Thailand urged to adopt digital strategies

Thailand urged to adopt digital strategies

A motorcycle taxi driver checks messages on his smartphone. Despite widespread mobile use, the World Bank says Thailand is among the countries with the highest number of people lacking internet access. PATIPAT JANTHONG
A motorcycle taxi driver checks messages on his smartphone. Despite widespread mobile use, the World Bank says Thailand is among the countries with the highest number of people lacking internet access. PATIPAT JANTHONG

Thailand ranked among the 20 countries where at least 48 million people had no internet access in 2015, the World Bank says.

In a paper entitled "World Development Report 2016: Digital Dividends", the bank said Thailand is still in a transition period in terms of technology adoption.

The report suggested the country must focus not only on promoting internet connection, but also carry out effective digital strategies to encourage citizens and businesses to adopt technology and increase productivity.

"Policymakers need to catch up with the rapid changes in technology to facilitate the move to the digital economy," said Deepak Mishra, an author of the report.

Thailand's offline population was ranked 18th out of 20 countries, while India and China were the top two with 1.06 billion and 755 million offline, respectively.

Globally, 4 billion people are still offline, nearly 2 billion do not use mobile phones and almost half a billion live outside areas with mobile signals.

Mr Mishra said access to the internet is critical but not sufficient for the digital economy, which still requires a strong analogue complement -- in particular regulations that create a vibrant business climate, such as e-government, digital identity and digital payment.

Building a digital foundation for businesses lowers operating costs, increases productivity and lets firms leverage digital technologies to compete and innovate.

Mr Mishra urged policymakers to update existing regulations to cope with new business models.

The study found that digital monopoly and regulatory uncertainty are key factors explaining the lower adoption of digital technologies by businesses.

In the future, two-thirds of jobs could be replaced by automation so it is critical for people to learn digital skills, said Mr Mishra.

Kiatchai Sophastienphong, vice-minister of the Finance Ministry, said Thailand had heavy internet usage with 53 million internet users.

The country's mobile penetration rate stands at 149% of the population.

As of December 2014, there were 84 million mobile subscriptions in Thailand. The country's e-payment market was worth 825 trillion baht.

"Thailand has a good chance to transition from an analogue to a digital economy," said Mr Kiatchai.

According to Thailand-based ICT consulting firm Yozzo, the country has the world's third-largest number of Facebook users at 35 million.

There are 33 million Line users in Thailand, plus 2 million people using Instagram and 4.5 million using Twitter.

Somkiat Tangkitvanich, president of the Thailand Development and Research Institute, suggested regulators should avoid creating legislation that impedes the country's technology development.

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