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The Eastern Economic Corridor (EECO), a special economic zone of three provinces in eastern Thailand, has partnered with state-owned National Telecommunications (NT) to launch the country’s first 5G pilot. Under the plan, the district of Ban Chang, Rayong, will become Thailand’s first progressive smart city, according to a statement.

The two companies said infrastructure around the Ban Chang Subdistrict Municipality is being improved to prepare the area for various communications systems, including frequency technologies that support the industrial development of 5G.

EECO and NT plan to work with other business operators via an infrastructure-sharing concept, which will reduce investment duplication between the public and private sectors and capitalize on government assets.

Recently, the two entities have teamed up to install a device to check their 5G Smart Pole system, which has been tested to capture over 10 real-time functions. Through 5G network signals, the Smart Poles can transfer and sync data with the government to provide real-time access to information and assistance.

A cloud network software provider was also selected to focus on network transformation and networking for communication service providers. Additionally, NT has collaborated with other major network players.

The serial entrepreneur who launched one of the network companies will serve as the chief executive of the company and will be spearheading this initiative. She also announced that she has stepped down from her role as a venture partner at Gobi Partners, but will continue as an advisor in the VC firm.

According to an earlier OpenGov Asia article, Thailand Ministry of Digital Economy and Society (MDES), Digital Economy Promotion Agency (depa) and a Chinese multinational technology company announced the launch of the Thailand 5G Ecosystem Innovation Center (5G EIC) in Bangkok, the aim is to accelerate 5G innovation through ecosystem collaboration and boost the digital economy.

The centre will serve as a sandbox for the development of digital innovations for 5G applications and services across various industries in Thailand. These innovations will create new business opportunities for SMEs, start-ups and educational institutions, enabling Thailand to become a digital hub of the ASEAN region.

On behalf of the Prime Minister, the Minister of Digital Economy and Society delivered the keynote speech themed “Incubating 5G Ecosystem to Support the Digital Transformation of Thailand 4.0” at the opening ceremony.

He noted that Thailand is taking a crucial step toward moving into a new socio-economic era. It is among the first countries in ASEAN to be on track to adopt 5G technology, which not only offers innovative services and seamless experiences but is also reshaping all industries toward digitalization.

The depa President and CEO stated that the agency aims to drive Thailand towards the digital economy. Thailand 5G EIC will bring together an international alliance network to drive Thailand digital innovations in the long run.

Therefore, the collaboration between depa and global leading companies like the Chinese tech firm in establishing 5G EIC will greatly enrich the ecosystem.

At the ceremony, the Chinese tech giant revealed its THB475 million plan for 5G EIC, which will include its leading 5G equipment and solutions, and worldwide partners to Thailand. The tech company vowed to incubate over 100 local SMEs and start-ups annually to adopt 5G solutions for different vertical industries in three years.

The 5G EIC will be firstly launched in Thailand among ASEAN countries, it marks an important milestone for the 5G development in the country and even in the region, the CEO of the firm’s Thailand branch noted. He added that it is a great honour to be one of the initiators and the main partner of the visionary project.

The firm is fully committed to nurturing the 5G ecosystem and support the Thailand 4.0 initiative with the global leading experiences and resources.

The Ministry of Labour launched the Digital Skill Development Academy (DISDA), a newly established unit that will oversee digital skill development for the workforce; and a new DSD application via an event entitled “Building Thailand Digital Workforce”.

During the event, DISDA, in collaboration with the Thailand arm of a Chinese multinational technology company kicked off the first seminar entitled “Enhance Business and Industry with Digital Technology Skill Development,” to share knowledge with over 100 entrepreneurs on the latest IT technologies and exchange visions on the demand for digital workforce development.

The event was a response to the serious need to develop more and more skilled workers, especially as investors from S-curve industries arrive in the country, in line with the government’s Industry 4.0 policy.

