Phuket to pioneer digital drive
Govt hopes island will become startup hub
Phuket - The government has vowed to turn the island province of Phuket into a hub of startup businesses as well as a "smart" city, as part of the government's so-called Thailand 4.0 new economic model, which focuses on technological innovation and digital development.
Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha on Friday presided over the opening of ''Startup Thailand and Digital Thailand 2016'' event in Phuket, organised by the Science and Technology Ministry, the newly-established Ministry of Digital Economy and Society, and their alliances.
Addressing the gathering, Gen Prayut stressed the need for all sectors to help each other to strengthen society, and said big businesses should support small ones without leaving anyone behind.
He also said the government will ensure all small- and medium-sized businesses, which are estimated at 1 million, will be registered as part of the digital economy under the Thailand 4.0 model.
Government, state enterprise officials and the public must work together under the Pracharath people-state partnership model to steer the country forward, the prime minister said.
Gen Prayut attended the event after officially opening the new passenger terminal at Phuket airport.
Science and Technology Minister Pichet Durongkaveroj said the government has attached importance to the development of startup businesses, the foundation of the country's economy.
Steps have been taken to spur the growth of businesses and attract new talent from around the world to Thailand, while legislation has been amended to encourage investment in startup businesses, and create an environment conducive to the businesses, Mr Pichet said.
He added the event is part of the government's efforts to usher in the economy of innovation and creativity under the Thailand 4.0 model. The Phuket event builds on the successes of the previous similar events held in Bangkok, Chiang Mai and Khon Kaen, he said.
Permanent-secretary of the new Ministry of Digital Economy and Society, Songporn Komolsuradej, said the government has seen Phuket's potential for development as a Smart City, and the island province has been chosen as a digital super cluster, along with Chiang Mai.
Last September, the cabinet approved placing the super clusters in nine provinces. The food processing, medical services and digital clusters will be located in Chiang Mai and Phuket.
Plans are to develop information and technology infrastructure networks in Phuket, such as building a network of hi-speed broadband internet, increasing the free Wi-Fi spots to 1,000, among other things, Ms Songporn said.
Kanchanok Bunsupaporn, an analyst of Siam Commercial Bank's research unit, noted that startup businesses in Thailand are still at the "exploration" stage, and the market size for the businesses is relatively small. Last year's investment in startups were valued only at US$32 million (1.1 billion baht), with most businesses concentrated in e-commerce.
However, she said the government has a clear policy to promote startups with a target to create at least 10,000 new startups in 2018.
Several measures have been rolled out to boost their growth, such as tax incentives, and the establishment of a 10-billion-baht digital economy fund to support the development of technology startups.