US technology giants are expected to invest more in Thailand to support the growth of the artificial intelligence (AI) economy, while minimising the risk of geopolitical supply chain impact.
Google Cloud confirmed its Thailand cloud region will be located in Bangkok, while Microsoft is expected to invest here to make the country its data centre.
At the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) Leaders' Meeting, the Thai government and Google announced on Nov 14 a strategic collaboration to improve Thailand's digital competitiveness and accelerate AI innovation.
The agreement calls for both parties to work jointly on four foundational pillars that are necessary for the country to thrive in an AI economy: advancing digital infrastructure investments; promoting secure and responsible AI adoption to transform public service delivery; anchoring on cloud-first policies; and making digital skills more accessible to Thais.
These initiatives build on Google's investments in Thailand over the last 12 years. In 2022 alone, the company's products and programs supported more than 250,000 jobs.
Google also contributed, both directly and indirectly, an estimated US$4.3 billion in economic benefits to local businesses, according to the company.
Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin said the partnership with Google is a significant step forward in fulfilling the government's vision of transforming sectors of high relevance to Thai citizens, businesses and investors through cloud-first policies, while creating a safer cyberspace.
Ruth Porat, chief investment officer at Alphabet and Google, said the partnership with the Thai government seeks to strengthen its digital competitiveness and further advance its cloud-first digital transformation.
The first foundational pillar is investing in Thailand's digital infrastructure. Google is exploring the potential establishment of a new in-country Google data centre to power digital services.
Google Cloud previously announced it is bringing its first cloud region to Thailand. With the government's support, Google Cloud confirmed that region will be located in Bangkok.
The Thailand cloud region is expected to bring Google Cloud technologies closer to local organisations to help them deliver digital services more reliably, with greater scalability, and at higher speeds, supporting innovation using AI, said the company.
The cloud region is estimated to increase economic productivity, contributing more than $4.1 billion to local GDP by 2030 and supporting the creation of 50,300 jobs that year, said Google.
The second pillar focuses on accelerating public sector AI adoption and strengthening cybersecurity.
The Digital Economy and Society Ministry and Google Cloud plan to collaborate to explore the use of generative AI, taking advantage of Google Cloud technologies to rapidly deploy scalable solutions for the public good.
Priority areas include e-government services, financial technology, healthcare, education and transport.
The government and Google Cloud also want to engage in cyberthreat information exchange and joint capability building, potentially creating a National CyberShield Alliance.
This alliance would enable the government to combine automation, analytics, threat intelligence and AI to rapidly detect, investigate and collectively defend against sophisticated cyber-attacks on critical national infrastructure.
The third pillar involves Google supporting the ministry's development of a "Go Cloud-first" strategy for Thailand.
Pillar four focuses on making digital and cloud skills even more accessible to Thais. In partnership with the ministry and the Thai Board of Investment, Google is offering 12,000 additional Google Career Certificate scholarships under its Samart Skills programme.
First launched in October 2022, this brings Google's total commitment to 34,000 scholarships.
The scheme helps more Thais to develop skills and earn professional certifications at no cost for entry-level jobs in high-demand fields such as cybersecurity, data analytics, IT support, and e-commerce and digital marketing.
Earlier Mr Srettha said the country expected to receive investment of at least $5 billion from Tesla, Google and Microsoft, with the latter two looking at data centres.
The average deal for cloud data centre establishment is around $5 billion.
At the Apec summit, Mr Srettha also met executives of HP Inc and invited them to invest, setting up a regional office and production base to develop a supply chain in Thailand.
He also discussed tax incentives as the company wants to expand its production capacity next month.
HP's chief executive planned another meeting and they expect to reach a conclusion later this month, Mr Srettha said.
Mr Srettha said he invited HP to co-invest in the land bridge project as it would benefit the company's supply chain development.