Thailand Information Technology Environment 2000


Thaweesak Koanantakool


National Electronics and Computer Technology Center,

National Science and Technology Development Agency,

Ministry of Science, Technology and Environment, Thailand.

23rd May, 2000


Distinguished guests, Ladies and Gentlemen

I am honored to be invited by Miller Freeman to come to Singapore today to talk about the IT environment in Thailand. I would make use of this opportunity to share with you information which may assist you to come to do business in Thailand, the land of opportunities, smiles, great foods and freedom.

If the year 1999 was the rainy Thailand, the year 2000 is probably our first sunshine. We overcame the millennium bug with great success. Having gone through both the economic crisis and Y2K problems in 1999, Thailand has changed significantly through its course for recovery.

The country is targetting for a balanced and sustainable recovery. Given the well established web of industries and world-class infrastructures, structural adjustment in Thai industrial, agricultural, and financial sectors are set as priority one.

We also hear and see actions to promote small and medium-sized enterprises (SME's) in terms of special financial packages, innovation funds, and government supported R&D projects.


Thai IT Market - Overview

The Association of Thai Computer Industry (ATCI), in conjunction with the Association of Thai Software Industry (ATSI) and The Computer Association of Thailand (CAT-VG) reported the IT market figures as summarized below.

Thailand IT Market Growth Profile (in million baht)










1. Systems









2. PC and workstations









3. Packaged Software









4. Services


















Source: ATCI/ATSI/CAT-VG 1999

The whole IT market in Thailand had a significant growth of 35% in 1999, mainly due to the Y2K conversion. In 2000, however, it was estimated that there will be some further 15% growth over 1999. The total IT market rebound to the value of 1997 in Baht terms. In US currency, the figures are approximately US$ 1,672 million (1997) and US$ 1,050 million (2000).

PC Peripherals Market in 1997-2000 (in units and values in million baht)


















1. PC









2. Monitor









3. Printers









4. Data Storage









4. Services


















Source: ATCI/ATSI/CAT-VG 1999


The PC and peripherals market is the major share of IT market in Thailand. The growth of 17.7% is anticipated for the year 2000 (19,212 million baht in 2000 against 16,323 million baht in 1999). The high growth of Internet due to lowered access fees and more competition may drive the PC market in 2000 closing higher than what is forecast by ATCI.

Looking ahead into the future of the Thai IT market, Manoo Ordeedolchest, the honorary president of ATCI, points out the market trend which he and his colleagues in the industry predict as follows:

  1. The IT business in Thailand will grow mainly in the PCs and small NT server sectors. It could be as high as 30% over last year. However, the larger machines will be up only slightly.
  2. Software business starts to pick up in two main areas. First is the heavy weight ERP software such as SAP and Oracle Applications, Second is middleware software such as databases, security such as firewall, and Internet related software.
  3. Network equipment is up probably by more than 60-70%.
  4. Overall outlook is probably better than previously expected. The ATCI’s previous report indicated that it could be up by around 15% for the whole IT Industry. However, ATCI is increasingly positive of the industry future and predict that the figure should be around 25%.


ICT and New Economy

As the whole world will be dominated by global businesses and industries, Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) play a tremendous role in the issues for long-term recovery and sustainability. We see a lot of activities which are driving Thailand into the "New Economy", an economic system which is driven by knowledge, good management, computer networks and electronic commerce. In this regard, many things will happen before the end of year 2000, as summarized below:

