Smart trade platforms to fire growth
Chamber urges more e-commerce
The private sector has been advised to adapt to meet the goals of Thailand 4.0 -- an economic development model dependent on digital technology and internet-based commerce.
On Saturday, at the Thai Chamber of Commerce's annual seminar in Ayutthaya, Isara Vongkusolkit, the organisation's chairman, read out his vision for the new economic era of innovation to over 800 attendees, representatives from provincial chambers and other related groups.
The Google Consumer Barometer has released findings that Thais have entered the digital era, with 70% of people using smartphones and 53% with daily access to the internet, said Mr Isara.
The national e-commerce market is currently valued at 2.5 trillion baht and has an annual growth rate of about 10%.
With vendors now able to conduct business online, concerns about being overtaken by major retail stores have eased up.
"Digital technology has generated new channels through which producers can reach out to consumers directly, which helps save costs and time significantly," said Mr Isara. "[In-person] dealers will become less important and in the future many of them will disappear."
He referred to a Business Insider magazine article as an example, stating that e-commerce has reduced the number of shoppers in US department stores by 50%. This is expected to lead to one sixth of US malls shutting down in the near future. Amid this scenario, Thailand is being urged to use digital technology to realise a more creative, value-based economy.
"Thailand's 4.0 policy will help enhance our competitive advantage in trade and investment, increase research and development on innovation and technology as well as improve workers' skills," said Mr Isara.
He advised operators to start by implementing more smart trade platforms.
The role that robots and artificial intelligence will play in realising 4.0 was further noted.
By 2020, seven million workers could lose their jobs in the world's 15 designated economic zones -- including Asean, the Gulf states, China, India, Europe and the United States -- where 65% of the global workforce is currently practising technology-based development.
Suawanee Thairungroj, president of the University of the Thai Chamber of Commerce, said major changes are expected in the next nine years, such as the increased household use of robots and driverless electric cars.
Attendees agreed to support the government's Pracha Rat (People's State) strategy to not only advance economic development but reduce inequality.
Mr Isara said this approach will increase the value of trade and services by at least 40-100 billion baht per year, or annual economic growth of 0.4% to 0.7%. This is expected to lead to an economic growth rate of 4% next year.