Thai opportunities for Australia

James Riley
Editorial Director

In recent years Thailand has found that its edge as one of Southeast Asia’s technology hubs, has been slipping away.

It remains the region’s biggest maker of hard drives, a business that boomed during the 1980s and 1990s as the country’s eastern seaboard became one of the regions key manufacturing hubs.

In 2014, the electrical and electronics industry accounted for 24 per cent of Thailand’s annual export revenues, according to a Thailand’s Board of Industries.

Bangkok Thailand: Thai policymakers are concerned the country has missed the boat on tech ecosystem

The main export destinations were the USA (17.3 per cent), ASEAN (16.7 per cent), Hong Kong (12.5 per cent), Japan (10 per cent), and China (8.8 per cent).

According to the Federation of Thai Industries, electrical and electronics exports are expected to increase by nearly 10 per cent in 2015.

But despite this, Thai policymakers are concerned that the country has missed the boat on mobiles, digital and the attendant technology ecosystem that industry is fostering around the region – mainly to Vietnam.

Indeed, the nation has been something of laggard in moving towards 4G technology.

While some operators have offered 4G style services on slivers of spectrum they bought for 2G and 3G, the government only recently held the first auction of standalone 4G spectrum.

Still, this belated move is all part of a series of moves the Thai government is locking into place as part of an overarching plan to supercharge its technology sector and become a regional digital hub.

And there will be opportunities a plenty for Australian businesses, particularly as Thailand is one of the handful of Southeast Asian nations with which Australia has a Free Trade Agreement.

Thailand’s Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Ministry is preparing a package of tax incentives for companies investing in tech start-ups, in an attempt to stimulate long-term investment, the Bangkok Post reported on November 27th.

The ministry plans to spend 100 million baht to promote Thailand’s tech start-up industry, said ICT vice-minister Pansak Siriruchatapong.

The 100-million-baht budget will come from the nation’s 3.7 billion baht 2015 one-child, one tablet program.

“We will seek approval from the cabinet for the spending next week,” Mr Pansak said.

The move is part of the government’s policy to promote the country to become a digital hub in ASEAN”.

“Thailand’s tech start-up industry is at the beginning of an S curve,” said Mr Pansak.

Thailand’s close economic relationship with Japan – which holds 60 per cent of all foreign direct investment in the country – has long underpinned innovation and technology development in Thailand, particularly around the auto sector where a number of Australian companies are relocating.

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