  1. The end of the telecommunications monopoly by Communications Authority of Thailand (CAT) and the Telephone Organization of Thailand (TOT) in March 2000.
  2. An increase in telephone availability from around 13 lines per 100 population to about 18, due to the proliferation of mobile phones.
  3. The internet business will perform without previous restricted growth following an end of 30% of CAT golden shares in every ISP, expected to materialize around mid-2000.
  4. The electronic transaction will be supported by legal infrastructure following the enforcement of the new Acts in the near future.
  5. Wider access to the Internet as the local call access will be available nationwide.
  6. Increase in the number of schools connected to the free internet from currently 1,500 schools to the target of 5,000 schools.
  7. Better focus on the optimization of the use of computer in schools, not just computer availability.
  8. A Possibility of free Internet.
  9. Less of "digital divide" between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have nots’ as a results of action programs and drafts of universal access law.
  10. The price of PC will dropped further due to local manufacturing and low price PC project by NECTEC.
  11. Mobile phones is expected to be cheaper as a result of increase competition from PCT and new mobile operator.
  12. A stronger Thai software industry through the support of Software Park Project as well as new opportunities opened by E-commerce, and the application service provider market.
  13. Majority of election frauds have been stopped by the new power of and legal actions taken by the Election Committee.
  14. Corporate Good Governance will become a major issue for all organizations.

Following His Majesty the King's speech on "The Sufficiency Economy", the National Science and Technology Development Agency (NSTDA) ran its annual conference in this year based on this philosophy. Putting more efforts in research and development (R&D) is in alignment with the philosophy and will likely boost the country's industrial strength in terms of more self-reliance. This, in turn, will yield better economic return in the long term with lower risks.


Upcoming Government Initiatives/Projects

The government recently approved a budget of seven billion baht in the next five years for the Science and Technology Action Plan for strategic R&D projects. Among them is the project for research and development of modern telecommunication equipment in Thailand.

R&D in information technology (IT) is proving itself to be a worthwhile undertaking. In year 2000, NECTEC completed its first major research program for industrial production: the PHS/PCT cordless phone handset. These small mobile units are the first batch of outcome in NECTEC's research in Wireless Local Loop (WLL). Lining up are the fixed terminal for homes and the development of cell stations.

In addition, many other aspects in developing electronic commerce, including legislation of IT laws, enhancing IT development in government agencies through their CIO (chief information officers) will be given a strong boost in this year and after.

The Government CIO program, in tandem with the Government Information Technology Services (GITS) project, is a promising effort to create a unified Government Information Network (GINet). GINet's final goal is e-government. GINet aims at linking all government agencies everywhere in the country together on an information superhighway, with agreed information exchange standards and secured messaging system. GINet runs the public-key infrastructure (PKI) for all government agencies.

NECTEC, the nation's main driving force in IT development, went through a complete transformation. Its mission is to become a leading agency that will tackle many national agendas regarding IT. It recently announced the new "Strategic Master Plan on Electronic, Computer, Telecommunication and Information (ECTI) Technologies" for the years 2000-2009. The plan, also called ECTI-21, has been publicly announced on April 24, 2000, exactly one year after its conception and consultation with the public stake- holders in these industries.

I would like to discuss more in detail of the main initiatives/projects being undertaken by NECTEC. There are, of course, additional initiatives being carried out by other government agencies to support the use of IT such as the Ministry of Public Health’s project to develop Hospital Management System.


(1) Government Information Network (GINet)

Good governance and serving its people would be the motto for modern Thai government services. Our ultimate goal is e-service to Thai citizen, and our immediate problem to be solved is to make sure that all government agencies are armed with good equipment, communication network and capable staff.

Year 2000 is the real beginning of the Government Information Network Service. As from April, the network is now available in in 20 provinces. A few government agencies with provincial branches have already contracted the service organization, Government Information Technology Service (GITS) Office, to handle their data traffic between Bangkok and their branches. After this test period of about six months, GITS will be a real production service.

The main network service is typically a type of one large-bandwidth link between the customer's headquarters (i.e. government agencies in Bangkok) and their multiple branches in Bangkok as well as in other provinces. Branch offices are connected to GITS points of presence (POP) by dial-up circuits. A virtual private network (VPN) value-added-service is provided for all users.

The initial bandwidth of the backbone of the network is 128kbps to every provincial POP, with immediate upgrade to E1 (2Mbps) wherever needed. The ultimate backbone speed of the project was planned to be STM-1 (155 Mbps) or STM-4 (622 Mbps).

