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Digitally Yours… From Thailand

Thailand aims to become Asean’s digital hub
30 May 2016, Bangkok

At the recently concluded mega event, Digital Thailand 2016 held at the Queen Sirikit National Convention Centre, Bangkok from 26 to 28May, Dr.Uttama Savanayana,  Information & Communication Technology  Minister of Thailand & Mr. Richard Li,  Chairman & Managing Director of the Pacific Century Group, Hong Kong speaks to Mr. Swarup Roy, Founder and Chairman of Asean Affairs media on 27 May 2016.
The Digital Thailand conference and Exhibition 2016 was organised by the Thai government’s ICT Ministry  to create a large-scale awareness and understanding of the digital economy and to provide a forum of digital best practices contributed by local and international experts. It is an attempt by Thailand to leapfrog into the top elite nations in Digital economy. Thailand has a UN ICT Index of 89, a breakout Nation on Digital evolution index, whereas Singapore has 16. Thailand when compared to Malaysia and Singapore needs improvement in Spectrum availability per operator, regulatory environment and market competitiveness.The opening and keynote speech was deliveredby H.E. General Prayuth Chan-ocha , Prime Minister of Thailand.

                      Prime Minister of Thailand H.E General Prayuth Chan-ocha delivering the keynote address.

The potential in Thailand is huge as more Thais become digitally connected. In a population of 65 million, there are some 100 million mobile phone subscribers and smart phone usage is rising exponentially every year.The government is embracing digital transformation, connecting all villages and enabling socio economic change at all levels. The adoption of financial services digitally in Thailand has skipped the traditional method of consumption and leap frogged directly to the digital environment. People who use the internet for the first time are also using financial services digitally.
Some of the biggest companies in the Tech space put up exhibitions at the conference including Samsung, Huawei Technologies, PCCW, Google, IBM, Intel, Cisco and digital training and certification companies like ICDL. The conference and Exhibition was attended by more than 10,000 people over the three day event.
ASEAN’s digital economy has the potential to add an incremental $1trillion in GDP by 2025 and Thailand is getting ready to play a very vital and significant role in the context of AEC (Asean Economic Community).

                                      Dr. UttamaSavanayana,Thailand’s ICT Minister at the DT 2016 press conference.


Our plan is within the scope of the larger ASEAN plan.
And our infra will allow us to connect with other Asean
countries. On the soft side, we are talking about helping
people understand what is to come, and in the context of
Asean we have connectivity throughout Asean….

Dr. Uttama Savanayana, Thai ICT Minister

Excerpts from the Interview of Thai ICT Minister Dr.Uttama Savanayana and Mr. Richard Li Chairman and Managing Director of PCCL the world’s largest submarine cable Operation provider with Mr Swarup Roy Chairman and Founder of AseanAffairs media.
Question from Swarup Roy :
Sir, it is fantastic that an event like Digital Thailand is being organised at the right time. With connectivity at different levels your Government is doing what Governments should be doing, providing the infrastructure.
How would you view the Digital ecosystem of Thailand in the context of the AEC?  Does AEC also have a Digital strategy or is it necessary?
Answer: Dr. Uttama Savanayana
Our PM stressed the importance of our friends and colleagues who had the opportunity to attend this meet. Our plan is within the scope of the larger ASEAN plan. And our infrastructure will allow us to connect with other Asean countries. On the soft side we also have programs to implement the soft side of the digital economy,the people. We are talking about helping people understand what is to come and gain the skills to take advantage of the digital economy and in the context of Asean we have connectivity throughout Asean (part of the Asean Master Plan of Connectivity). Content is equally important in the context of Thailand, Asean and the world.
Question from Roy:
What are the challenges you expect to face in the implementation of the Digital Thailand strategy? What are the adjustments to be made? What are the time period and investments you need to make Thailand into a digital economy?
Answer: Dr. Uttama Savanayana
Since the last year we focussed on developing the content, designed the blueprint for digital Thailand. The first two years we will be focussed on upgradation of the foundation (infrastructure), in the next three to fiveyears we will hand it to the Thai people of every occupation, social and economic background and continue to support and handhold Thai society to become digitally oriented. Ten years from now Thailand can serve as the digital hub in Asean. We have formulated projects starting from now over the next two years which is crucial for laying down the infrastructure.
Question from Roy:
How much investments are required to implement the Digital Thailand plan?
Answer: Dr. Uttama Savanayana
Anywhere between twelve to fifteen billion USD over a period of five years is what we estimate will be the investments required from the government and the private sector and majority we expect from the private sector.
Question from Roy:
In the context of fast changing digital environment how flexible is your digital Thailand plan?
Answer: Dr.Uttama Savanayana
That is a good question. Our plan is very flexible it is a principle in the digital world that you have to be flexible and accelerating all the time, so flexibility is inbuilt.

