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Tech enablement as a critical development factor for Thailand

Thai society’s long-term prospects face growing risks from skill gaps, lagging technological adoption, and the impact of climate change. Leading players from industries of strategic importance, such as telecom and tech, should play a pivotal role in contributing to the country’s ability to progress rapidly. True is responding to this challenge by driving systemic change in education, nurturing digital innovation, and enabling climate action.

Skills for Tomorrow

Thailand needs human capital investment to improve labor skills and productivity in the long term. Future economic development requires talents trained in advanced technologies such as artificial intelligence, automotive robotics, nano- and biotech. These skills are both an economic necessity and a societal one, as they can lead to developing solutions to build climate resilience and support Thailand’s aging population despite a shrinking workforce.

True leverages our tech expertise for the positive development of Thai society by providing digital skills training for professionals and students. True Digital Academy has trained 30,000 talents in business digital skills such as cyber security, data analytics, and online marketing. For students, True Plookpanya has delivered online courses to over 34 million users. The website ( has been Thailand’s number one educational website every year since 2019.

Our experience has been that supporting students online, although effective, is not a replacement for the systemic changes needed in Thailand’s education system. This includes enhancing the transparency of school assessments, improving the quality of teachers and principals, building a culture of engagement, increasing digital readiness, and promoting the adoption of child-centric curriculums.

To this end, True launched the CONNEXT ED Foundation with the Ministry of Education and public and private partners in 2020. Results are encouraging: Of the 5,000 schools that have joined the program, 72% have already achieved scores ranging from good to excellent. Technology has played a pivotal role in these achievements. In addition to providing schools with 6,000 laptops, CONNEXT ED has trained 5,000 ICT talents to ensure schools have the necessary skills to utilize them. We also connected nearly 1,300 schools to high-speed internet.

This initiative is now serving as a pilot for the government’s plan to distribute a further 1.6 million laptops nationwide. More importantly, we hope CONNEXT ED will serve as an incubator for the urgently needed reforms to Thailand’s education system. Support from ecosystem partners and collaboration with the government will be crucial to replicate these promising developments and rapidly achieve positive impact at a national scale.

Climate Action

If we succeed in nurturing a new generation of fast-thinking, creative, and confident Thais, the next challenge is to ensure they inherit a resilient planet. Nearly a third of the country’s workforce is in agriculture, but increasing temperatures and extreme weather threaten the ecosystems we depend on. As a result, Thailand is one of the countries most at risk from climate change.

True’s ambition is to enable climate action for the whole country. Research by GSMA Intelligence shows that mobile connectivity could facilitate 40% of the required carbon reduction across transport, energy, building, and manufacturing sectors by 2030. With 99% population coverage on 4G and 90% 5G coverage, our technology infrastructure is enabling the development of smarter vehicles, cities, and factories, thereby reducing emissions nationwide.

In addition to the enablement effect of mobile connectivity, True has worked on energy saving solutions based on artificial intelligence and IoT. These solutions achieved energy savings of up to 15% both in our operations and in the retail industry. In farming, they also reduce the need for pesticides, antibiotics, and fertilizer.

These energy savings are significant but not sufficient to meet carbon neutrality by 2030—much more must be done. This is why True continues to push for a national grid with cleaner energy. We are also encouraging our suppliers to establish science-based emissions targets while providing training on the process and benefits of effective climate action. As a founding member of the UN Global Compact, True seeks to encourage decisive climate action among decision makers and critical stakeholders in the private and public domains.

Investing in Innovation

In addition to education and the environment, the other major challenge for Thailand is the need to “reboot productivity for resilient growth” (to quote the World Bank). The combination of AI, IoT, and 5G represents a unique opportunity for a new wave of development. But this requires upgrading Thailand from a consumer of technology to a producer.

Huge investments will be required to achieve this. Thailand’s Board of Investment targets 2 trillion baht (US$57 billion) by 2030 in sectors such as electric vehicles, smart electronics and green technologies. And even if this target is reached, investment from global tech players and manufacturers setting up operations in Thailand does not always translate to developing local tech champions.

This why we feel True should play a critical role in building up Thai tech, both as a visionary telecom-tech leader and as an orchestrator of Thailand’s innovation ecosystem. Our innovation initiatives total 120 patents and we have partnerships with 50 universities to support their research. In addition, we established True Digital Park, the largest tech and startup hub in Southeast Asia, spanning over 230,000 sq meters, bringing local entrepreneurs, global tech companies, venture investors, startup accelerators, and government agencies under one roof.

Today, nearly 3,000 startups have already joined this ecosystem. And our startup incubator, True Incube, has raised US$100 million in investment from venture capital (VC) funds to Thai startups. But we see that much more investment is still needed; and we plan to establish strategic partnerships to launch a VC fund of US$300 million or more. We hope this will inspire others to join us or set up their own funds to accelerate the growth of digital Thailand.

Although Thailand faces serious challenges in education, climate action, and the digital transformation of its economy, these can be overcome through collaboration between public and private partners as well as civil society. Together, we can build innovative solutions for a safer, healthier, and more productive future. True Corporation is committed to being an ambitious enabler of this process.

Article by Manat Manavutiveth is chief executive officer of True Corporation

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