In addition to the network connection service, GITS has initiated many other services for its customers such as daily news clipping, government directory service, and secure electronic mail (using digital ID), certification authority (CA) and cooperate with a partner. Through secure email, GITS demonstrates the importance of digital signature and PKI. A pilot CA has been set up to support the use of digital signature and made available to all GITS staff members and staff in the customer's organization.


(2) Software Park

A major restructuring in the software industry in Thailand took place for the most of 1999 through the most successful project by Thai government, Software Park Thailand Initiated by NECTEC/NITC and supported by the Board of investment, the Software Park is the first and unique infrastructure Thailand ever build for this new industry.

Starting with a simple concept of common facility in the Software Park building, local software developers in Thailand can enjoy professional support for international marketing, a one-stop meeting point for potential customers both locally and from abroad, and high-speed networking. In addition, world leading companies like Intel, Informix, IBM etc. have invested in R&D infrastructure for local software companies to use at low or no cost. With the unified stream of supply for local talents, many multinational companies are now moving to Thailand to set up their development centers in Software Park.

In order to response to the need for high and consistent standard in software development, Software Park is also sponsoring a series of courses on Capacity Maturity Model (CMM) with a target that Thai software companies will attain CMM at least at level 2 as soon as possible.

Other supports from Software Park are in the form of the annual Software Fair, jointly organized with the Association of Thai Software Industry (ATSI); as well as some facilitation to join international software events such as COMDEX or CeBit.

A directory of Thai software directory is published annually by Software Park. The book gives a comprehensive view of the inventory of local talents, products, expertise in software.


(3) SchoolNet Expansion Program

As one of the three main pillars of the IT-2000 plan, education is treated as the most important long-term investment for the nation. It is important to boost all schools to leap-frog their education technology with the Internet in order to tap the wealth of global knowledge available on the Internet. Without NECTEC's SchoolNet Thailand program, it is hard to say how 1,500 schools can be connected to the Internet in such a short time. The magic of this fast development was partly due to the existence of a wonderful information network we started in 1996 as the Golden Jubillee Network ( which owns a comprehensive nationwide access service.

The Golden Jubilee Network, or Kanchanapisek Network in Thai, is another initiative of Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn. It is a place where NECTEC hosts mass of information in Thai language about His Majesty the King and his development projects. We ran the project in celebration of His Majesty's fiftieth years of accession to the throne in 1996.

With the royal permission and the support from TOT and CAT (Communications Authority of Thailand), SchoolNet was made accessible from anywhere in the country without incurring the long-distance call charge. In addition, Internet access to SchoolNet was provided free of charge to 1,500 schools everywhere. As of April 2000, the project managed to get 1,409 schools online and more than 460 of them have web presence. Some of them became a very well-known and very popular websites. So does the project's website:

In October 1999, the government of Thailand approved a massive expansion of SchoolNet to cover 5,000 schools. This means that all secondary schools (grades 6 to 12) will be getting free Internet access, and so would be more than a thousand schools at the primary level and kindergarten. This ambitious project is now under implementation by NECTEC/NSTDA.

Network interconnection for schools is only part of a story. We need to invest more on contents and teachers. For many schools in the rural area, we do not even think of a computer because kids do not have enough food to eat and have no uniform to wear. Therefore other forms of assistance are provided through other projects.

(4) SchoolNet content creation and promotion campaign

During the course of developing SchoolNet Thailand, it was found that major hindrance for schools in getting the benefit from the global knowledge is due to four factors. These are: the (lack of) computers, (lack of) access to the Internet, (lack of) relevant contents for schools in Thai language and the (lack of computer-fluent) teachers. While the Ministry of Education is solely responsible for the first factor, i.e., it has to equip the classrooms with computers and courseware, the other three factors are hardly provided by the ministry.

SchoolNet project identified these problems since 1998. The Internet access was quickly solved by the royal permission to use the Golden Jubilee Network to access SchoolNet. Almost all of SchoolNet budget at NECTEC, being very small, was directed to the contents creation program and teachers' training.

