Thailand's ICT strategy to provide competitive lead

Technology use amongst small and midsize businesses, e-government services and a bustling software industry are set to spur industry growth in the Kingdom.

The development of e-government services, promotion of ICT (infocomm and technology) utilization among small and midsize businesses (SMBs), and the development of software industry are the three prime movers of Thailand's ICT Master Plan.

By enabling Thai citizens and businesses to use public services more conveniently and rapidly, the country is hoping its e-government strategy will create an environment conducive enough to facilitate economic development in the Kingdom, said the National Electronics and Computer Technology Center (NECTEC).

"It will lead to a number of ICT projects in which the private sector can participate," NECTEC said in its report on the ICT Master Plan. "It enables Thai software and hardware companies to use government agencies as leading markets for their products in order to create future opportunities."

The country's aim to make services provided by government agencies to its citizens available online, should spur continued growth in the government and education sectors throughout the year, said Gartner's Freddie Ng and T. J. Singh in the Market Overview: IT Services Providers, Thailand report they co-authored, published in November 2006.

Investments in electronic workflow, the multi-application smart ID cards and the government portal are also expected to gain momentum in Thailand, they said.

One of Thailand's major projects planned for long-term development, the smart ID card initiative aims to enable citizens to conduct all government services by using only one card, creating a more convenient and faster service, said NECTEC.

Going big on small
The country is also pushing its smaller businesses to embrace ICT.

In fact, Thai SMBs with fewer than 999 employees are on track to spend up to US$3.6 billion on ICT in 2008, an increase of 11.2 per cent over 2007, said Access Markets International Partners (AMI-Partners), in a report released this month.

According to the consultancy, Thai SMBs will spend some US$1.6 billion of the overall ICT spend on telecommunications.

Jason Loh, AMI-Partners senior research analyst, said in a press release: "Small businesses [with up to 99 employees], or SBs, will see the most spending on ICT this year.

"In fact, SBs with fewer than five employees will contribute the highest proportion of about 50 percent to the SB ICT spend in 2008," he said.

The Thai government is also championing the software industry as one of the key components needed to enhance Thailand's industrial strength. To this end, the Software Industry Promotion Agency (SIPA) was set up.

SIPA is responsible for developing software products, innovation and services to a level that reaches international standards, while ensuring quality personnel and organizations in the local software industry.

IBM is one multinational corporation that is taking advantage of opportunities in Thailand's software sector. Software developers at IBM's Thailand office are trained to carry out customization work, according to a company spokesperson. The local center supports IBM's laboratories worldwide by localizing the IT vendor's software into the Thai language.

In 2002, for example, the IBM Home Page Reader was localized for Thailand's visually-impaired people, the spokesperson said. The software tool does text-to-speech translation, enabling these users to access and understand Web pages by listening to the audio playback in Thai.

Another initiative is the IBM International Component Unicode (ICU) project, which is part of the transliteration effort by IBM Thailand to create a library of unicode to support software developers and programmers who want to develop software for Thai users.

In addition, IBM's Thai facility also acts as a support center for other countries in Indochina, providing localization into other regional languages such as Vietnamese, according to the spokesperson.