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COVID-19 pushes digital transformation across Thailand

Despite wreaking havoc around the globe, COVID-19 has become a key accelerator for digital transformation among organisations who must ensure their work continues during this difficult time.

The Executive Director of a tech training and research organisation stated that this outbreak, unlike others in the past, has affected many countries at once and is expected to carry on for a long period. This will broaden digital adoption and accelerate digital transformation.

Soon it will become more natural for businesses and individuals to embrace digital technology, such as mobile payment, e-wallets, video conferencing and collaboration tools, he said. Many will also pivot towards 5G, high-speed networks, remote working and e-learning.

During the crisis, the biggest lesson in Thailand is “communication in crisis”, which needs to be faster and accurate, he said. The government’s message needs to be simple and reach as many citizens as possible, which helps ward off public confusion over disinformation shared online.

New technology continues to be developed to fight the spread of the coronavirus. In Thailand, it is in the early stages of developing apps that locate risky areas for Covid-19 and places where masks are sold.

Tech deployment

The Founder and Chief Executive of an e-commerce platform stated that he launched the Thailand Covid-19 Digital Group (TCDG) as a social media community page for tech fellows willing to collaborate to combat the outbreak using technology.

There are nine subset groups under the TCDG to ensure work is executed speedily.

Many are working on a platform to track infected people or those requested to self-quarantine to allow health authorities easier monitoring.

Others are handling chatbots for Covid-19 consultation with the public, technology that can identify the location of drugstores, a tool that can gauge the volume of available masks and alcohol-based gel, as well as communication channels for ways to combat the disease, promoted by influencers.

The TCDG also recently developed a site, which shows the updated status of infections in Thailand and at-risk locations.

The Executive Director of the National Innovation Agency (NIA) stated that state agencies have worked together on a new app called DDC-Care that helps people self-assess whether they have contracted Covid-19 and tracks people who travelled from at-risk countries that require self-quarantine for 14 days.

The app was jointly developed by the NIA, the National Science and Technology Development Agency, the National Electronics and Computer Technology Center, the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission, the Digital Government Agency, Thammasat University and the Digital Economy Promotion Agency.

The Department of Disease Control (DDC) can access the data and provide recommendations for at-risk people, including those who develop Covid-19 symptoms. The app can also show travel journeys for those determined to be infected.

Moreover, people who have close contact with people suspected of contracting the coronavirus can also download the app to self-report their health conditions over 14 days.

Telemedicine in motion

Yothi Medical Innovation District (YMID) under the NIA and the Technology and Innovation-Based Enterprise Development Fund have fostered a channel where tech start-ups can help patients avoid the hospital, talking to doctors online to help reduce the chance of contracting the coronavirus.

The service should help reduce the workload for physicians and nurses and make hospitals less crowded.

The YMID has a collection of 22 health tech start-ups that separately play a role in screening patients, giving basic medical advice, teleconsulting, conducting diagnoses, providing patient-care systems and arranging medical logistics.

For example, patients suffering from non-communicable diseases can seek teleconsultation with health experts, practice telemedicine in which medical practitioners can conduct remote diagnoses and use external laboratory tests for their health conditions.

AI can be used for diagnosis, while robots can be deployed to take care of patients in negative pressure rooms to ward off the chance of infection among medical personnel.

Meanwhile, more than 30 start-ups are working on technology that supports social distancing, such as video conferencing, data gathering and online learning.

A wake-up call

One expert stated that the outbreak is hampering traditional methods of operation, making digital approaches more important.

This is a wake-up call to organisations that focus on daily operational needs at the expense of investing in digital business and long-term resilience.

In businesses where remote working capabilities have not yet been established, they need to work out interim solutions such as instant messaging for general communication, file sharing/meeting solutions, and access to enterprise applications such as enterprise resource planning and customer relationship management, while reviewing all security arrangements to ensure secure access to applications and data.

Organisations also need to deal with staffing shortages to maintain basic operations. They need to conduct workforce planning to assess risks and address staffing gaps, such as identifying mission-critical service areas.

Businesses can explore how digital technologies can be used for work, such as AI technology for automating tasks, providing customer service and dealing with candidate screening.

Many organisations have already engaged with their customers via digital platforms, such as branded sites and apps, online marketplaces and social media, though offline face-to-face engagement still plays a vital role.

Enterprises should also enable customers to use self-service via online, mobile, social, kiosk and interactive voice response channels.

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