(From left) Thailand’s ICT Minister, Dr. Uttama Savanayana&  Mr. Richard Li, Chairman PCCW
Hong Kong with Mr. Swarup Roy, Founder and Chairman of Asean Affairs

Question from Roy:
I would like to turn to Mr. Richard Li. Shall I take it that your presence as a VIP guest of the Thai government and speaker at Digital Thailand 2016 means you are planning to partner Thailand in its quest to become a digital economy?

Answer: Mr. Richard Li
First of all it doesn’t just start here. We have already started investing in Thailandthree years ago. We think the government is doing the right thing,and in any economy stability is the No.1

We think the Government is doing
the right thing, and  in any economy
stability is the No.1 key factor and
you can see that Thailand and Bangkok is very stable…

Richard Li
   key factor and you can see that Thailand and Bangkok is very stable. 
   Thegovernment is also doing the right thing by risking on capital by     
    investing in the important infrastructure. The minister was modest or
    he did not overstate that Thailand has embarked on one of the most
    aggressive intra-nation project, connecting twenty thousand villages by
    broad band, their solutions of laying the fibre is also pragmatic in the
    amount of capital and spend. It also leaves room for the private sector
    to connect the node to the hub. In my view it is also pragmatic and asking the government to provide all the way to home is impractical. An example is that Australia has cancelled this socialist venture of connecting all the way to the home and they made the right choice. Thailand in my view is practical. It is the  third country after Hong Kong and Singapore,we launched our financial comparison website Compare Asia. Here it is called Money Guru. We have up to date 7 countries where we have the services and it has referred 6 billion USD of business on the annual rate of loans.
When the minister was talking of content, I want to say that over 20 years ago when I started Star TV and other ubiquitous content, the old technologies are one way.
Where as today on the internet that content is in multiple ways. Money Guru website is providing comparison services. Left side we have banks giving loans and right side we have customer. We are serving a million customers looking at various loans and we are facilitating by putting the two together and we are offering general insurance credit card. Here Money Guru has been concentrating on automobile insurance. Last year we have launched another web site called Frank, it is offering insurance direct to the consumer and 6 months in operation. Back over 3 years ago, we were the leading partner in constructing the submarine cable connecting Asia, Europe, Africa the one submarine project. Since the internet bubble in 2000 it is one of the new cable project connecting China, Hong Kong,Thailand, Myanmar all the way to North Africa, Middle East and Europe .We are major partners in that project and it costs over 800 million USD. And Thailand is the hub of Indo China. So we do see that the government is doing the right thing by connecting the population in order to feed the traffic.
I think if you look at where the government is heading with the human element as well as the infrastructure it will be essential to fill in the pipe line (connectivity) internationally.

Question from Roy:
I think Digital Thailand strategy is pretty comprehensive from Industry 4.0 to education to digital workforce to connected villages, telemedicine and more.Do you see any gaps?

Answer: Dr. Uttama Savanayana
It is pretty comprehensive enough to offer all the different dimensions of Thai Society both economically and socially.

Question from Roy:
Mr. Li, if you are looking at entering other markets which other countries in Asean you would consider investing in?.

Answer: Mr. Richard Li
We are already in Indonesia. For the time being that's it. If you look at HongKong and Singapore the internet usage is

I founded Star TV 20 years                          We are one of the largest global
ago which is an old technology                      submarine cable operators in our
now and serves only one way. The                telecommunication business and in
internet content serves multiple                    those areas we will definitely
ways…..                                                    consider investments in Thailand
Richard Li                                                Richard Li

higher and the level of financial service sophistication is also higher but if you look at Thailand the size is much better compared to Hong Kong and the level of financial services is at a low penetration which is an opportunity and so if you use an overused word leap frog, indeed it is very much true in Thailand. What we find is lot of people  are first time internet users and they buy insurance on line and thereby they have leap frogged without accessing the traditional ways of going through a bank or semi digital purchase. The challenge is of course infrastructure but that is being addressed by the government as we see in Digital Thailand 2016.
Question from Roy:
I find that Thais are very open to adopting new technologies especially in Bangkok and urban areas. Does that help in your strategy for Thailand?
Answer: Mr. Richard Li
Obviously the population is younger than Hong Kong or Singapore but the challenges are on infrastructure. We are the top 3 players in Asia on connectivity and one of the largest global submarine cable operators which is part of our telecommunication business. In those areas if there are any areas we will definitely consider that in Thailand.
Question from Roy:
Could you talk about your project called NOW (network of the world) ?
Answer: Mr. Richard Li
It has been there for a long time. In Hong Kong in the pay tv services we have sixty percent market share but if you look outside HK we are VIU that is our drive on OTT service. We are the number one paid as well as free OTT services in India and subscriber base is eight million paid and sixty million free of which seven million is in India. Outside, we are providing content via internet. We are present in the financial services sector in Thailand called FWD operating for three and half years. Financial services in the Internet is what we will be concentrating on.
Question from Roy:
Many of the challenges will be interrelated as the digital plan is put in place, economic, social, legal, political as well as data security, privacy issues. How do you plan to tackle those issues, Minister ?