The Ministry of Labour is introducing a series of initiatives to ensure the country’s ability to supply the needs of the labour market in the near future. Its key objective is to bring down the unemployment rate and raise the standard of living through sustainable development.

Thailand will soon launch the Digital Skill Development Academy (DISDA), a learning institution that will provide digital skills training programs and courses for young Thais who would like to enter the digital workplace.

It was noted that the Ministry and the private sector will work together to create a healthy digital labour ecosystem through on-the-job training to drive the country’s Digital Thailand policy.

With the increasing demand from S-curve industries, the Ministry is ready to support the National Strategy, prioritising digital labour development to prepare Thailand for a fully digital society.

At the Academy, young professionals will learn from top industry experts who will share their experience and expertise to prepare them to be part of the digital economy. Practical skills workshops, specialized training courses and leadership seminars will be integrated into the curriculum to encourage young minds to generate new ideas and launch digital projects.

Leveraging the latest digital thinking skills, DISDA courses will also promote teamwork and collaborative work ethics that are essential for real-life work scenarios.

In addition, the launch of the Department of Skill Development’s new DSD app was also announced. It offers all services of the department under one platform.

Key features include training courses, labour skill standards, download of e-certificate or diploma, certifications, Skill Development Promotion Act, a newsroom, contacts, FAQs, and more. The application is now available for download on app stores and will soon be available on the tech company’s Mobile Service’s App Gallery.

Currently, Thailand is undergoing a digital transformation and the need for a workforce that can deliver the competencies for a healthy digital ecosystem.

Prof Dr Narumon Pinyosinwat, a government spokeswoman stated, “we would like to fuel the tech world with a workforce that is creative, innovative and inspired. Partnering with industry movers will ensure that we are producing industry-ready talent through programs aligned with the needs of the industry,” she explained.

“Our strategy is to support digital workforce development, whether it is through centres of learning such as DISDA, or seminars for targeted audience groups. Through skills development, we would like to improve the employability of young people to ensure Thailand’s readiness for the digital economy.”

During the dry season this year, Bangkok residents have faced the saltiest tap water problem in 20 years as a result of global warming and seawater rise. Chulalongkorn engineers predict the problem to persist until May and have proposed solutions with desalination technology.

“Salty tap water” in the dry season has become a big annual problem for people in Bangkok and its suburbs. This year, the water salinity is the most concentrated in 20 years and may pose a risk of kidney disease and high blood pressure from drinking the water that contains salt or sodium chloride exceeding the World Health Organization standards of 250 mg per day.

Prof. Dr. Pisut Painmanakul, an Environmental Engineering expert noted that the first reason for this problem is sea level rise because of climate change, causing saltwater to reach the Chao Phraya River, especially on the eastern side of Bangkok. The second reason is reduced water pressure from the Ping, Wang Yom and Nan tributaries during the dry season with up to 70% of the water being drawn to supply agriculture, livestock, and industries; and the third reason is the high salination of surface water systems that are the sources of our tap water.

To resolve this problem sustainably, all three problems must be addressed at the same time, especially the low water pressure that needs involvement from many parties. Equally urgent is the quality control of drinking water for consumers.

The Center of Excellence in Environmental Engineering, Chulalongkorn is offering a service to measure water salinity using cutting-edge, world-class equipment, as well as consultation on water treatment systems to various departments and the general public.

Moreover, over the past three years, the Center has collaborated with the National Center for Nanotechnology (NANOTEC) to study intelligent nanotechnology to solve the problem of salinity in tap water with new materials and the use of electric current to separate salt particles from the water called “Electrodialysis”.

Dr. Jenyuk Lohwacharin, Director of the Center of Excellence for Environmental Engineering, spoke of the results of this research stating, “In Reverse Osmosis (RO) water filtration, we are researching new materials to be used in addition to RO Membranes, which are capable of desalinating the water and capturing even the smallest fluoride-level particles, called Ultrafiltration Membrane.”