As from January 2000, a digital library for SchoolNet was successfully created. The digital library consists of more than 1,000 articles in Thai language which are classified and searchable from the Internet. The articles were collected and prepared by schoolteachers who joined in the course "Building Digital Library for SchoolNet" set up by Kasetsart University and the Institute for the Promotion of Teaching Science and Technology.

Apart from the digital library, several schools developed their web sites with useful information and excellent educational materials. NECTEC also promotes international cooperation projects such as the GLOBE program, ThinkQuest, and AT&T Virtual Classroom.

For teachers' training, NECTEC provided pilot courses and teaching materials for Rajabhat Institute, which, in turn, will teach schoolteachers in SchoolNet project. In addition to this normal Internet course, NECTEC also provides a special course on Linux-SIS, our own distribution of Linux for use as School Internet Server. SIS is very popular in Thailand due to its excellent documentation in Thai language, simple to install CD-ROM and web-based server management without the need to know UNIX commands. SIS training courses are always in constant demand from schools looking for reliable Internet server with the lowest cost.


(5) Electronic Commerce Initiatives

The Electronic Commerce Resource Center was set up by the cabinet resolution in December 1998 as a unit within NECTEC/NSTDA. Led by Dr. Pichet Durongkaveroj, the Director of ECRC and advisor to NECTEC, the center has drafted the Electronic Commerce Policy Framework. The framework outlines strategies and measures that Thailand should adopt to promote e-commerce as a tool to compete and survive in the new economy. This has gone through several public hearings, both in Bangkok and in all regions of Thailand.

The revised draft framework is now ready to be submitted to the E-Commerce Policy Task Force, a national committee chaired by the Deputy Prime Minister Dr. Trairong Suwankiri. The policy framework will subsequently be sent to the Cabinet, for approval and execution.

As parts of its mandates, ECRC prepares human resources for the business, industry and SMEs. ECRC has organized several training courses through its close alliances with many institutes and organizations. A few strategic industries that ECRC has placed high priority on are tourism, agriculture, and local handicrafts. These sectors are targeted as the most feasible for boosting their production, business process and markets if they join the electronic commerce "bandwagon" environment created by several supporting infrastructures.

In order to create the solid supporting infrastructure for Thailand, NECTEC started hosting data exchanges among all local ISPs via a multi-client research program called the "Internet Information Research Exchange" or IIRX (formerly known as the Public Internet Exchange). IIR program provides an up-to-date report on the status of Internet in Thailand.

At the time of this publication, IIRX has more than 354 Mbps of total bandwidth to all Internet service providers, academic hubs and other data exchange in Thailand. It circulates more than 230 gigabytes of information transfer in each day, and the volume is increasing. With the availability of fiber backbone connections to all telecommunications provider in Thailand, IIRX is the most suitable location for ISPs to wire up their broadband connection in order to place all servers closer to the backbone of the Internet in Thailand.

In fact, all telecommunications provider (fixed line and mobile) have installed their fiber optic infrastructure throughout Bangkok and Thailand, with multi-core fiber connection to the building in which where NECTEC runs IIR project. To our last observation, the overlayed fiber network within Bangkok alone is probably five times that of the project Singapore-ONE. Such broadband connectivity to the central exchange like IIRX will be a natural development as many providers are starting ADSL and cable-modem services.

A critical e-commerce infrastructure project has been carried out by NECTEC's sister organization -- Internet Thailand Company, the first and largest ISP in the country (40% market share measured by actual traffic volume and by network size).

Instead of running its own e-commerce company as with many other ISPs, Internet Thailand positions its e-commerce effort as a stepping stone for Thai businesses to move forward on the e-commerce arena. Such an effort provides a unique combination of low cost and risk-free infrastructure service for bandwidth, secure payment, logistics, insurance and hardware/software platform for those businesses. The approach is aimed at preparing Thai businesses for the new commerce paradigm at the lowest business risks and investment.

