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Thailand earmarks THB 3 billion for digital projects

The government approved setting aside THB 3 billion (approximately US$ 40 million) this year to finance digital development. The Permanent Secretary of the Digital Economy and Society (DES) Ministry, said the Digital Economy and Society Development Fund Management Committee chaired by the Deputy Prime Minister approved a framework to use THB3 billion in the fiscal 2021 budget to support six projects relating to digital development.

Those projects include plans to apply digital technology to promote education among youth, the elderly and the workforce, as well as building up an IT network in hospitals nationwide to provide better medical services.

Under the digital development plans, the government also aims to use digital technology to promote the agriculture sector and increase the value of products, generating more income for farmers. Digital technology is also applied under the plan to upgrade government services. It was noted that the committee set guidelines for a spending plan of THB 500 million (roughly US$ 16 million) allocated last week to drive 5G technology.

The National Digital Economy and Society Committee’s meeting chaired by the prime minister recently approved THB 500 million from the Digital Economy Fund to develop nine pilot projects using 5G technology.

They comprise seven projects worth THB 350 million (around US$ 11.2 million), mainly concerning smart farming, smart water management and smart city development in selected provinces, and two schemes worth THB 150 million (roughly US$ 4.8 million) to promote the private sector applying 5G technology.

The Digital Economy Fund was established in 2017 as required by the Act on Digital Development for Economy and Society enacted in January 2017. The fund aims to upgrade telecom infrastructure using seed money from the government and state agencies.

Increased use of digital payments in Thailand

According to another article, electronic money (e-money) has grown in terms of spending and top-up value, driven by consumers’ financial behaviour in the digital age and social distancing amid the pandemic.

According to the Bank of Thailand, e-money spending value has continued to increase for the past five years. In 2020, the value was THB 310 billion (~US$ 99 million), rising from 276 billion (~US$88 million) in 2019, 203 billion (~US$ 65 million) in 2018, 126 billion (~US$ 40 million) in 2017 and 90.9 billion (~US$ 28.8million) in 2016. Every month, the spending value of e-money has risen in the past six months. In August 2020, the total value was THB 25.8 billion (~US$ 826,000).

The Chairman of a unit under the Thai Bankers’ Association stated e-payment via all tools, especially digital payment, surged during the pandemic. Thai consumers became familiar with digital payment during the pandemic and many of them will not return to traditional payment, he said.

During this transition, omnichannel, which covers both offline and online, is a solution for Thais. Thailand is becoming a less-cash society and the country could show signs of being a cashless society either this year or next year.

The world’s leader in digital payments, last month, unveiled its survey about consumer payment attitude. The survey found four out of five Thais (80%) have tried going cashless, on average succeeding at living for more than a week (eight days) without using cash.

The pandemic also prompted non-users to choose contactless payments over cash. Mobile contactless was most used among first-timers at 26%, followed by contactless cards (23%) and QR code (21%).

According to the study, the top three benefits of a cashless society are restricting the spread of infection (61%), no more queues at banks (60%) and facilitating tracking of financial records (59%). The study also showed the pandemic accelerated the pace at which Thailand is becoming a cashless society, with payment innovation playing an increasingly important role in people’s daily lives. The report estimated Thailand could become a cashless society by 2026, several years ahead of a previous projection of 2030.

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