Thailand remains in transition on the digital front
In what might come as a surprise for those who live and work in places like Pattaya and Bangkok, the World Bank said Thailand is still in a transition period when it comes to the adoption of technology, with at least 48 million people having no internet access, as of 2015.
In a paper entitled ‘World Development Report 2016: Digital Dividends’ the World Bank said Thailand ranked 18th out of the 20 countries studied in its survey. It suggested the nation should focus not just on promoting connection to the internet, but should also recognise just how rapidly technology has moved towards a digital economy and encourage businesses and individuals to embrace technology and increase productivity.
The World Bank noted that globally some four billion people are still offline and nearly two billion do not use mobile phones (almost none of them live in Thailand).
The Finance Ministry claims Thailand has heavy internet usage, with 53 million people having access to and using the internet. The mobile penetration rates stands at 149 percent of the population. As at December 2014, there were 84 million mobile subscriptions in the country, while the e-payment market was worth 825 million baht.
The report said access to the internet is critical, but is not sufficient for the overall digital economy, which still requires a strong analogue complement with regulations that create a robust business environment. This includes the ability for businesses to interact with the government electronically as well as be able to make digital payments.
The World Bank report notes that building a digital foundation for businesses lowers operating costs and increases productivity. While Thailand is moving in this direction, the pace has been slow.
The report suggests that in the future up to 66 percent of current jobs could be done via automation and so it was vital that people learnt digital skills.
The study found that digital monopoly and regulatory uncertainty were the two main factors which reduced lower adoption of digital technologies by businesses. Therefore, it was important that the government should avoid enacting legislation which could impede Thailand’s technology development.
Yozzo, a locally-based consulting firm, noted that Thailand has 35 million Facebook users, which is the third-highest in the world. The country also has 33 million Line users, around 4.5 million using Twitter and two million on Instagram.
The Finance Ministry is certainly keen to see the country transition from an analogue to a digital economy. The question is ‘will the transition be fast enough to keep up with its Southeast Asian neighbours and other economies?’