On 10 March 2023, the Tech for Good Institute conducted a roundtable discussion with leaders in the Thailand tech ecosystem to discuss how technology and the digital economy may support Thailand’s growth and development.
Seventeen (17) participants from the public, private and civil spheres shared their perspectives on what “tech for good” meant to them and their respective organisations and provided action-oriented recommendations to advance it for the country.
The Roundtable surfaced key themes of inclusion through connectivity, digital literacy and capacity building. As participation grows and deepens, building trust in the digital economy and ecosystem are imperative if growth is to be sustained. This can be achieved through evidence-driven, consultative policymaking that takes a holistic and responsive approach to driving innovation and inclusive growth.
Nurturing MSMEs to play a larger role in the digital economy
- Digital equity is not merely providing physical infrastructure for a fast and reliable internet access, but also making the effort to ensure that there is a level playing field for all businesses involved. For example, MSMEs need support to be competitive in the digital economy. In this regard, the government can provide incentive schemes and grants for MSMEs. DECs also have a role to play to support smaller players in the ecosystem. Established DECs can offer their platforms and services to allow MSMEs to participate in the digital economy. A good outcome for Thailand is a vibrant ecosystem with opportunities for MSMEs to develop, scale, and grow.
- Thailand should consider establishing a National Start-up Strategy. Currently, there is a focus on inter-capital collaborations with cities like Manila and Ho Chi Minh. Part of the strategy should be on inter-city collaborative agreements. To enable impact in local communities, connecting urban and rural MSMEs with each other can open another channel for MSMEs to grow.
A responsive regulatory framework with clear guidelines
- The digital space is facilitating changes and allowing flexibilities in workforce structure. In the case of platform applications, for example, employer-employee relations have significantly undergone changes. Thai DECs now adopt nomenclature unseen in recent history (e.g., “platform-partner” as opposed to “employer-employee”). This has caused grey areas in implementing existing laws as new terms are still not included in current regulations. There is a need to clarify, and where relevant, update labour laws to provide predictability and certainty as DECs continue to operate in the country.
- Understanding the policymaking process is just as important as understanding the reason behind the development of these policies. Governments and DECs should create spaces where consultations and knowledge-sharing sessions can take place. This would help in creating responsible policies for the digital economy. In addition, fit-for-purpose policies are needed to promote innovation and growth. There is no one-size-fits-all solution given the rapid changes in the digital technologies. In addition, there should be a recognition that this will be an iterative process for both the public and the private sector. New muscles must be developed to encourage policy innovation.
- Across government agencies, there is also a need to harmonise working relationships. The people’s welfare and safety should be at the core of policymaking. While non-conventional shifts in doing business may be challenging to address, policy coordination would strengthen the quality of regulations that will be introduced.
Addressing specific needs of the digital society
- A digitally-proficient society is one that is creative and adaptive to disruptive changes in the economy. The rise of digital solutions should be taken as an opportunity to also improve the capacity of the youth to use technology to their advantage. Initiatives such as digital literacy programmes can focus on the use of emerging technologies such as AI and cloud services. This is particularly important for the Thai youth who will enter the labour force. Academic institutions are a key partner of the government to ensure that the labour market is equipped with the necessary skills to sustain the growth of the digital economy.
- Automation in manufacturing poses new challenges for society. Technology should be used in a way that also protects the people’s welfare, without sacrificing productivity. With technology phasing out old jobs, the government should focus on research and development of how Thais can take advantage of new jobs that are enabled by digital tools.
- There should be anticipatory measures in place for Thailand’s aging population. Technology can be used to ensure that as the Thais age, they remain active contributors of the economy. Digital platforms, for example, can be used to offer economic activities for the elderly. This, however, should be coupled with appropriate digital literacy training to prepare the aging population to the risks associated with technologies.
To read the national-level priorities of Thailand, please click on the link here.
This study is made possible with the support of the AsiaTechX (ATX) Programme Office, Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) Singapore. A consolidated report of the six roundtables will be launched at ATXSG 2023.