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publication August 24, 2017

Thailand Economic Monitor– August 2017: Digital Transformation


Thailand’s economy gains momentum and is projected to attain 3.5% in 2017, and 3.6% in 2018.

  • The economy grew by 3.3% during the first quarter of 2017, exceeding market expectations. It is also gaining momentum as farm incomes recover from drought, merchandise and tourism exports rise, and the continued fiscal stimulus.
  • Merchandise export grew 6.6%, the highest in the last four years, due to rising global commodity price and trading partner growth.
  • The agricultural sector expanded by 7.7% due to rising agricultural prices and recovery from severe drought.
  • Private consumption expanded by 3.1%, compared to 2.2% in 2015, driven by improved farm income, stimulus measures and recovering consumer confidence.
  • More public infrastructure investments to connect lagging regions and upgrade rail through dual tracking can boost private investment, raise economy-wide productivity and improve investor sentiment.
  • Thailand has the potential to raise growth to above 4% by addressing structural bottlenecks – education quality, services liberalization and public infrastructure management.
  • Risks to recovery: Political uncertainty if reforms and elections become postponed, and a deterioration in the global environment including increased trade protectionism and a slowdown in the Chinese economy may impede Thailand’s export momentum and private investment recovery.


The digital economy has high potential for socio-economic impact and Thailand can build on its digital strategy to secure new opportunities for the country. 

  • In as little over two decades since 1994, the global digital economy is now worth $11.5 trillion, equivalent to 15.5% of global GDP.
  • In 2016, Thailand created the Ministry of Digital Economy and Society, putting in place a 20-year National Digital Economy Masterplan, divided into four phases:

1. Laying the digital foundation
2. Achieving digital inclusion
3. Moving to full transformation, and
4. Achieving global digital leadership

  • Since then, Thailand has launched initiatives like Digital Thailand, Thailand 4.0, and a special program for developing the Eastern Economic Corridor (digital park, University 4.0).
  • Thailand’s performance on various digital economy related indices and rankings has been mixed. It ranked:

1. 82 out of 175 on ITU’s ICT Development Index 2016
2. 62 among 139 countries on the World Economic Forum’s Networked Readiness Index 2016
3. 77 out of 193 countries on the United Nations e-Government Survey 2016
4. 21 out of 65 countries on Waseda University’s 2017 Digital Government Rankings

  • The National Digital Economy Masterplan is on the right track with several worthwhile initiatives:

1. Development of hard infrastructure
2. Acceleration of the digital economy
3. Promoting digital society, digital government, workforce development and soft infrastructure (legal, regulatory, security)

  • Thailand can reach its aspired digital frontier by focusing on developing these key areas:

1. Digital foundations (data sharing, future-ready networks)
2. Transformative business models (blockchain)
3. Digital skills
4. Cross-cutting institutions related to strategic foresight and agile policymaking