By Wang Zhe
Proposed by the government of Thailand, “Thailand 4.0” is a new economic model that aims to lift the country out of the “middle income trap” and join the ranks of innovation-driven, high-income countries. As this strategy is implemented, Chinese high-tech firms will undoubtedly play an important role.
Building an Open Laboratory
In the past, Thailand’s economic development model emphasized agriculture (Thailand 1.0), light industry (Thailand 2.0) and advanced manufacturing industry (Thailand 3.0). Last year, the Thai government put forward the high value-added economic development model of Thailand 4.0, a model designed to promote the innovative application of new technologies and transform the digital economy. The Thailand 4.0 plan follows on the heels of the 2016 Thailand Digital Economy and Society Development Plan (Digital Thailand Plan), a 20-year plan with the goal of transforming Thailand into a developed country and leader in digital technology and innovation over a period of 10-20 years.
China’s Huawei Technologies Company first began business operations in the Thai market 20 years ago. In 2016, Huawei set up its regional headquarters in Bangkok, its first center for scientific innovation in Southeast Asia. As part of Huawei’s global innovation laboratory system, Huawei’s Bangkok office is closely associated with other regional headquarters around the world. There were several reasons why Huawei chose Bangkok as the location for its regional headquarters: Thailand’s large population, the large consumer market for electronic products, it’s proximity to other emerging markets, and the Thai government’s interest in developing the digital economy. All these factors made Thailand an ideal location for a high-tech business incubator.
In 2017, Huawei invested US$15 million in its Bangkok regional headquarters, its seventh open laboratory in the world. In the future, this 2,000-square-meter incubator will have the capacity to provide start-ups and entrepreneurs from Thailand and other countries in the region with a platform to incubate start-ups in a range of fields, including communications, personnel training, public security, finance and transportation. The laboratory could also drive development of the Internet of Things, big data and cloud computing. Qiang Hua, general manager of Huawei Technologies (Thailand), suggested that the implementation of Thailand 4.0 and the development of the information and communication technology (ICT) industry should be a joint endeavor between governments, carriers and equipment manufacturers. In response, Huawei has built their open laboratory as a platform for joint R&D and testing, which in turn may help to reduce the time to market for a variety of products.
White Paper on Digitalization of Thailand Industry
In June 2017, Thailand’s Ministry of Science and Technology and Ministry of Digital Economy and Society developed in collaboration with Huawei Technologies and Roland Berger a white paper entitled “Insights on Digitalization of Thailand Industry: Digital Roadmap for Aging Society, Agriculture and Tourism” which urges the further development of Thailand’s digital economy to realize the strategic goals set out by Thailand 4.0.
Three sectors are among the Thai government’s top priorities for future growth: agriculture, tourism and caring for it’s aging society. The Digital Roadmap includes suggestions on how Thailand can best leverage digital technologies to promote development in these priority areas, including expanding broadband and cloud computing infrastructure, enhancing innovation and improving human resource training. At the invitation of the Thai government, Huawei has since 2016 been providing consulting service on the digital transformation of Thailand’s agriculture and tourism sectors as well as industries focused on caring for the country’s aging society. More than 120 interviews, meetings and seminars were conducted with experts and stakeholders from the public sector, academia and businesses, with their inputs and suggestions incorporated into the final document.
Thai Minister of Digital Economy and Society Pichet Durongkaveroj said that the white paper has drawn a roadmap for the digital transformation of these three sectors and that the Thai government will formulate a development plan for the digital economy and society. It will also collaborate with Huawei and other firms in developing human resources to support the vision of a “Digital Thailand”.
Tailored Digital Solutions
As a world-leading ICT solutions provider, China’s ZTE Corporation has operated in the Thai market for over 15 years. In collaboration with Thailand’s major communications carriers, it has provided its Thai customers with reliable high-quality communications services and won the trust of its partners. With a clear technological edge and the experience it has accumulated through its operations in the Belt and Road countries, ZTE is keen to provide the Thai government with further ideas concerning Thailand 4.0.
In 2017, ZTE participated in Thailand’s communications infrastructure project focused on expanding remote rural area network coverage and led by its state-owned telecommunications company TOT. ZTE provided advanced FTTX optical network access solutions that helped connect people in remote areas to high-speed and reliable networks. In the electric power industry, ZTE provided the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand with ultra-high-capacity optical power transmission equipment, thus laying a solid foundation for the construction of a smart grid.
On Sept. 22, 2017, ZTE signed a memorandum of cooperation with Thailand’s Digital Economy Commission, covering cooperation in the fields of the digital economy, smart cities and digital industrial parks. On Nov. 3, 2017, the ZTE 5G Summit 2017 took place in Bangkok, where ZTE’s latest products were showcased to Thai communication service providers and where the company officially launched the commercial marketing of its 5G technology in Thailand.
In the future, Chinese high-tech firms will continue to cooperate with their local Thai partners and contribute to the development of Thailand’s innovative digital economy, as well as the successful merging of Thailand 4.0 with the Belt and Road Initiative.