With MEF Connects Thailand just two weeks away, our keynote speaker for the evening, Telenor’s EVP and Head of Asia, Sigve Brekke, shares insights on Thailand’s unbridled enthusiasm for connectivity and the internet, and how mobile technology has the potential to prove a truly transformative force for good in the rapidly growing economy.
Among our six Asian markets, Thailand has the largest appetite for data, digital communication and internet. It’s this hunger that makes Thailand unique. It’s this hunger that we see as driving Thailand’s bourgeoning mobile technology ecosystem. It’s this hunger that we want to continue to satisfy, and build on the good initiatives in connecting the masses – on the regulatory front, on the pricing front and on local content generation – that are already in place to stimulate even more growth.
No doubt, Thai consumers have embraced the internet faster and more enthusiastically than most could have ever imagined. Yes, Thailand’s internet penetration is high compared to many of its neighbors, but most remarkable is that the majority of users’ internet access is via mobile internet.
The average Thai customer’s mobile data usage has quadrupled in just the last twelve months, and this hunger is nowhere close to being satiated. The more data and internet services our industry offers, the hungrier consumers get. We see this everywhere.
Reports have found that Thais now spend an average of 3.5 hours per day on the internet, with youth being the heaviest users. Thailand’s younger generations make up the vast majority of Thailand’s now 20 million social media users, driven online with skyrocketing smartphone penetration. Last year, Thai users uploaded half a billion photos to Facebook. Siam Paragon and Suvarnabhumi International Airport are the #1 and #2 most checked-in locations in the world. Thailand is the LINE application’s #2 market in the world. The research firm Nielsen predicts that smartphone ownership will reach 100% within the next four years. It goes on.
For Thailand’s and the region’s economy, we should keep feeding this hunger. The more internet connectivity available, the more people will use it. The more they use it, the more knowledge they’ll share, businesses they’ll create, news jobs they’ll hire for and a larger GDP they’ll contribute to. This will spur science, technology, innovation and creativity, making education more accessible and healthcare, public and financial services more present and efficient.
From 18 years in the region, and from operating in both developed and developing markets, we now know what the drivers of internet usage are in very different markets, and Thailand appears to be well on its way to putting the right combination of drivers together. Some good first steps have been taken.
Firstly, the Thai government has made a priority of a Digital Economy initiative that will enhance the country’s economic potential and create an economic foundation that can expand stably and sustainably. In collaboration with the industry, they want to advance economic sectors to be more competitive in terms of production and trade of digital products, telecommunication products, and the use of digital technology as a basis for financial services, manufacturing, tourism and creative sectors.
Secondly, local and relevant content that encourage more internet uptake is making headway. Together, major players, government and startup groups are building an ecosystem of local services and contents. We’ve seen, as a crucial first step, companies including ours, increasingly partner with global content and service providers to keep offering the data packages and digital communications services that our customers are demanding. Many other content providers – in Thailand and in ASEAN – span the banking sectors , agricultural- and startup communities – availing ground-up, innovative mobile products to small businesses, farmers, students and low-income populations as well. On a holistic level, 60 per cent of the world’s Internet content is now coming from the Asia Pacific region, and Thailand’s pick-up of this content is rapidly going mass market.
We have a lot of goals. We think Thailand can have the most advanced and affordable mobile internet services in ASEAN. We want to see 80 percent of all Thais become active internet users by 2017. We want to see all small and medium enterprises have an online presence by 2017. And we want to see higher digital literacy, more robust internet safety, consumer safeguards and privacy protection. By 2020, we think Thailand can see the creation of 30,000 new businesses, nearly 60,000 new jobs, and a GDP increased to USD 19 billion.
EVP and Head of Asia
This future can be realized by an economy with an environment based on transparent, investment-friendly legal, tax and regulatory frameworks that foster a competitive and dynamic ICT sector; an environment with a robust community of startups, local services and content creators, a data-hungry, digitally literate population, and supportive and investment-ready industry players. We’ve said for quite some time that when it comes to internet innovation, the next decades will belong to this region. And Thailand has the potential to stand at the center of it all. Behind all of our goals, we have one vision: unlock social and economic potential through access, connectivity and digital services and content.
Together in Thailand, we can do this.
On May 13th MEF Connects Thailand, sponsored by Telenor and supported by Mono Group & TIMWE, comes to Bangkok for an exclusive event for members and industry guests. With a keynote presentation from Sigve Brekke, who will further expand on his ideas about the importance of stimulating local content and services as a key enabler for making the internet attractive to mass audiences in Asia, the evening also features a guest panel of industry experts and a rapid-round of start-up pitches from some of the hottest start-ups taking part in Dtac’s Accelerate programme. For more information, visit the MEF website.