Public and private organisations have set a high bar, aiming for Thailand to reach the top 30 in the digital competitiveness ranking by 2027 through promotion of electronic transactions, increasing the adoption of e-government services and further integrating open data services.
Thailand's ranking climbed five spots to 35th out of 64 economies, its best showing since 2019, according to the World Digital Competitiveness Ranking 2023 by the Institute for Management Development (IMD).
Thailand has to focus more on promoting local products sold via online platforms, and not feel satisfied with growing e-commerce value because the dominant online platforms are foreign operators with a lot of foreign products, Vera Verakul, vice-chairman of Digital Council of Thailand, said at a seminar hosted by the Electronic Transactions Development Agency (ETDA) on Thursday.
He said the country also needs an agency to oversee the government's digital transformation and the integration of open data to prepare for the artificial intelligence (AI) era and maximise data analytics, instead of each agency using a separate budget to procure hardware and software.
The country looks less attractive for foreign investment in startups compared with other Southeast Asian nations, as it accounts for less than 10% of investment in that segment in the region.
Kulthirath Pakawachkrilers, president of the Thai e-Commerce Association, said live commerce represents 38% of social media market value in Thailand. The association estimates the domestic live commerce value will reach 121 billion baht in 2025.
"We need to train entrepreneurs to increase their sales capability on live commerce to stimulate the growth of e-commerce," said Ms Kulthirath.
The value of China's live-stream e-commerce or live commerce market reached 2.27 trillion yuan in 2021, with estimates of 4.9 trillion this year, she said.
Meetham Na Ranong, deputy director of ETDA, said the agency will increase the use of e-timestamping, which is an electronic timestamp to create confidence and certify documents.
In addition, the agency wants to push e-tax invoices to increase trust in electronic transactions, reduce paper usage and costs, and increase the competitiveness of businesses, including small and medium-sized enterprises.
The ranking attributed Thailand's rise to improvement in three factors. For technology, the nation jumped five spots from 20 to 15.
In terms of knowledge, Thailand improved four places to 41, while for future readiness the country edged up seven spots to 42.
Thailand improved its regulatory, capital and technological frameworks, exhibiting high marks for internet bandwidth speed, which ranked fifth globally, and high-tech exports, which placed 11th.
The talent score rose from the use of highly skilled foreign personnel, while the tally for management of cities and digital/technological skills also improved.
Regarding future readiness, Thailand improved in terms of business agility, use of data analysis and knowledge transfer.
However, government cybersecurity remained a key weakness with a ranking of 58th, while protection of privacy was 43rd.
Another major Thai weakness that requires urgent attention is the dearth of scientific and technical personnel, evident in educational indicators in which Thailand lags, especially the teacher-student ratio at the tertiary level and total public expenditure on education.
Among all Asean nations, Thailand ranked third after Singapore and Malaysia.
At the global level, Singapore ranked third and Malaysia 33rd. Indonesia rose six spots to 45th, while the Philippines dropped three places to 59th.
The top 10 economies this year are the US, the Netherlands, Singapore, Denmark, Switzerland, South Korea, Sweden, Finland, Taiwan and Hong Kong.
The top economies in this year's ranking could be considered digital nations, facilitating the full adoption of digital technologies, including AI, by governments, companies and individuals, said IMD's World Competitiveness Center.
"While we measure no specific AI indicators, the technology sits silently at the core of several of the subfactors that we quantify: talent, regulatory and technological frameworks, and adaptive attitudes and business agility," said Prof Arturo Bris, director of the centre, which has produced the ranking since 2017.
On a data level, the quality of digital regulations, funding available for technology development and the degree of company agility are all data points that are enmeshed with AI, he said.
AI technology and national security concerns are at the core of another trend observed in the ranking -- an increasing focus on cybersecurity. Of the 4,000 senior executives globally who responded to the survey, only 5% said they had not implemented new cybersecurity measures in the past year, according to IMD.
Teeranun Srihong, chairman of the Thailand Management Association's Center for Competitiveness, said the country's knowledge and future readiness rankings are still not in good positions, but they show signs of improvement.
Thailand's priority now is to keep up with AI technology, while enhancing cybersecurity and privacy protection, he said.