The team is also studying the Electrodialysis process that pushes the salt particles out of the water using less water pressure, but yielding good water quality.

This desalination technology is currently under development and is expected to be available to the public shortly. In the meantime, Dr. Jenyuk advised consumers to drink RO-filtered water for health reasons.

RO systems provide consumers with clean water that is free of not only sodium chloride and other minerals that are not suitable for regular consumption as they can cause mineral deficiency.

In addition to taking care of drinking water for the household, both environmental engineers hope to persuade everyone to help reduce water usage from the Chao Phraya River to normalize the water pressure in the river, including avoiding reserving water during the seawater rise (14.00 – 16.00). More importantly, people should reduce the consumption of salty foods.

The Center of Excellence in Environmental Engineering is located on the 4th floor, Department of Environmental Engineering, Faculty of Engineering, Chulalongkorn University. It is the foremost environmental research body in Thailand and the world, with an extensive international research cooperation network, including the U.S. and Taiwan to name a few.

The Center has also built highly sophisticated research platforms, including adding value to environmental waste.  It also provides analytical services for various substances with modern and advanced technology including bio-organisms, sodium chloride, and microplastic which is a pollutant originating from marine waste.

A Thailand-based advanced space technology company has signed a cooperation agreement with a global leader in aeronautics, space and related services, to cooperate on spacecraft and space technology in Thailand. The memorandum of understanding creates a path for the Thai space tech firm to embark on and have an impact on global satellite business and technology.

The partnership marks the beginning of an evolution of future small satellite missions, which includes Earth-observation, Space Situational Awareness, Low Earth Orbit satellite constellations, science and technology and planetary missions.

The cooperation between the two parties is expected to significantly influence Thai space and the satellite industry, to support future Thai satellite missions and push forward the space tech company as a strong and reliable space company in the region.

The Founder and CEO of the space technology company stated that in the next 2-3 years, technology is expected to mature commercially worldwide, the company needs to establish new revenue streams in the long term. He added that based on this agreement, the two companies will act as partners to support satellite component and space technology development, which will influence the satellite and space industry soon.

The collaboration is an opportunity for Thailand to receive support and cooperation from a global leader in aeronautics and space in terms of sharing and exchanging experience, know-how, and relevant processes of manufacturing, including contributing to drive Thai’s space industry to international standards.

Meanwhile, the Head of Asia Pacific arm of the aeronautics services firm stated that the company remains fully committed to the Thailand 4.0 initiative and is excited at this joint development opportunity to further the country’s space goals.

The company has been supporting Thailand’s space industry since the early 2000s, with the development and launch of Theos-1 in 2008 and production on-going for the Theos-2 Earth observation satellites, he said.

As a world leader in turnkey Earth observation systems with unrivalled expertise across the space value chain, the company well-positioned to offer support in the development of the Thai Space economy, the Head stated.

OpenGov Asia previously reported that Thailand is looking to implement a National Space Act, which will integrate all the country’s space-related activities, enact space laws, and boost the space economy.

In a meeting held on 2 October 2020 by the National Space Policy Committee, chaired by Deputy Prime Minister, the committee appointed the Geo-Informatics and Space Technology Development Agency (GISTDA) to draft a preliminary Space Act. Currently, GISTDA assumes the role of a space agency in Thailand, although other agencies – such as the Ministry of Defence – conduct space activities of their own, like launching satellites.

The National Space Policy Committee comprises representatives from GISTDA, as well as the Ministry of Defence, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Digital Economy and Society, Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, Ministry of Higher Education, Science, Research and Innovation, the Office of the National Economic and Social Development Council, the Office of the Broadcasting Commission Television, and Office of The National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC).

Thailand believes that an official Space Act will propel the country’s space industry, primarily by capitalizing on the opportunities presented by NewSpace. Among the topics, the Space Act will cover are potential launch sites or spaceports (including the construction of them), satellite manufacturing, space applications, space tourism, space mining, and research experiments in space.

