Boosting Thailand's web presence

Next year Thai internet users will be able to access Google voice search _ an application that allows users to search for information by speaking to a mobile phone or computer.

Julian Persaud, Google Southeast Asia’s managing director.

Engineers are now working on the voice search app by taking around 100,000 samples of Thai speakers, according to Julian Persaud, Google Southeast Asia's managing director.

"We won't wait for the product to be perfect when we launch it, but make sure it serves the users," he said, adding that one of the issues is that there is not enough Thai content, and Google wanted to remedy that shortcoming.

One way to do that is to get more Thai businesses online. To this end, Google has worked with the ICT Ministry, the Commerce Ministry and SME agencies to encourage the business sector to take advantage of the cyber platform. Persaud noted that all businesses can benefit from the internet, citing curtain trader as a good example.

Set up last year by the Thai fabric company as part of a Google programme that offered 120,000 web pages to Thai businesses, KSCurtain has found immense success online after their outlets were destroyed by last year's flood.

"Today over 80% of their orders come from the web," said Persaud.

Google is helping to educate the business sector about the value of going online and will offer its Free Zone product by teaming up with telecom operators and internet service providers.

Ariya Banomyong, head of Google Thailand, said the objective of Free Zone is to let everyone access the internet. The product is free, but charges are incurred for downloads.

Google is continuing to encourage SMEs to go online with the Google Trader programme. The online marketplace enables smaller ventures that do not have their own websites to gain an online presence.

"Everyone is expected to go online. Last year, 10% of users searched via mobile devices, and it's forecast that the proportion will rise to 20% this year" said Ariya.

The penetration rate of mobile phones in developing countries is quite high and Google has encouraged low-income groups to access the mobile internet. The penetration rate of mobile users in Thailand is expected to rise once 3G is implemented. Ariya pointed out that the platform has created an opportunity for people to show their creativity. Psy is a good example, demonstrating the potential of online platform, becoming the first Korean to conquer the US and European markets.

"The platform today has tremendously multiplied the audience, but what Thailand lacks is creativity in the online world," said Ariya.