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Thailand’s Smart City Development: A Vision for the Future with Dr Passakon Prathombutr, SEVP/CTO Digital Technology and Innovation Development Unit, depa

Smart City Projects in Thailand continue to flourish and evolve. In this, the sharing of data across smart city apps and sectors is a financial and technological growth opportunity from which cities can benefit. Sharing between cities and the development of information interchange show that smart cities have reached the next stage of creating value for citizens and local governments.

The Digital Economy Promotion Agency (depa) is the committee and secretary of the Board of Thailand’s Smart City Development, in addition to encouraging and supporting the economic growth of private enterprises in Thailand.

They manage the planning of Smart City development and provide the rules and mechanisms to sustainably support Smart Cities in Thailand -they ensure that the places need to be well-organised, accessible, and secure.

The Board of Thailand Smart City has decided to construct a City Data Platform (CDP), one of the five Smart City development principles. The CDP is a repository for digital data that facilitates data connectivity and sharing between government departments, private organisations, and municipal residents. To generate the most value for the city, it is also important that personal information be safeguarded.

Smart City: A New Urban Planning Paradigm

Dr Passakon Prathombutr, SEVP/CTO Digital Technology and Innovation Development Unit, Digital Economy Promotion Agency (depa)

In an exclusive interview with Mohit Sagar, CEO and Editor-in-Chief of OpenGov Asia, Dr Passakon Prathombutr, SEVP/CTO Digital Technology and Innovation Development Unit, Digital Economy Promotion Agency (depa), Thailand revealed that there are more than 60 cities around the country that have submitted proposals since the government established the smart city steering committee in 2017.

The committee was eager to promote smart city development and has allowed any city in Thailand to apply for incentives under the government smart city programme.

“Thirty (30) cities have met the requirements and are currently undergoing the development process to become smart cities. Our smart city concept suggests using technology to creatively address urban problems. Of course, the betterment of the citizen is one of the values,” Dr Passakon explains.

Smart cities are multi-sectoral endeavours that have a big impact on daily life with wide-ranging challenges to be addressed. While infrastructure and logistics are issues, he feels the largest obstacle is for city leaders to shift their mindset and accept new technologically based solution paradigms.

Infrastructure and technology are required for a smart city, which has created a substantial market for technology. Numerous opportunities were offered to companies and startups to develop novel solutions.

As part of depa’s approach, according to Dr Passakon, they built an ecosystem to help both the supply and demand sides by utilising a variety of financial channels and capacity-building tools such as training, digital transformation vouchers and business matching.

The City Data Platform (CDP) is the most important part of a Smart City and focuses on the needs and problems of citizens for sustainable development.

“The three features provided by the CDP are the data catalogue, data exchange and data governance allowing a solution provider to quickly examine and incorporate CDP data. The data is mostly open data and follows the same metadata standard for each city,” Dr Passakon elaborates.

He acknowledges that the data is the property of the owners of the data. It could be public or private, hence, the data governance in the CDP would help control the quality of the data and the rights to share.

When it comes to concrete instances and lessons learned from his experience that might be helpful to others, Dr Passakon has suggested starting with the needs of the citizens rather than with technology or solutions. “We must identify the problems, and then match them with practical solutions.”

Dr Passakon knows the importance of engaging the next generation of citizens and is acutely aware of the role of depa. When asked how he encourages the younger generation to take part in smart city projects he shares, “We pass on our knowledge to the next generation via the smart city (young) ambassador programme!”

The Smart City Ambassadors (SCA) Programme aims to encourage the development of smart cities from young people’s fresh viewpoints and to promote local employment that attracts young people to their hometowns.

Before serving as “smart city ambassadors” for participating organisations in the public or private sectors for a period of 12 months, participants receive training to advance their digital skills and fundamental knowledge of smart city development, with the help of local staff serving as their mentors.

They will be able to use their knowledge to address urban problems, identify better city solutions and promote the growth of smart cities in each of their respective regions.

The SCA Programme will be expanded into a second cycle of success, the depa and partners have announced. This time, the goal is to develop the 150 young smart city ambassadors chosen from 150 regions around the country by enhancing their knowledge and abilities in areas pertinent to the mission.

The depa anticipates that the second wave of the SCA Programme will result in 50 emerging smart cities and 150 locations with rising smart city development around the country, in addition to other projects that enhance the quality of life.

The development of smart cities in Thailand is expected to be accelerated by the encouragement of the construction of smart city promotion regions.

Although 105 smart cities are the goal of the national plan for 2027, technology and urban problems will evolve with time. “Our nation needs a sustainable and resilient city that can handle the problem on its own!”

In the next three years, Thailand will deploy best practices and city leaders will become more knowledgeable about digital technology. In addition, over the next five to ten years, the nation will address new challenges and acquire new technologies.

“Today’s solutions will become commonplace as we encounter new issues and technological advancements, necessitating the need for a smarter city. It is a lifelong undertaking,” he acknowledges in conclusion.

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