At the urging of the Thailand Tech Startup Association, Thailand’s Committee on Communications, Telecommunications and Digital Economy and Society will seek to persuade three government agencies, namely the National Innovation Agency (NIA), Digital Economy Promotion Agency (DEPA) and the Electronic Transactions Development Agency (ETDA), to implement policies and measures that will enable local startups to realize their full potential and compete with regional unicorns and foreign players, as well as to protect and safeguard the country’s data sovereignty. The call to increase and accelerate the number of local startups comes at a time when the country is focused on fulfilling its aim of achieving Thailand 4.0, yet the nation still lacks a homegrown unicorn to call its own and the dominant forces are comprised of foreign players such as multinational ride-hailing operators and e-commerce providers. This leads to a delicate situation whereby the country’s vital data such as its consumer spending habits and market trends are mostly gathered and owned by foreign multinational companies rather than by government organizations or local bodies.
In order to help the country transition towards Thailand 4.0, the association proposed following the Indonesian model, which has two standout pillars that can prove beneficial to Thailand’s progress: the assurance of fair tax collection for startups and data sovereignty. Panachit Kittipanya-ngam, president of the Thailand Tech Startup Association, noted that if the country’s government is unable to collect value-added tax from the services of multinational global companies and businesses, it should at least reduce the taxes on local startups and companies in order to ensure a more level playing field. This step will help to reduce the burden on homegrown startups and promote their growth. In regards to data sovereignty, the government should implement the concept and subject the country’s data to its laws and system of governance.
Panachit emphasized that the nation’s policymakers and governmental agencies should adopt measures and initiatives that give priority to the growth of local startups instead of relying too much on the investment of foreign multinational corporations and companies. As a case in point, most of the country’s important market data such as those on consumer trends and spending habits are in the hands of foreign players and businesses, instead of with local companies and governmental agencies. In order to ensure that Thailand’s data is protected and secured, Panachit suggests that laws and policies should be enacted to safeguard the country’s data, and that vital data should only be made accessible to local startups and companies.
Thailand’s government can contribute much to the growth of the nation’s startups in many other ways as well. As an example, it can implement tech policies such as an application programming interface (API) platform for local startups to help get them up to speed and reduce operating costs. It can also support the growth of local companies and startups by buying and promoting their services and products through initiatives and programs that are designed to encourage governmental agencies and bodies to act as their customers. The association also encourages the government to directly invest in promising startups and companies through establishing matching funds with the private sector.
As Thailand enters an industrial era marked by profound shifts and changes caused by the disruption of new and emerging technology, its local startups must rise up to meet the task at hand. With the support of the country’s policymakers and the introduction of laws and initiatives aimed at promoting homegrown companies and protecting data sovereignty, Thailand’s startups have a promising future ahead as the nation readies itself for Thailand 4.0.