Depa tries to provide local startups with digital edge
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Depa tries to provide local startups with digital edge

The Digital Economy Promotion Agency (Depa) is stepping up efforts to work with the Commerce Ministry and other related agencies to strengthen local startups and boost demand for their services as a way to break up foreign digital platforms' hold on the market.

Nuttapon Nimmanphatcharin, president and chief executive of Depa, said the agency has a fiscal 2021 budget of 1.08 billion baht and the sum will be used to spur digital transformation among Thais, which is on the national agenda.

Depa will collaborate with related parties, such as the Commerce Ministry, Revenue Department and other state agencies, to find ways to mitigate the domination of the foreign digital platforms while boosting local platforms to be more competitive.

"We are in the process of building digital service platforms with public and private partners in some fields to make sure the country will have strategic local digital platforms," said Mr Nuttapon.

Removing regulatory burdens is important, as is supporting local startups distributing preferred stock and creating a regulatory sandbox for them, he said.

The government should also support local startups through its procurement and use them to join some government stimulus programmes, such as "We Travel Together" scheme.

Depa plans to collaborate with the Higher Education, Science, Research and Innovation Ministry to strengthen the digital startup network and build the digital workforce to fill the 40,000 jobs in this field per year, said Mr Nuttapon. Only 12,000 people fill these positions per year.

Depa will support scholarship funding for students in the third year of university who become interns in jobs that require digital skills, such as data science.

He said Depa will work with vocational schools and universities to build new skills sets, such as drones for agriculture, artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics.

"We need to prepare the workforce to help transform various sectors, such as factories, healthcare, farming," said Mr Nuttapon.

The move is also meant to draw foreign investment into the country.

Depa is developing a 30-rai Digital Valley project in Chon Buri, meant to be a centre for emerging technologies, such as Internet of Things, AI, 5G applications, augmented reality and virtual reality as well as a cloud innovation centre and a software convergence centre.

Mr Nuttapon said the 1,500- square-metre first building under the project has been completed and is fully booked by more than 10 startups engaging in robotics, AI, blockchain and logistics.

The second building projected to cost 186 million baht is expected to be completed in July next year.

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