“Thailand 4.0” is the new catchphrase for the Thai government in its aim to groom the country’s start-up scene to an extent that Thailand would become a “hub” for start-ups from entire Southeast Asia, challenging mainly Indonesia, Vietnam and Singapore where start-ups are thriving.
“Our emphasis on Thailand’s startup industry will drive towards Thailand 4.0 as an innovation-based economy,” said Science and Technology Minister Pichet Durongkaveroj, adding that the government plans to have major activities to promote this issue nationwide.
The Information and Communication Technology Ministry has joined hands with the Science and Technology Ministry to spend 20 million baht ($550,000) to organise the well-received “Startup Thailand & Digital Thailand” event series under the “Regional Rise” theme in Chiang Mai from August 5 to 7 and under the “Mekong Connect with Neighbouring Countries of Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam” theme in the northeastern city of Khon Kaen from August 26 to 28.
Another event will be organised in Phuket under the “On the Beach to Reflect Phuket as an International Startup Community” theme, the minister said.
The events will showcase startup innovations and connect local communities with professionals and business people in the sectors of tourism, medical, agriculture, farming and manufacturing, he added.
Furthermore, according to Information and Communication Technology Minister Uttama Savanayana, the new Digital Economy and Society Development Act is likely to take effect within 90 days and establish a fund worth 10-billion-baht ($275 million) to support local startups. He added that the ministry will build at least five digital startup incubation centers throughout the country in collaboration with four commercial banks to support financial technology startup and entrepreneurs in other sectors.
Overall, the promotion of start-ups is seen as vital to push Thailand’s economy forward and push future growth with a more technology- and innovation-focused economic environment.
Korn Chatikavanij, Thailand’s former finance minister, at a recent panel discussion in Bangkok argued that innovation was badly needed for the country, pointing out that Thailand has “millions of people” with bank accounts that rarely use other formal banking services due to lack of access and costs involved.
“Fintech start-ups can improve the quality of access and reduce the cost of financial services,” Chatikavanij said.
Apart from, innovative start-ups could also help improve other business sectors. For example, agriculture-tech could enable farmers to use better technologies to organise and share resources in order to make their work more productive and efficient.
“About 40 per cent of the population is in agriculture. Those 40 per cent actually make about 8 per cent of the country’s GDP. That is clearly unproductive,” Chatikavanij said.
“Start-ups can come to help them improve productivity through the use of technology,” he noted.