Another seminar, later in the week, heard a more down to earth assessment as Thai entrepreneur, Amarit Charoenphan, bemoaned the closure of the kingdom to potential investors in Thai startups which are struggling to find investment right now. He also called on the government to resolve issues like political stability and chronic traffic jams.

A top Thai Minister, on Saturday, claimed the kingdom was ahead of Singapore in its efforts to become the leading digital hub in ASEAN as Thailand increases and deepens its cooperation with Chinese technology giant Huawei in its efforts to transform business and life in the kingdom. The conference heard that the government expects 30% of the country’s economy in 2030 will be within the digital arena.

Ministers who spoke at last week’s high profile event included Minister of Digital Economy and Society Buddhipongse Punnakanta and Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwan (inset bottom) who hailed digital technology as being at the heart of Thailand’s economy now and into the future. The conference heard confirmation from Huawei Thailand’s CEO, Abel Deng (inset centre), that a further, third, database centre would be developed in Thailand by the Chinese technology giant which has emerged as the country’s key partner in its Thailand 4.0 economic transformation plan.

Thailand’s Digital Economy and Society Minister has said that the kingdom has overtaken Singapore in terms of its digital infrastructure and the roll-out of 5G technology.

He was speaking at an exhibition, hosted by Chinese tech firm Huawei Technologies, in Bangkok on Saturday last at Central World in the heart of the city. More than 800 people attended the event which showcased advances being made in Thailand’s digital infrastructure in partnership with Huawei.

Minister wants to see 5G network operational and at the heart of the Eastern Economic Corridor region

Minister Buddhipongse Punnakanta highlighted plans by the Thai government to have 5G networks supported by the technology from Huawei, at the heart of the government’s Eastern Economic Corridor mega project in the Rayong, Chachoengsao and Chonburi provinces.

‘Our digital infra especially 5G networks has surpassed others in the region, even Singapore,’ Mr Buddhipongse proclaimed. ‘5G commercial networks have been rolled out and the massive 5G adoption can be expected next year.’

Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwan says that digital technology is now at the heart of the economy

The keynote speaker at the event was Thailand’s Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwan who is also the leader of the ruling political party, Palang Pracharat.

DPM Prawit told the conference, themed ‘Powering Digital Thailand’, that the Thai government was pursuing a policy and plan that would position the kingdom as a hub for digital technology and commerce in the ASEAN region.

He said that technology was now at the heart of Thailand’s economy as Abel Deng, the Chief Executive Officer of Huawei Technologies Thailand, confirmed that the Thai economy, whose digital output is now less than 20%, would increase this to 30% by 2030 or within ten years.

30% of the economy will be digital by 2030

‘We are confident of Thailand’s potential to become Asean’s first digital hub, and this will help the country’s digital economy contribute to 30% of the GDP by 2030,’ Mr Deng told the audience.

Huawei continues to invest heavily in Thailand and has just confirmed a new data processing centre is to be established with a projected investment of ฿700 million. 

This follows the Chinese firm investing a similar figure in 2018 when it established a data processing centre within the Eastern Economic Corridor where the firm has established advanced cloud-based services with stable, reliable connections to the rest of the world.

Huawei has now emerged as the key partner in Thailand’s 4.0 policy programme to transform the kingdom’s economy away from its traditional base to a high tech, high income one over the next decades.

Prime Minister in New York predicts that Thailand will be a first-world economy in 17 years or by 2036

The firm established a second data centre in Bangkok last year.

Huawei confident digital economy will prosper

The Huawei boss in Thailand was extremely positive at the prospects for the growth of Thailand’s digital economy.

‘Huawei had seen the tremendous progress made in the growth of the digital economy in Thailand, starting with Thailand’s 4.0 policy, which reflected the country’s strong ambition to become a digital leader in the region,’ he said.

Meanwhile, the Digital Economy Minister, Mr Buddhipongse, also told the conference that information was the ‘new oil’ and that the state enterprise CAT Telecom has established the Government Data Centre and Cloud Services to take on the role of a centralised state data agency and online cloud service.

Newspaper hosted a seminar which heard calls for the government to open the kingdom’s borders

However, later in the week, there was a more down to earth emphasis at a conference and seminar hosted by the widely read Thai language newspaper, Thai Rath.

Speakers at the event titled ‘Thai Economic Strategy 2021’ heard a plea from entrepreneur Mr Amarit Charoenphan for the government to begin addressing more practical realities.

Mr Amarit is the founder of ‘Hubba’, a firm that offers shared working space, facilities and support to Thai entrepreneurs.

Mr Amarit said that local investors for Thai tech startups were simply not on the ground and foreign investors could not get access to the kingdom because of the current travel restrictions in place because of the Covid-19 emergency.

He said that, without that ability, foreign investors cannot see, ‘with their own eyes’, businesses in Thailand making it very difficult for start-ups to get the finance and support needed.

This included access to foreign mentors who often provided invaluable guidance and insight.

Government must look at issues such as political strife and Bangkok’s snarling traffic jams

He acknowledged that the situation was different for firms in the fintech area.

‘It has become a state that big companies don’t want. Investing in Thai startups is not growing,’ he warned and would not, he said, until the country was reopened.

Mr Amarit called for the Thai government to look at the environment in Thailand for attracting technology and business investors.

He highlighted issues such as political problems and, in Bangkok, large traffic jams and congestion as the sort of thing that must be addressed.

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