Thailand’s PM2.5 dust particles level has been ranked as one of the highest in the world and poses health risks to the urban population. Having a reliable tool developed by Thais themselves to warn the public of PM2.5 dust conditions is crucial, and the “Sensor for All” project by Chula Engineering is an answer to this problem.

Over the past three years, a team of multidisciplinary experts of Chula Engineering has been working on installing sensor nodes, starting on the Chula campus, and expanding to cover the whole country.

Prof. Dr. Pisut Painmanakul, a lecturer of the Department of Environmental Engineering, Deputy Dean for Innovation Strategy for the Faculty of Engineering, and Head of the “Sensor for All” Project, revealed that the PM2.5 problem is mainly caused by human behaviour and their lifestyle and daily routine.

From an environmental scientist’s view, the solution requires four elements: sufficient quantitative and qualitative databases, centralized data analysis and information dissemination by one agency, issuing of participatory policies, and participation of local communities in monitoring the situations.

Prof. Dr. Pisut said that the Sensor for All project, which started almost 10 years ago, stemmed from the air-quality sensor network innovation project — a collaboration among lecturers from Environmental Engineering, Survey Engineering, and Electrical Engineering departments.

“We wanted our innovation to be used widely, and sustainably. Therefore, the Sensor for All project was born. In the first couple of years, the project focused on inviting participation from various agencies to create sustainability for Thai society,” he said.

Initially, the Sensor for All project began with the development of PM2.5 sensors and installing them in the area around the Chula campus. The second year was dedicated to data transfer and display, as well as expanding the coverage to include all areas of Bangkok through collaboration with the National Housing Authority and True Corporation.

Moreover, dissemination of information in the form of a booklet entitled “A Battle to Kill Dust” was published to educate young people. The third year of the project was launched last November with an instalment of PM2.5 sensors at 1,000 locations throughout Thailand by Chula Engineering and project partners.

Currently, the public can get daily air quality data and information on the Sensor for All website and their social media page (Sensor for All).

A smartphone application is under development and expected to be released in mid-February 2021. Interesting features of the app include air quality and PM2.5 indexes and forecasts, accurately provided by locally developed sensors, information sharing to contribute to sustainability, and interactions between users and the application developers.

“The most valuable commodity in this era is not money, but data. What adds value to data is a dedicated team of experts.  Sensor for All will serve as one of the prototypes of innovation towards sustainability, showcasing the capability of Thai people.  The success of this project will be expanded to find solutions in other areas, including plastic waste and natural disasters,” Prof. Dr. Pisut concluded.

According to another press release, the PM 2.5 volume sensor, developed by the Chulalongkorn University Faculty of Engineering, can measure PM 2.5, PM 10 dust, temperature and humidity, as well as calculate the AQI and display the results through both the sensor screen and the website to indicate the level of impact on health.

30 PM 2.5 sensors will be installed throughout Bangkok and its vicinity in the early stages of instalment and they will be ready to receive support from government agencies and private sectors who want to join as a network to measure PM 2.5 small particles.

To find ways to manage the current air pollution, data from all sensors will be processed along with meteorological data. Hot spot information, traffic information, as well as other relevant information, will be included to fully analyse and predict the sources of PM 2.5 dust and to propose a policy for solving the PM 2.5 problem and to create a healthy society in Thailand.

The Digital Economy Promotion Agency (Depa) is scaling up efforts to forge the establishment of Thailand-based game service providers as another driver for this multibillion-baht industry. The agency has sought a budget of THB400 million from the government to support the industry through the fiscal 2022 budget.

The President and Chief Executive of Depa said that Thailand’s game industry was valued at THB29 billion in 2020 with an average growth of 14% per year, based on his agency’s survey. The industry is projected to be valued at THB33 billion this year. Gaming is part of the digital content industry that has grown in line with the world’s technology and new consumer lifestyles, he said. However, the country still lacks online game service providers and games publishers, especially the former that act as key agencies to own, lease or operate businesses linked to games as well as handling game exports to the world market.

