BANGKOK — Thailand’s small and medium enterprises, or SMEs, are at the risk of not keeping up with the ever-changing world of digital economy, an India-based software executive warned.

Although SMEs account for 42 percent of the GDP and about 79 percent of employment, most still lack digital skills that would sustain their businesses in the face of newer technologies like AI, Cloud, and automation, Gibu Mathew, a Vice President for Zoho Corporation, said in a recent interview.

“They still use free social media tools like Line, instagram and Facebook for their audience,” Mathew said during his visit in Bangkok.

Mathew, whose firm deals in Cloud system and IT solution for private businesses, said the country has a substantive foundation for digital economy. About 47 million people out of the population of 69 million have internet access, and 90 percent of them connected through mobile phones.

Gibu Mathew

But he said Thai businesses still suffer from the hierarchical sharing of information in corporate structure, which he called an outdated system that blocks the spread of ideas.

Although digital economy remains miniscule compared to the national economy – only 3 percent – the trend has seen massive growth in recent years. In 2015, 6 billion USD was circulating in Thailand’s digital economy. This year, the number is projected to reach 16 billion USD.

Mathew called on Thai businesses to adopt newer technologies and ideas, like working from out of office, AI, and Cloud. Automation should also be introduced to compensate for the missing work force in the aging society, he said.

The executive also praised some progressed made by Thai authorities toward digitized economy and bureaucracy, such as the Immigration Bureau’s online visa application system.

“The first impression is quite good – new digital visa on arrival. Instead of one to two hours of waiting in line, now it’s five minutes,” he said.

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