Government will establish Digital Ministry this week

digital2To support and speed the transition to a more advanced and innovative economy, the Thai government established a Ministry of Digital Economy and Society last week, replacing the Ministry of Information and Communications Technology and taking on expanded responsibilities including planning and promoting the implementation of Thailand 4.0 policies and programs.

The ministry will oversee the shaping of policies to promote and attract digital businesses to the Kingdom and nurturing domestic startups and high technology ventures. Thailand is planning ‘smart cities’ to lure businesses. The government has also been taking the first steps to change the way its departments use technology and information systems.

With national e-payment plans underway and the advent of fintech, or financial technologies, affecting the banking and finance sectors, as well as consumers, the new ministry will have a wide range of sectors and industries in which to play a role.

Minister of Information and Communications Technology (ICT) Uttama Savanayana resigned his post after helping to lay the groundwork for the new ministry, the first new ministry created in over a decade. The Ministry of Digital Economy and Society will be headed up temporarily by Deputy Prime Minister Prajin Juntong. A source at one of the state telecoms agencies told the Bangkok Post newspaper that Prajin “is the most appropriate person to take the post during the transition period of the ICT industry and serving the country’s digital economy and Thailand 4.0 polices.”

A high-ranking military source told the Bangkok Post that the government is considering three candidates to become the new minister: National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission Vice-Chairman Settapong Malisuwan and Secretary-General Takorn Tantasith, and a senior Finance Ministry official.

Thailand 4.0 is the government’s 20-year plan to reshape the Thai economy and society towards greater innovation, creativity, technology, research and development, and environmental practices. The plan is intended to propel the country out of the middle-income trap in which many developing nations remain mired, and become more competitive.

At its inception, the Digital Ministry will appear very similar to the ICT Ministry, assuming responsibilities for the National Statistics Office, the Thai Meteorological Department, the Software Industry Promotion Agency, the Electronic Transactions Development Agency, Thailand Post, TOT Plc. and CAT Telecom. However, the National Disaster Warning Center will be transferred to the Interior Ministry, as Interior is better qualified to issue national alerts in times of crisis.

Under its portfolio, the new ministry will direct two new agencies to serve the development of the digital economy: the National Digital Economy Committee and the Digital Economy Promotion Agency.