Government spends big to give all villages hi-speed internet

Every village in Thailand will have access to broadband internet by the end of next year, according to the Ministry of Digital Economy and Society, which said last week that the government is spending almost $600 million to ensure that outcome as part of its national strategy known as Thailand 4.0 to raise the level of development in the Kingdom.

Thailand has 74,965 villages, and 43,533 of them already have broadband access in part because of the government program and in part because of the private sector and market forces. Digital Economy Minister Pichet Durong-kaveroj said that by the end of this year 24,700 more villages will be connected to broadband. The remaining 15,732 villages will link up to the network by the end of 2018.

The benefits of full penetration for Thailand would be substantial, according to Building Thailand’s Digital Economy and Society,a report released last year by the GSM Association, a London-based group that represents mobile telecoms operators worldwide. “This growth would lead to a cumulative GDP (gross domestic product) increase of $23 billion, and the increased access to mobile broadband infrastructure would generate new skilled jobs, strengthen digital inclusion and expedite the goals set out in the government’s Digital Economy Plan,” the report said.

The government has formulated a 20-year national strategy called Thailand 4.0 that aims to evolve the Kingdom’s economy and society from the current stage where it depends to a large degree on manufacturing and assembly of medium-technology products designed by foreign firms to one driven by advanced and green technologies that to a greater degree originate from homegrown innovation, creativity and research and development.

Tom Phillips, chief regulatory officer of the GSM Association, said greater broadband access would help Thailand achieve its 4.0 strategy. “The impact of mobile broadband access is profound, from improving productivity and driving the creation of new businesses and skilled jobs, to delivering mobile healthcare and money services and enabling smart cities,” he said.

Minister Pichet said that along with connecting all villages to broadband that will have a minimum download speed of 30 megabits per second, the government has a goal of fostering the creation of 500,000 new jobs in digital industries over the next five years.

“We will help start-ups in terms of public-private collaboration, such as with internet service providers, telecom operators and bank and financial industries, so as to create a sustainable start-up ecosystem that benefits the private sector, the public sector and society,” Pichet said.


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