(From Left)Mr. Swarup Roy, Dr. Uttama Savanayana and Mr. Richard Li

Answer: Dr. Uttama Savanayana
That is why we have different programs to address all these issues including political and legal which is very important. We are in the process of putting through parliament new bills. For the first time Thailand will have a complete set of digital laws that is meant to be enacted  later this year. It will support the effort to follow with Digital Thailand and also  give comfort to the international community when they want to do business in Thailand involving digital applications, and create the ecosystem according to the international standards  and also for Thais as they become more educated, more informed. We need to have standards and framework which will be effective in supporting different endeavours for people by utilising and leveraging digital technology, that is one thing we are doing right now.
Thailand can be a path finder or path shower to other countries and congrats to you Minister for that and Thank you Richard for having Thailand as your key market in Asean.



Brief CV’s
Dr.Uttama Savanayana : Thailand's Minister of Information and Communication Technology
Dr.Uttama’s experience spans across industry, Academics and Government at the highest levels and in a short span of 16 years before he became the Minister of ICT.
Dr.Uttamma is a Ph.D., in Management (1990), School of Management, and University of Massachusetts-Amherst, U.S.A. before which he completed his M.B.A., Finance & International Business (1984) from Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University, U.S.A and B.Sc., Electrical Engineering (1982) from Brown University, U.S.A.
Till 2015 he was actively involved in Bangkok University as the President and Member of the board of Trustees. In 2015 he served as the Executive Director of the Thailand Future Foundation.
Richard Li Tzar Kaiis a Hong Kong businessman and philanthropist.
Li is chairman of Pacific Century Group PCCW and chairman of PCCW's executive committee. He is also Chairman of Pacific Century Premium Developments Limited (PCPD), chairman of PCPD's executive committee and chairman of Singapore-based Pacific Century Regional Developments Limited.In September 2009, Li bought the asset management operations of AIG, AIG Investments, for around $500 million. Renamed PineBridge Investments, the business currently has some US$67 billion of assets under management.
Most of Li’s achievements were before he was 40 years due to his deep interest in technology and business. He first became interested in the media and technology industries in 1990 when, in his early twenties, he foresaw the opportunity for the creative development of information and home entertainment services in Asia. The result was STAR TV, Asia's first satellite-delivered cable-TV service, which by 1993 had a viewer base of 45 million. Richard Li sold STAR to Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. and went on to form the PCG, including PCCW.
Li is the Governor of the World Economic Forum for Information Technologies and Telecommunications, and a member of the Centre for International Development, the Global Information Infrastructure Commission.
Mr. Li is already present in Thailand and their foray into financial services on the Internet will greatly help in accelerating the goals of Digital Thailand.
Swarup Roy    Founder & Chairman: ASEAN Affairs Media, AseanAffairs Business Council (The C.I.A.: China India Asean) business platform and India Business Bridge (IBB)
He is a passionate advocate of ASEAN’s Business Potential with a vision to bring Indian & international enterprises to ride the $Trillion Trade Tide raising 3.1 billion people of the C.I.A. (China India Asean) region to greater levels of prosperity. In 2004, he founded Time International Management Enterprises, Co. Ltd in Bangkok which conducts business in Media, Intelligent Technologies, Trade and Events. His other companies are : AseanAffairs India Pvt Ltd and Time Technologies.
Roy served as President  & CEO, Business Day newspaper, Thailand’s Only English business daily from 2002 to 2006. In 2006 he launched ASEAN AFFAIRS global media-The voice of Southeast Asia. It has gone on to become the one and only media dedicated to SE Asia. Google ranks the daily online edition, No.1 in news & media of Southeast Asia. The print magazine has reached 35 countries in circulation. ASEAN AFFAIRS Business Council (AABC)- is the business platform for C.I.A. (China India Asean) region and has conducted over 35 international conferences in the last eight years.
For a decade before coming to Thailand, Roy served in the Indian corporate world across India.
In 2013, China Daily, China’s biggest English newspaper featured him as one of the rising leaders of Asia :“Telling Asia’s story” : Swarup Roy
Roy and his team in Time International have developed SXA TTP (Self X Analysis), a Revolutionary Talent Management System. It is an innovation in the field of HCM (Human Capital Management) training and education with a potential to reach every person digitally and online.

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