Google launches free wifi to support Thai digital development

Google Thailand launched several initiatives last week including free high-speed public wifi as part of its policies to promote equality in internet access, support Thailand’s digital development and enable more Thais to participate in the digital economy, as Thai e-commerce was forecast to reach $91 billion this year.

The company announced the initiatives at the Google for Thailand event in Bangkok. The first such Google event in the Kingdom, its theme was “Leave no Thai behind,” which speaks to promoting equality of digital access. The initiatives cover what Google calls the four pillars of their internet policies: access, education, content and products, and small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).

The initiatives “were designed to ensure that all Thais would have opportunities and know-how to access technology and use it to build livelihoods,” said Ben King, Google Thailand country director.

Thailand is second for the highest mobile internet adoption in ASEAN (the Association of Southeast Asian Nations), with 90 percent of the country covered by 3G/4G networks. The Thai government has undertaken a program to connect every one of the country’s 77,000-plus villages with high-speed internet.

The program to provide free high-speed public wifi access is named Google Station. It will start in 10 areas of Bangkok and two provinces, Pichit and Loei. The plan is to extend access to other parts of the country in coming months.

Google Thailand also announced that it would partner with Siam Commercial Bank to allow SMEs to sign up and be verified for Google My Business, a free business listing on Google Search and Google Maps. SCB staff will visit businesses to explain the advantages and urge companies to sign up.

King said Thailand has a rapidly growing digital economy. His view was supported by statistics released last week by the Electronic Transactions Development Agency (ETDA), a public organization, that said the value of e-commerce in the Kingdom last year was about $84 billion, an increase of 8.6 percent over the previous year. The agency is forecasting that the figure will rise to over $91 billion this year.

“Promoting the Thai e-commerce market globally, especially in China, the U.S. and Europe is a challenging task,” said Surangkana Wayuparb, CEO of ETDA.

She said, that B2B (business to business) transactions were valued at $48 billion last year, while B2C (business to consumer) transactions accounted for 29 percent, or $24 billion, of e-commerce value in the country.