cybersecurity had to be taken into account as well.  

She then agreed with the panellists that Thailand urgently requires a central public agency to oversee the overall digital ecosystem while ensuring that all parties are on the same page in terms of goals and direction. 

The country must continue to invest in education, telecom infrastructure, and collaborative systems to gain the trust of investors and tech entrepreneurs worldwide, she added.