The Digital Economy Promotion Agency (Depa) has set an ambitious goal to turn 100 cities nationwide into smart cities in two years to improve the economy and quality of life in line with the 20-year national strategy plan.
Cities in six provinces plus Bangkok have begun the process of transforming into smart cities. The provinces are Phuket, Chiang Mai, Khon Kaen, Chon Buri, Rayong and Chachoengsao.
The National Steering Committee on Smart City Development, chaired by Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwon, has opened the application process to cities that want to join the scheme by submitting their proposals for evaluation and approval since May.
A total of 39 cities have submitted proposals.
Among them are 12 municipalities, including seven city municipalities, four town municipalities and one subdistrict municipality, said Depa president and chief executive Nuttapon Nimmanphatcharin.
To get approval for smart city development, they must meet five criteria: have clear geographical boundaries and smart city goals; have infrastructure investment and a development plan; have a design for an open and secure city data platform; provide smart city solutions; and have a sustainable management model.
Approved cities are entitled to use the Smart City Thailand logo and are allowed to apply for investment privileges from the Board of Investment.
The characteristics of smart cities under the planned development cover seven smart city dimensions: economy, mobility, energy, living, people, governance and environment.
Mr Nuttapon said the project is not limited to cities and could cover broad areas where there is potential to be developed under the smart city concept.
To pursue the project, city development companies involving state and private cooperation must be established to help move smart city schemes forward through private sector funding, he said.
Depa and the Department of Local Administration (DLA) recently signed a memorandum of understanding to pursue smart city development with an aim to enhance local management efficiency that can meet people's needs.
"The cooperation with the DLA in driving and developing smart cities is an important step in encouraging more municipalities to get prepared and submit their smart city proposals," Mr Nuttapon said.
The goal of the smart city project is to answer diverse needs and distribute prosperity to citizens living in provincial areas, he said.
The project can be achieved through city leaders' vision, good environmental management, adequate infrastructure and data management systems for efficient city planning, he said.
The hope is that smart cities will help create jobs and boost the economy.
Referring to the 12 municipalities seeking to join the smart city development, DLA director-general Prayoon Rattanasenee said they consist of Yala, Chiang Rai, Koh Samui, Hat Yai, Surat Thani, Nakhon Sawan and Chiang Mai city municipalities; Nan, Chumphon, Satun and Saensuk town municipalities; and Ban Chang subdistrict municipality.
They could serve as pilot models for smart city development for other areas across the country.
"The Covid-19 pandemic has galvanised the importance of applying digital technology to solving city problems for a better quality of life," Mr Prayoon said.