As an ISP who provides connectivity for businesses with a combined revenue of one trillion baht (US$26 billion), Internet Thailand started a neutral yet highly diverse portal site called THAI-DOT-COM,, with free commerce hosting provision to all business partners (merchants, banks, application service providers).

A number of commercial banks have already connected and begun automated secure payment services and a lot more banks are being tested in the pipeline.

With good brand, excellent connectivity, a diversity of products and services offered, a wide variety of secured payment options, and full operations under ECRC e-commerce legal framework, THAI.COM will be able to act as a very low cost, low risk e-commerce infrastructure for the local businesses. For this very reason, several application service providers offering outsourcing services are beginning to appear under the collective brand THAI.COM for their greater exposure to a matured e-commerce community.

Another infrastructure which NECTEC Software and Language Science Laboratory is working on is the "machine translation service". Through a long-term research, a preliminary machine translation service web site is being developed to help people reading English web sites in Thai language (and vice versa in the future). This service will basically help Thai people who are not very good at English to access information provided only in the English language.

In addition, a Thai-made word processor called "KhianThai 2000" will be released in June 2000 to allow people to edit texts written in Thai/English language easily with an integrated dictionary (English-Thai and Thai-English) to help them read and learn English faster. The service is expected to help the Internet users in general, which is also a part of E-Commerce.

Since June 1999, NECTEC launched the "Web-13" automated Telephone Directory Service at the web site The service is a collaboration between NECTEC and the Telephone Organization of Thailand. At this web site, any Internet user can easily search for telephone numbers in Thailand instantly. One unique feature of this service is called "reverse directory search" whereby one can look for subscriber's name from a given telephone number. The popularity of this service is very high.


(6) IT Project of HRH Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn

While many of the IT initiatives aim at increasing the use of IT for economic competitiveness, the IT Project under the initiatives of HRH Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn emphasizes on utilizing IT to improve education, quality-of-life and to enhance opportunity for the under-privileges.

Five main programs, i.e., IT for Education, IT for the Disabled Persons, IT for the Sick Children, IT for Cultural Information Dissemination, and Computer Teaching for In-Mates, have been carried out through coordination between NECTEC (secretariat of the Project), and relevant agencies, such as Ministry of Education (Department of General Education, Department of Non-Formal Education, etc.), Ministry of Interior (Office of the corrections).

A significant spin-off from activities concerning the disabled persons is the official establishment of R&D Center on Assistive Technology, and the Service Center on Assistive Technology for People with Disabilities. Both initiatives have been approved by the NITC and is being submitted for the Cabinet for approval.


(7) IT Laws

Thailand determined to legislate six new laws to embrace information technology since December 1998. The cabinet then appointed NECTEC, being the secretariat office of the NITC, to coordinate and manage the drafting process. Prominent legal experts were invited to chair the six drafting committees, in which a group of NECTEC staff served as the technological experts and as secretariat. The laws are required in order to make sure that we will not be left behind in the old economy while the whole global economy are electronically connected.

On March 14, 2000, the cabinet approved the Electronic Transactions Bill and the Electronic Signature Bill. As of May, 2000 the Council of State of Thailand is now scrutinizing the bills for submission to the Parliament. After Parliament approval and His Majesty the King's signature, they will become Acts.

The two laws have been identified as the most significant legal infrastructure, which will expedite the development of e-business in Thailand. While many companies already moved ahead for e-business, the more conservative ones still think of the risks involved with the adoption of electronic data records instead of original paper documents.

Electronic Transactions Act defines the legal status of electronic records as being equal to paper documents, if they are properly handled. The Act also defines the scope of legal recognition of transmission and reception processes for electronic data records; time and place of occurrences of such transmission.

Electronic Signature Act defines the electronic equivalence of signature as a proof to identity of the signing party (i.e., authentication) and that the signer approves the content that is being signed. The law is neutral to the choice of technology used for electronic signature. It recognizes the well established trusted third-party system of Certification Authority (CA) and public-key infrastructure (PKI) based on encryption technology. At the same time, it also gives a freedom of choices for business parties to choose their own kind of electronic signature.

