Is the government on cloud nine?
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Is the government on cloud nine?

With the creation of a cloud policy committee, the administration hopes to propel its usage, which could have effects on the private sector

Organisations in Thailand are expected to spend more than $1.8 billion on public cloud services in 2024, up 30.1% year-on-year, according to Gartner.
Organisations in Thailand are expected to spend more than $1.8 billion on public cloud services in 2024, up 30.1% year-on-year, according to Gartner.

Last month the cabinet approved the establishment of a Cloud First Policy Committee to steer all state agencies towards the digital government scheme.

The committee will play a role in supervising, monitoring and evaluating the implementation of the "cloud first" policy among all relevant state sectors and promoting the digital economy, according to Digital Economy and Society (DES) Minister Prasert Jantararuangthong.

Q: What are the committee's main tasks?

The committee's main task is steering the government's cloud policy. It is expected to develop related policies for cloud usage and guidelines for state agencies on how to select types of cloud services, proposing the details to the National Digital Economy and Society Commission (NDESC) and the Digital Government Development Committee.

The panel is also expected to propose to the NDESC and the Digital Government Development Committee its implementation plan for the cloud first policy, as well as potential obstacles and solutions.

Worldwide end-user spending on public cloud services is forecast to grow 20.4% to total $675.4 billion in 2024, up from $561 billion in 2023, driven by generative AI (GenAI) and application modernization, according to the latest forecast from Gartner, Inc.

In addition to regulation of the policy in all relevant sectors, the committee will invite stakeholders to offer opinions or advice.

The committee can appoint subcommittees for specific tasks and will perform other duties as assigned by the NDESC.

The DES minister chairs the committee, while the ministry's permanent secretary and relevant government agencies form the committee's membership.

The committee members include the permanent secretaries of the Finance, Commerce and Interior ministries, the director-general of the Budget Bureau, secretary-general of the Board of Investment and secretary-general of Personal Data Protection Committee.

Other members include Supakorn Congsomjit, a member of Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin's working team; Pongsarun Assawachaisophon, deputy secretary-general to the prime minister; and Suksit Srichomkwan, the prime minister's deputy secretary-general for political affairs.

The NDESC secretary-general is a committee member and secretary. The committee is slated to hold its first meeting in early July.

Q: What is Thailand's readiness to adopt the cloud?

According to a Thailand Development Research Institute (TDRI) survey of 663 government agencies to assess their readiness for cloud adoption, their readiness and cloud usage is deemed moderate. They need to be better prepared in many aspects, including the development of their personnel, noted the survey.

The survey found 124 agencies are expected to have greater cloud demand. The 2025 budgeting for state agencies reflects higher spending for cloud usage, with the Justice Ministry setting the highest budget for cloud use.

TDRI suggested policymakers divide the types of cloud service into five levels of data sensitivity: open data, data restricted to authorised personnel within organisations, confidential, highly confidential and top secret.

Q: What is the country's cloud market outlook?

Organisations in Thailand are expected to spend more than US$1.8 billion on public cloud services in 2024, an increase of 30.1% from 2023, according to the latest forecast from Gartner, Inc.

Spending on infrastructure-as-a-service is forecast to have the largest growth, rising 39.6%, followed by platform-as-a-service at 26%.

Worldwide end user spending on public cloud services is forecast to grow 20.4% to $675 billion in 2024, up from $561 billion in 2023, driven by generative artificial intelligence (AI) and application modernisation, according to Gartner.

Recently Gulf Edge Co Ltd, a fully-owned digital arm of Thailand's Gulf Energy Development and Google Asia Pacific, announced a multi-year agreement to deliver next-generation sovereign cloud services in Thailand.

State agency National Telecom (NT) set an aggressive growth target for its cloud service, which now contributes 4 billion baht per year, reaching 10 billion by 2027 as total demand in the market is expected to reach 500,000 virtual machines in three years.

NT hopes to grab 30% of demand as the Cloud First Policy Committee pushes agencies towards digital government, said president Col Sanphachai Huvanandana.