Currently, Thai game developers have to share 60-70% of their sales with game service providers and publishers, most of which are international firms, especially from Japan, South Korea, Canada and Singapore, the Depa CE noted, speaking recently at a signing ceremony of a memorandum of understanding for cooperation between Depa and the Thai Game Software Industry Association (TGA) to support and promote digital content, including games.

The cooperation is aimed at creating more value in the industry and increasing new work opportunities as well as supporting digital manpower in the industry, he said. As part of Depa’s support of the game industry, the agency and TGA will formally roll out the Depa Game Accelerator Programme on 2 March 2021 at Thailand E-Sports Arena in Street Ratchada.

The programme is aimed at seeking potential mobile game developers in four-game categories: action, adventure, sports and strategy. Ten teams will be chosen to join the programme. The programme is also meant to boost knowledge and experience among people in the industry as well as creating an opportunity for them to match up with venture capital and explore the global market.

The Depa President noted that one of the pain points in the industry is the unfavourable perception of gamers although this segment could be promoted as a new S-curve industry to boost the economy, especially in the post-COVID-19 period. E-sports and gaming can provide careers, thereby boosting job opportunities, he said.

Meanwhile, the President of the gaming association said the game industry is a promising segment that can generate income for the country as part of the digital economy. He noted that the partnership to promote and support digital content highlights the country’s potential in the digital economy.

According to a gaming research firm, 81% of gamers in Southeast Asia play games on mobile devices. Mobile gamers account for 70% of players in Thailand. It was highlighted that Thailand has the potential to become an e-sport business leader within ASEAN in the future. The market is now led by Indonesia in terms of market size and player numbers, while Thailand, the Philippines and Malaysia are competitors within the region.

Scientists at Prince of Songkla University (PSU) have unveiled a breakthrough in the battle to prevent the spread of Covid-19 and other diseases.

A PSU Faculty of Science research team has developed a device that uses simple technology to produce hypochlorous acid and hypochlorite to disinfect any surface. The device uses only water and salt, making it a convenient and almost free way of producing a constant supply of disinfectant.

PSU has handed the research knowledge to government agencies and schools in nine southern provinces – Surat Thani, Nakhon Si Thammarat, Phatthalung, Trang, Satun, Songkhla, Pattani, Yala and Narathiwat.

The device is designed to replace regular disinfectants, including relatively expensive alcohol-based cleansers.

Dr Warakorn Limbut, a PSU chemical scientist, said the new disinfectant device uses electrodes immersed in a container of salt and water (sodium chloride solution). When an electric current is passed through the solution, the positive electrode produces hypochlorous acid with a pH level of 4.0 to 6.5 – a weak acid that is highly effective in destroying bacteria and viruses. Meanwhile, the negative electrode produces sodium hydroxide with a pH of 8-14 – the main ingredient of bleach.

Warakorn hailed the commitment of the Faculty of Science students, who worked for one year to develop the device. He said knowledge from the project will now be used for commercial applications to help society.

“In future, we will work with businesses to develop more efficient use of hypochlorous acids and hypochlorites in a larger machine.”

The research was part of PSU’s efforts to prevent the spread of disease and protect the health of Thai people, he added.

Pushing R&D and innovation in Thailand

The government aims to accelerate the country’s R&D spending to 2.2% of GDP in seven years to improve economic development and reduce social disparity in the face of future uncertainty.

The Higher Education, Science, Research and Innovation Minister stated that the government is on a roadmap to become an innovation country as it is scaling up efforts to improve competitiveness in science and technology. Thailand’s economy ranks 20th out of 200 countries globally in terms of GDP. R&D expenses in Thailand are expected to reach 2.2% of GDP in seven years from an estimated 1.23% in 2021, or THB196 billion.

