World Bank: Thailand on right track with digital economy

The digital economy has high potential for positive socio-economic impact on Thailand and policy makers are on the right track with the Kingdom’s Digital Economy Master Plan, the World Bank said in its semi-annual Thailand Economic Monitor that was released last week.

“Thailand is known for its creativity, innovation and high-level services, and is taking important steps to help advance the digital economy and boost the country’s economic potential,” said Ulrich Zachau, World Bank Director for Thailand, Malaysia and Regional Partnerships, at a press conference in Bangkok to release the report.

The Bank was also bullish on Thailand’s economy in 2017, raising its forecast for growth this year to 3.5 percent from 3.2 percent in its earlier report in April. Its analysts predicted the Kingdom’s economy will grow at a 3.6 percent clip in 2018. Beyond the short term, the report mainly focused on the efforts government is making to transform the Thai economy.

The administration of Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has formulated a 20-year national strategy called Thailand 4.0 in which the economy and society become more advanced through greater reliance on innovation, creativity, research and development, higher technologies and green technologies. Development of the digital economy is a major component of the strategy.

“The pace of digital transformation will pick up speed if access to quality education also expands and provides more Thais the opportunity to join and benefit from the digital economy, meeting business needs and increasing family incomes,” Zachau said.

The report praised the administration’s Digital Economy Master Plan saying it contains several “worthwhile initiatives” including “development of hard infrastructure, acceleration of the digital economy, and promoting digital society, digital government, workforce development and soft infrastructure (legal, regulatory, security).”

It recommended that Thailand “choose to focus on trends that are foundational for the Digital Economy, have high potential for socio-economic impact, and present frontier opportunities for Thailand.” Those trends include “developing “digital foundations (data sharing, future-ready networks), transformative business models (blockchain), digital skills, and cross-cutting institutions related to strategic foresight and agile policymaking.”

The Bank noted that since 1994, the global digital economy has grown rapidly and is now worth $11.5 trillion, equivalent to 15.5 percent of global gross domestic product.

It urged Thai policymakers to regard data as an asset. “Currently, Thailand’s approach to data is limited to the promotion of open data in government, and integrating data for providing better services to citizens and businesses. We suggest that Thailand look at data in a broader perspective (including private sector data),’’ the report said.

As a start, it recommended that Thailand adopt “network slicing,” which allows broadband providers to allocate different features and capacities to portions of their networks so the networks are more flexible and able to meet the needs of diverse users such as factories, hospitals and self-driving cars