The company operates cloud service through its own brand NT Cloud and runs the Government Data Center and Cloud service, which handles demand for cloud services from state enterprises.

In fiscal 2024, the budget for cloud usage by state agencies was around 3 billion baht, according to Puchapong Nodthaisong, secretary-general of NDESC. He estimated the cloud policy budget for fiscal 2025 would be 5-10 billion baht.

Q: What do companies think about the cloud first policy?

Morragot Kulatumyotin, president of Thailand Internet Service Provider Association, said the policy drives cloud usage in the government sector, one of the major spenders on technology.

By having guidelines, qualification standards and service levels, both the public and private sectors will be beneficiaries, she said.

Mrs Morragot urged the government to offer privileges to both foreign and local cloud data centre operators. There are roughly 10 local cloud and data centre providers in Thailand, she said.

Moreover, Thailand needs to promote local software-as-a-service and open-source software as alternatives for local users, instead of relying heavily on only foreign products, said Mrs Morragot.

"You can see some global tech vendors adjusting pricing models, which is frustrating users. In some cases, global cloud service providers increase the price every year. How will we solve this challenge? We can see the result from the tech war between the US and China. Huawei has survived and grown because it has its own R&D," she said.

"Thailand has limited resources, but we can encourage use of local developments such as basic applications like enterprise resource planning."

Sarath Ratanavadi, chief executive of Gulf Energy Development, said cloud computing is still relatively new in Thailand. In the past, cloud services were implemented on a smaller scale at the department or ministry level.

The cloud first policy enables Thailand to catch up with other regional peers, he said.

"I believe this policy is extremely important for the future of Thailand because it will undoubtedly benefit both Thai industries and the country's development," said Mr Sarath.

Q: How do AI initiatives fit with the cloud policy?

Supparat Sivapetchranat Singhara na Ayutthaya, chief executive of STT GDC Thailand and a member of the Thai Data Center Association (TDCA), said the cloud first initiative is a positive step towards enhancing productivity and efficiency.

While this policy aligns with global trends, several countries adopted similar strategies years ago, integrating cloud computing into their national frameworks and leveraging its benefits to stay ahead in the digital race, he said.

To truly propel the Thai economy forward, the nation must look beyond cloud computing and embrace the transformative potential of AI, said Mr Supparat. An "AI first" policy is essential to creating an AI economy that will significantly drive economic growth, powered by graphics processing units (GPUs), which hold immense potential, he said.

Taiwan, which produces 67% of the global semiconductor market, has 13% of its GDP generated from this sector. Taiwan's GDP is projected to grow by an additional 3.94% in 2024, driven by the AI economy, said Mr Supparat.

To reduce dependence on Taiwan and capture the AI economy, countries such as the US have subsidised chip firms with $22 billion to start local manufacturing. Germany, India, Japan and Malaysia are also exploring incentives to become hubs for AI GPU chip manufacturing.

He suggested the Thai government focus on three key areas, including enhancing the cloud first strategy with AI integration, evolving into an "AI cloud first" strategy. This will not only make government services more accessible, but also more intelligent by harnessing the power of AI, said Mr Supparat.

The government should also strengthen semiconductor manufacturing capabilities, he said. Earlier this year, the chief executive of Nvidia visited Southeast Asia, but did not stop in Thailand, even though the nation has the second-largest GDP in the region.

The DES and Industry ministries should enhance Thailand's manufacturing capabilities to position the country as a hub for semiconductors, which are crucial for the AI economy, said Mr Supparat.

In addition, the power cost needs to be reduced for AI data centres, he said.

"The AI economy is power-intensive. We need to explore ways to reduce power costs to 7-9 cents US per kilowatt-hour, making Thailand an attractive hub for AI data centres. This could drive investments worth billions into the Eastern Economic Corridor," said Mr Supparat.

The TDCA plans to propose a white paper to the government in the third quarter of this year offering recommendations on how to enhance Thailand's competitiveness in the data centre industry, fostering the growth of the AI economy, he said.

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