From the initiative to launch the digital economy in Thailand, aka “Digital Thailand” or “Thailand 4.0”, the Ministry of Digital Economy and Society (DE Ministry) was recently established by virtue of the Act Reforming Ministry, Department, and Bureau (No. 17) B.E. 2559 (2016). This new DE Ministry has taken over responsibility from the Ministry of Information and Technology (MICT), and merges public organizations and state owned enterprises under supervision of a single entity. 

In the past, the ICT sector was regulated by various regulatory entities, e.g. (i) the MICT for computer crimes and internet content, (ii) the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) for the telecom and broadcasting sectors, and (iii) Electronic Transactions Development Agency (ETDA) for electronic transactions. As a result, when dealing with complex technological issues, it was hard to say for certain which entity was responsible and there were cases of authority overlaps and conflicts which resulted in delays in liberalizing certain businesses. One specific example is that of satellite business, which fell under the ambit of the MICT and the NBTC.

The DE Ministry will now oversee computer crimes, internet content, telecom, broadcasting, electronic transactions with national security and data privacy as added areas of responsibility. The DE Ministry consists of: (1) Office of the Minister; (2) Office of the Permanent Secretary; (3) Thai Meteorological Department; (4) National Statistical Office of Thailand; and (5) Office of National Digital Economy Committee. Existing public organizations such as ETDA, Software Industry Promotion Agency (SIPA), and Electronic Government Agency (EGA) will also be transferred under the DE Ministry. The NBTC will remain a separate entity but its policy will be under the supervision of the National Digital Economy Committee, which is under the DE Ministry. State owned enterprises, namely TOT, CAT Telecom, and Thailand Post Company Limited will also come under the responsibility of the DE Ministry.

With this new structure, the DE Ministry will monitor the ICT sectors, from the infrastructure to content levels. Thus, it should solve the issue of conflicts of authority and result in a more straightforward or harmonious ICT regulatory reform.

Setting up the DE Ministry is the first substantial move under digital economy initiative. In a short time, we should see new legislation being issued to structure the DE Ministry and after that the rest of the bills under the digital economy initiative, including the Draft Amendment to the Computer Crime Act, the Draft Amendment to the Electronic Transactions Act, the Personal Data Protection Bill, and the National Cybersecurity Bill, should follow.