Focus on digital economy crucial for Thailand’s growth, political parties say
The Thai government should work on creating a digital economy to boost economic growth, representatives from four political parties said at a roundtable discussion with The Nation at Hyde Heritage Thonglor in Bangkok on Friday (April 28).
The representatives agreed that a digital economy was necessary to facilitate business operations and improve people's quality of life, covering digital governance, loan access and medical treatment.
They said the government was not aware of the importance of the digital economy. The government should streamline the work process and amend regulations that caused difficulties in developing a digital economy, they added.
Worawut Ounjai, Chart Pattana Kla Party deputy leader, said e-commerce has played an important role in Thailand's economy over the past 20 years.
"China initiated e-commerce to penetrate the global market and boost the potential of small businesses," he said.
He urged the government to develop the e-commerce ecosystem, which consists of platforms, e-money, logistics and e-data.
However, he warned the government to balance the development of all elements, otherwise it could lead to difficulties, such as oversupply.
"E-commerce is not only about developing a website. Its ecosystem is also necessary," he said. "If the government can do so, small firms will be able to operate businesses similar to large ones."
He said e-data is crucial for achieving success in e-commerce. He added that the government should invest in e-data as the private sector alone cannot do so.
"E-data development can cost up to 70 billion baht, which is too much for private agencies," he said, adding that big data and digital government are necessary for e-data development.
He advised the government to promote its e-commerce platform in CLMV countries (Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam) and launch the national travel booking platform.
"Also, the government should create awareness on the personal data protection act as only a few people understood about this act," he added.
Chatchai Payuhanaveechai, member of Chart Thai Pattana Party's policy and strategy committee, said Thailand would have to work on boosting the digital economy as the country's digital competitiveness was ranked only 40th among 63 countries last year, citing the Institute for Management Development's report.
He said the government can enhance cybersecurity by launching a national cloud platform and applying blockchain technology to the e-payment system.
The digital economy can boost Thailand's gross domestic product but the government should support the development, he said.
"The government should consist of experts who drive politics in the right way," he said, adding that the new generation has the potential for political management.
He said the government can generate more revenue by allowing foreign platforms to register for operating their business in Thailand.
He also advised the government to work on a digital currency to cope with currency volatility. "People can use anything to repay debt under the laws," he said.
He added that China had developed the WeChat application to observe users' behaviour, such as speed of message response, default in debt repayment and smartphone recharge.
This has enabled China to utilise big data in many ways, such as evaluating people's eligibility to access loans, he added.
Chaiwat Sathawornwichit, a member of Move Forward Party's economic committee, said safe and reliable data is necessary for driving the digital economy.
He asked the government to improve regulations and set up standards to enable people to use their personal data. He also confirmed that people have ownership of their personal data, not the government.
"Data is the fuel to drive the digital economy," he said.
The government should adhere to data governance in order to gain confidence among people in its operational transparency, he said, adding that people have faith in private agencies rather than the government.
"The government can use artificial intelligence [AI] to analyse big data," he said.
He also advised the government to focus on developing personnel to be ready for the digital economy.
"Apart from teaching them to wash their hands, children should learn how to avoid becoming victims of cybercrimes," he added.
Suksit Srichomkwan, member of Pheu Thai Party's economic committee, said the government should launch its digital government as soon as possible to improve people's quality of life.
Estonia's medical treatment has improved exponentially, thanks to AI and telemedicine, he explained.
He claimed that data provided by Thai government agencies were mismatched, resulting in difficulties in data utilisation.
“A digital government will encourage people to utilise their personal data," he said, adding that the government can improve it over time.