Of no less significant, drafting of the Universal Access Act (Bylaw of the Constitution Article 78) should be completed by September this year.

Other drafts in the pipeline are the Computer Crime Act, the Electronic Funds Transfer Act, and the Data Protection Act, which will be coming out by early next year. These laws should lay down sufficient legal framework for Thailand to enter the new economy with more confidence.


(8) Internet Policy Development

As Internet use has grown tremendously over the past few years, problems concerning access, inappropriate use, and security, for example, are becoming more prevalent. Therefore, NITC, has set up an Internet Policy Task Force last year, to develop policy guidelines and measures to tackle these problems. Issues that the task force have been working on include: surveys of Internet usage characteristics, standards for the Thai domain name, inappropriate use, and security.

So far, the secretariat team of the task force has published a survey of Internet user profiles of Thailand. The book gives a comprehensive view of gender, education, age, income statistics of the Internet users. Some statistics about their readiness for electronic commerce are also available.

Security is a major concern of the task force. NECTEC provided a support for building up a Thai Computer Emergency Response Team (TH-CERT) for the task force. It is expected that a CERT could be in full service here within six months of preparation.

One of the areas that has been seriously considered is the development of a "National Intranet", to provide to the public, free Internet access to database containing useful information or education resources, in Thai language. It is envisioned that these resources will be much valuable to the public at large, especially children and youth, and will help speeding up the process to bring Thailand into the knowledge-based society.

(9) Government CIO/CEO Program

The decision of the government eighteen months ago to appoint all ministries and departments one Chief Information Office (CIO) per agency begin to show their effectiveness. Initially, many CIO's have diverse background and IT competency. Some of them are even shy for using IT. However, these senior officers seem to be good at their management work which needs some IT literacy program to make them more effective.

NECTEC, in cooperation with the Office of the Civil Service Commission (OCSC), has successfully trained nearly 200 Government CIO in 1999 in six two-week training courses. Most CIO's are now comfortable with IT.

Furthermore, a move was made to promote greater use of IT in the public sector with support from highest government executives. The cabinet, early this year, has approved the project to develop IT vision for high-ranking government officials, which proposed a mandatory half-day training for Chief Executive Officers (CEO's), i.e., the Permanent Secretary and the Director General.

Presently, a curriculum for CEO has been drawn up by NECTEC and OCSC. A series of training classes for CEOs, with approximately 30-40 attendants per class, should be started by August this year.

Also in the pipeline is the study to develop guidelines and standards for public information system, which will help the government operate more effectively and efficiently. More specifically, the system and standards will enable each government agency can fetch the most up to date data records from other government agencies via the government information network. This concept enables sharing and exchange of information among government agencies, and thus make a seamless flow of public services possible. Through this "data consistency" scheme, Thai government will be ready for e-services to its citizen within two years or shorter for many agencies.


(10) Telecom Research - from WLL to WAP?

Due to its huge market in Thailand, telecommunication industry is a high-growth, large value market in Thailand. Before the economic crisis, the telecommunication service industry was expanded at an astonishing rate. The rate could be served only by full direct import, and no time for local R&D. However, when the economic problem stroke at the peak of the loan value in foreign currency, the telecommunication industry was badly hurt.

Understanding the pure risk of total dependent on loan base imported goods, Thai government recently provided a crash funding (Miyazawa Plan) to NECTEC/NSTDA to speed up its R&D project on wireless local loop. As in December, 1999, the first laboratory prototype of the PHS/PCT handset was in a matured stage. One local electronic company decided to manufacture it in large volume under a licensing contract from NECTEC. At the same time, TelecomAsia's recent official release of the PCT service resulted in an impulsive buying of nearly 70,000 sets within a few days.

