The government is urging businesses in major provinces to form city development companies to manage assets and embrace innovation, paving the way to become smart cities in the future.
The model for city development companies is taking shape in the provinces of Khon Kaen, Chiang Mai and Phuket to advance the development of smart cities through the public-private collaborative approach.
They are Phuket City Development, Chiang Mai City Development and Khon Kaen City Development.
Digital Economy and Society Minister, Pichet Durongkaveroj, said the city development company model is promising as a way to ensure long-term funding sources for smart city development and effective operations and management.
The development of smart cities has been identified as a key point for the government's digital economy.
The state has been developing smart cities through the Digital Economy Promotion Agency (Depa), formerly known as the Software Industry Promotion Agency.
Depa initiated the project by providing high-speed internet infrastructure and free WiFi.
The government began embracing multiple innovative digital technologies to turn major tier-3 cities into smart cities by enhancing the use and management of their assets, including transportation systems, water supply networks, waste management and other community services.
Phuket is the first smart city for the pilot project, for which the government last year spent 386 million baht to start developing its digital economy and society.
Chiang Mai is the second smart city set to begin implementation this year, with an initial budget of 36 million baht. Khon Kaen is slated for next year, with an initial budget of 15 million baht.
Mr Pichet said the government learned from the development of Phuket smart city, whose collaboration with the private sector has been a key to its success, as it can help ensure funding in case of government spending delays.
The city development company also creates continuity in operations and procedures in the long run.
"Smart cities cannot be developed by only the state, as their development requires massive funds," said Mr Pichet.
The private sector should collaborate and jointly use information in an innovative way to develop smart cities and tackle major challenges. They should further keep an eye on advances in technology and increased affordability in areas including sensors, data storage and internet bandwidth, he said.
Mr Pichet said Phuket and Chiang Mai have been designated as investment centres for high-technology, the so-called digital super clusters. The development of the two smart cities covers area such as tourism, security, the environment, healthcare and education.
Every province can be developed with smart cities, but they should allow for differences in concept and strength.
"Some provinces have gained their strengths for being tourist destinations while others should focus on sports and games," he said.