Thailand’s science and technology sector is seeing advancement. For example, the country is able to make a small satellite. “Within four years, we will make a 150-kilogramme class satellite before stepping up to produce a 300kg satellite,” said the Minister.

A xenon gas-powered spaceship can be built and sent to the moon, he said. This spaceship can be piloted by robots or artificial intelligence, controlled from a ground station 300,000km away.

The minister said the Office of Atoms for Peace is developing its own nuclear reactor, using 50% domestic technology. Thailand hopes to build a tokamak fusion reactor for clean energy within 20 years.

The country is also researching Covid-19 vaccines in seven projects. Two of them – messenger ribonucleic acid (mRNA) and tobacco vaccines – have passed animal testing stages. The government expects to use the vaccines on humans in the second half of 2021. “Thailand has talent innovators and scientists, but we need to improve our system to speed up innovation,” he concluded.

The Eastern Economic Corridor Office aims to attract THB300 billion in investment applications for the flagship Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC) this year. The Deputy Prime Minister, who chaired a meeting of a subcommittee on EEC policy, stated recently that the government is ready to come up with proactive approaches to achieve this target.

The EEC Office and the Board of Investment (BoI) have been instructed to improve regulations, privileges and facilitate ease of doing business as advised by the private sector, he said.

According to Deputy Prime Minister, the government late last year organised a joint meeting with 23 Thai firms listed on the Dow Jones Sustainability Indices (DJSI) to ask for cooperation to increase their investment, attract or seek joint ventures with prospective foreign companies.

The investment trend is still heading to Asia, he said. The government continues organising meetings online with companies in targeted industries.

The EEC is part of the government’s strategy to move Thailand towards a high-tech economy. The area spans a combined 30,000 rai in the provinces of Chon Buri, Rayong and Chachoengsao to accommodate investment in the targeted industries, focusing largely on advanced technology.

The EEC hosts 12 targeted S-curve industries: cars; smart electronics; affluent, medical and wellness tourism; agriculture and biotechnology; food; robotics for industry; logistics and aviation; biofuels and biochemicals; digital; medical services; defence; and education development.

The government offers a raft of promotional privileges for investment projects in the EEC, including standard tax holidays for 5-10 years depending on investment categories; corporate income tax exemption for an additional two years and a 50% corporate tax reduction for three years for investment projects engaged in human resource development.

Projects located in the EECs of digital, innovation, aviation city and medical centre, and promoted industrial zones are eligible for tax holidays for an additional one year and a 50% corporate tax reduction for two years.

Apart from tax incentives, the government has also offered additional privileges such as exemption of import duties on machinery. The exemptions include import duties on raw materials for production, R&D and a 17% personal income tax deduction for high-ranking executives, experts and researchers who work for companies investing in targeted industries and headquartered in the EEC. This offer also applies to executives’ parents, spouses and children.

Investment applications in the EEC accounted for 43% of all applications filed through the BoI last year.

The EEC Office Secretary-General said investment in the 12 targeted industries in the EEC amounted to 104.20 billion baht, accounting for 50% of total investment applications.

Old or first S-curve industries (electrical appliances and electronics; automotive and parts; petrochemical and chemicals; tourism; and agriculture and food processing) contributed a combined THB92.22 billion.

The new S-curve industries (robotics; aviation and logistics; digital; biofuels and biochemicals; and medical services) accounted for a total of THB11.98 billion.

According to another article, Thailand’s high-tech Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC), established in May 2018, is the cornerstone for the country’s Industry 4.0 vision to become a fully developed nation by 2035.

The total cost of developing the EEC is THB1.7 trillion (about US$60 billion), 80% of which will be funded by the private sector and 20% by the government. About one-third of that will be spent in the next four or five years on completing the high-speed train, the airport and expansion of two seaports at Laem Chabang and Map Ta Phut.

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