Wireless local loop can be applied in many other areas, such as rural telephones, fixed terminal for the homes, etc. It is also an important element to develop secure mobile commerce using Thai language everywhere (keyboard, display panel, short message, and Wireless Application Protocol). In addition to the wireless technology, research program covering IMT-2000, Third-generation (3G) mobile phones, computer-telephone integration and call-centers are also part of the R&D programs in Thailand.

Thai government already committed a funding of about 300 million baht in the next 3 years to enlarge NECTEC's Telecommunications Technology Laboratory to continue these projects with more personnel and up to date equipment. Such a drastic action support is never before given to any agency, even in the days where the profit of TOT and CAT were in the order of tens of billion baht.

The return of this investment is clearly visible as the R&D amount is so small compared to the current import balance of telecommunications in the order of 100 billion baht per year where local values can easily be added for a few percents.


(11) Low-cost PC

This project is a wake-up call of NECTEC to promote local PC industry through an improvement of local supply of computer parts. Locally assembled PC's were found to use around 20-40% of important parts which are made in Thailand! These parts include the three highest value components: the CPU chip (case of AMD), the hard disk (IBM, Seagate, Fujitsu) and the CRT (many brands).

NECTEC is running an industrial forum among local PC manufacturers, with this agenda as well as the existing project on the PC quality standard certification program. It is expected, that the large-volume consumers, probably the Ministry of Education, will be benefit the most from this project. However, all government agencies and the private sectors too can enjoy the new low price, made possible without lowering any quality.

In addition to the cost of hardware, NECTEC with the Bureau of Budget set up a series of meetings with software manufacturers to negotiate for government-wide license. The effort was a direct response to the government policy to procure all software legally. Due to the limitation of budget and the generosity of the software companies, new low prices have been established and they are good enough to make this policy works. In conjunction with some low-cost software or free license like Linux and Sun's StarOffice, it is expected the increase use of legal software will be led by the government and those multinational corporations which already practice legal software purchasing.


(12) Microelectronics

Integrated circuits are considered as the building brick of information technology. Without these wonderful "IC chips", the world could not come this far. Modern computers and telecommunication equipment work better and faster while getting smaller all because of the progress in IC design and manufacturing technologies.

There are many IC packaging plants here in Thailand, but not a single wafer fabrication plant. According to a joint study by Ministry of Science, Technology and Environment and Ministry of Industry, there are many factors which make Thailand an ideal location for investing in a wafer fabrication business and IC design business.

First, Thailand is a country where the local consumption for IC chips is high and will be higher due to its openness to new technologies. Secondly, there are already many highly trained personnel who are willing to work in high-tech industry. This include the present 60 teams of young IC designers who joined NECTEC's first IC Design Contest and more than 200 Thai people around the region and in Silicon Valley who have experience in IC processing. And thirdly, there are excellent facilities in industrial estates with good supply of water and electricity in an area closer than one hour drive from Bangkok international airport.

The government, through a cabinet approval, approves a project to invite microelectronic company to process their wafers here. In order to show its real commitment, the government recently approved the use of foreign loan funding to support the establishment of Thailand Microelectronic Center (TMEC). The amount of budget is about 1,395 million baht (USD 36.7 million) for the facility and local funding of about 150 million baht per year (USD 3.9 million) for the operation of TMEC for five years. TMEC is very small compare to the size of the commercial foreign-invested wafer fabrication.

Microelectronics is regarded as the upstream part of ECTI (Electronic, Computer, Telecommunication and Information) industries. However, as Thailand is late in getting the boost from the government, it is important to leap-frog to a suitable microelectronic technology with a modern 0.5 micron production line on 6-inch wafer (for TMEC). TMEC wil have a production capacity of 500 wafers per month while the commercial fab will have to be at least 30,000 wafers (8 inch) per month, and may require 0.35 micron technology or even better.

It is expected that TMEC will be busy with research and development in IC processing, training of personnel and provide small-volume production and serving universities in a series Multi-Chip Projects. TMEC will be a strategic partner of the IC-Design Network which has established in Thailand for over a year. TMEC’s ultimate goal is to make Thailand a center of microelectronic industry wuth full line of IC design business, wafer fabrication plants and related supporting industries . These are all badly needed for the survival of Thailand’s electronic industry.

