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Depa project will teach AI and drone use at select universities

The Digital Economy Promotion Agency (Depa) plans to roll out artificial intelligence (AI) university project and drone academy this year, as part of the agency’s plan to drive digital skills and support the digital economy.

The AI university project is meant to provide AI knowledge to learning programmes and workshops at designated universities, while the drone academy is set to help Thais learn how to use drones for their businesses, particularly in the agricultural sector.

The Depa president and chief executive stated that the projects are part of the agency’s strategic cooperation plans aiming at digital economy development, which covers digital transformation, manpower skill enhancement and startup incubation.

About THB200 million will be used to develop the AI university project, with half the amount budgeted by Depa and the remainder by private entities through a matching fund. For the drone academy, Depa plans to set aside THB50 million to develop the project and a matching fund will earmark another 50 million.

Universities are being considered for the AI project, with Mahidol, Chulalongkorn and Thammasat the main contenders, he said.

He noted that drones are a new technology for Thais in terms of business use, especially big drones, which are very useful in several sectors, including agriculture and logistics. When the drone business approaches maturity, international tech companies will come and invest in this segment in Thailand. Depa will also support AI courses at four vocational schools in 2021, targeting 150 students at each school.

The agency also aims to incubate 70 start-ups throughout 2021 under a start-up fund. This is an increase from 50 start-ups this year. These start-ups’ operations must be linked with the country’s core technology development and infrastructures in five digital service areas: agriculture, education, finance, tourism and healthcare.

The aim is meant to support digital start-ups while the economy is sluggish and accelerate the digital service transformation to improve people’s quality of life. Through the start-up fund, Depa plans to spend THB1 million on each start-up in the initial development stage.

Another THB5 million will be allocated to each start-up when they begin to grow their business. Some 120 start-ups have been financially supported by Depa the past two years. Their combined business valuation is THB7 billion.

In addition, the agency is supporting small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), communities and farmers in terms of digital adoption, he said. Some 350 SMEs, 100 communities and 3,000 farmers are under the Depa’s assistance programme. They can use digital solutions and services provided by tech start-ups at half the cost because of Depa’s subsidy, he said.

In the first quarter of 2021, Depa plans on unveiling a labelling scheme called “d Sure” to guarantee the functionality, safety and security of digital products sold in the country. The scheme should help people to choose trustworthy digital items; it is expected to be a boon for innovation adoption.

Depa will work with the National Science Technology Development Agency and the Thai Industrial Standards Institute on this scheme, he said. The programme should make consumers more confident in their decisions to buy digital devices, ranging from drones and Internet of Things gadgets to CCTV cameras and wearable devices.

Digital product producers or importers can ask to test their equipment to receive the label. Three security camera brands and five drones’ brands have qualified for the standard. Depa plans to roll out a new mobile app called “d Hunt” to search for digital services or tech professionals that can assist people.

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