Dr. Pichet Durongkaveroj, Minister of Digital Economy and Society (DE), said that the ministry brought a group of Thai representatives to join important activities at Global Entrepreneurship Congress (GEC2017) in Johannesburg, South Africa on 13-16 March 2017. For example, a bilateral talk with H.E. Dr Siyabonga Cwele, Minister of Telecommunication and Postal Service of South Africa, in Pretoria where both countries discussed on implementation of digital policies and challenges and mutually agreed on an important role of Cyber security, private sector participation, SMEs/Startups promotion and potential digital human resources that are a mechanism for driving the digital policies, potential of digital technology in developing extensive growth of economy and society, use of digital technology to link Thailand and South Africa and also ASEAN and Africa for both regions’ opportunities and prosperity. Both countries plan to sign a MOU on digital technology to enhance their concrete cooperation accordingly.
Thai representatives also had a bilateral talk with H.E. Ms. Lindiwe Zulu, Minister of Small Business Development of South Africa. South Africa has seen the importance of small entrepreneurs in driving the country’s economy, so it has set up the Ministry of Small Business Development which will support small entrepreneurs and solve poverty, unemployment and social disparity. The country has also promoted equality and strength of female and ethnic group entrepreneurs in terms of economy and society. Operations of the Ministry of Small Business Development correspond to Thailand’s entrepreneur promotion, especially SMEs that are key players in Thailand’s economic development. Both parties agreed that Thailand and South Africa have potential to enhance cooperation in economic development and entrepreneur promotion to pave the way for cooperation of ASEAN and Africa regions in the future. Thailand will be able to use South Africa as the door to enhance cooperation with African region, while South Africa will be able to use Thailand as a channel to seek further cooperation with ASEAN. In addition, Thailand and South African should seek Strategic partnership by endorsing a MOU to strengthen their cooperation in the future.
DE Minister was also one of lecturers on “Enabling Digital Disruption” during Global Entrepreneurship Congress (GEC 2017) on 15 March 2017 at Sandton Convention Center in Johannesburg, and described Thailand’s guidelines for dealing with a great change due to Digital Disruption for the benefits of its economy and society. He talked about the Thai government’s policies such as high-speed internet network expansion to all villages nationwide to encourage rural people to access E-health system and generate more income via E-commerce which will effectively narrow digital disparities between urban and rural people. The government’s policy also includes deregulation to facilitate business operations in Thailand and effort to create balance between cyber data/security integration, promotion of new innovations and laws. These topics drew much attention from the audiences.
As for a talk with Mr.Viljar Lubi, Deputy Secretary General for Economic Development of Estonia’s Ministry of Economy and Communication, Estonia is one of the world’s most advanced digital technology countries, especially E-government system. The country’s “e-Estonia” system enables people to access the public services or do almost all transactions with the government organizations via digital system, and the Estonian government has extensively encouraged entrepreneurs and startups. As a result, World Economic forum (WEF) announced that Estonia is the most entrepreneurial country in Europe. In November 2017, Estonia will organize Startup Nation Summit where startups and relevant organizations from many countries will share their best business practices and experiences to deal with challenge; prepare recommendations that benefit both public sector and all relevant sectors in promoting startups; and create international startup network. Estonia also invited Thai stakeholders to join the event.
Now Estonia has realized potential and formulated the policies to seek cooperation in various aspects including digital technology with eastern countries. In July – December 2017, Estonia will be holding the presidency of the EU Council which it will have an important role in encouraging EU countries to seek cooperation with eastern countries including Thailand. Meanwhile, the Thai government has emphasized on startup promoting policy and it is in the process of developing Regulatory Sandbox which is a venue for startups to test their new ideas with least limitations. DE Ministry will be a central agency that supports all sectors to develop their own style Sandbox that matches relevant startups. In addition, Estonia expressed its interest to join Thailand Bigbang held by DE Ministry and Ministry of Science and Technology to support digital technology and startup development of Thailand in early July 2017 at Queen Sirikit National Convention Center, and also seek cooperation in Regulatory Sandbox development with Thailand.
As for a talk with Mr.McLean Sibanda, CEO of The Innovation Hub, in Pretoria, both parties agreed that domestic innovation development and research and development (R&D) will enhance social and economic strength and sustainability. R&D should aim at serving private sector’s needs, so universities doing research and the private sector should work and facilitate each other under the government’s support for maximum benefits for all related parties. Another important matter is to change the way of thinking of all sectors, especially the private sector, to emphasize on research investment in order to create innovative products that are worth for long-term investment. Thailand and South Africa should seek Strategic partnership in various fields and probably sign a MOU and do research projects in any mutually interesting issues by both countries’ relevant organizations. According to WEF, South Africa has gained much success in innovation development, so cooperation with South Africa will benefit implementation of Thailand 4.0 policy and extensively promote innovation development for sustainable economic and social reform. Such cooperation will be further upgraded to cooperation between Africa and ASEAN regions in the future.
DE Minister finally discussed with Mr.Jonathan Ortmans, President of Global Entrepreneurship Network (GEN), and Mr. Steve Cheah, President of GEN Thailand, and also chaired the meeting of GEN Asia members at Sandton Sun Hotel, Johannesburg. GEN, an international organization that encourages international entrepreneurs and now has members in 160 countries, is willing to support Thailand Bigbang 2017 to be held by DE Ministry and Ministry of Science and Technology on 6-9 July 2017 at Queen Sirikit National Convention Center, Bangkok. It will kindly provide GEN Playbook preparation, Mentorship and Startup Competition, and GEN representatives from 10 countries in Asia and Oceania including China, South Korea, Japan, Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam, Cambodia, New Zealand, India and Taiwan confirm to join the event. In addition, there will be 50 leading Startups and 20 professional Mentors from these countries joining the event to encourage Thai and Asian startups.