As the whole world is in need of more than 15 new wafer fabrication, it is expected that Thailand will attracted three of them. World-leaders in microelectronics are being contacted by a special committee appointed to conduct an invitation road-show to invitees.


Thailand: the Business Opportunities

In the new eeconomy, IT is a principal instrument in transforming the way businesses are carried out. For Thailand, electronic commerce is opening up new opportunity for the Thai entrepreneurs, particularly SMEs, in the international trade, and hence increase the export prospect. Although e-commerce in Thailand is still in its infancy, it starts to show how it can assist Thai firms to reach a wider market. The work of ECRC in generating awareness on e-commerce becomes fruitful particularly for those sector which previously were not link to the use of technology. The main examples are Thai tourism, handicraft and agriculture sectors.

Another prospect for business is in the area of software business. There is considerable opportunity for the software industry; the growth of software market has been in the region of 22-23% (except for the 1998) and continues to expand. However, the software industry, which was previously characterized by small, scattered and weak firms, was unable to take the full advantage of this high market growth. The situation is expected to change since Thailand will benefit from the growth of its software industry and its strengthened technological base as the result of the Software Park Projects activities. With the support from Software Park for necessary facilities, amenities, resources and training, Thailand is expected to attract both local and international businesses related to software including software and hardware vendors, training companies, system integrators, multimedia products and content producers etc. Besides, the widespread of e-commerce also contribute to the increase demand in software business and software human resource.

There is also a positive environment for conducting a business in Thailand. The Thai government has continued to promote foreign investment in Thailand. The office of the Board of Investment provides two kind of incentives: tax-based incentives, such as tax holidays or tariff exemptions, and non-tax privileges, such as guarantees, protections, permissions, and services. For instance, the BOI’s incentives for software business within software park include: (i) corporate income tax exemption for eight years, regardless of zone; (ii) exemption of import duty on machinery, regardless of zone. However, the businesses wishing to locate in software parks must be approved by BOI and the plans and accommodations of projects will be in accordance with the Board's consideration, on a case-by-case basis.

The concept of Software Park attracts many local investors wishing to nurture the software industry. New Software Parks are likely to be initiated in Phuket and Chiangmai. The strong collaboration between NESDB, NECTEC and local players in Phuket is a remarkable success. The master plan for developing Phuket into a Cyber Port, or an International City is on its move to reality. Through this concept, Phuket can become a first class location for software industry because this is pollution-free and it can co-exist with first-class tourism of the island. The development project calls for an information superhighway to link up Phuket with the wolrd using a broadband communication system. Moreover, with the raised demand for local talents, universities and research labs can also be expanded greatly on the island and in the nearby provinces of Krabi, Trang and Songkla.

Besides, as described earlier, the legal infrastructure is being built up to become a basis for conducting electronic transactions. Once these laws are enforced, entrepreneur as well as the general public (consumer) will be more confidence in e-commerce. Consequently, we can expect to see an expanding volume of business transaction via electronic media in the near future.


With the pictures of the parts, we believe that Thailand is well served by NECTEC/NSTDA and the National IT Committee in building the whole picture of ECTI for the country. There are many other projects which cannot be described in this article, but they will add to the completeness of the picture. For example: the solar cell development project, Thailand Integrated Water Resource Management Network, Cluster Computing and networked GIS clearing house. These are parts of the movement for New Economy for Thailand.

There are many key players involved in the readiness for Thailand's real sector to move into New Economy. The players are in both in the public sectors and it the private sectors. With better governance and strict election process, we all expect Thailand to have more transparency. This will make the development projects move a lot faster than in the past.

[About the Author]

Dr. Thaweesak "Hugh" Koanantakool is the Director of National Electronics and Computer Technology Center (NECTEC), National Science and Technology Development Agency (NSTDA), Ministry of Science, Technology and Environment.