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Making Thailand a global blockchain hub

According to a recent report, though countries in the Asia Pacific are racing to build their own cryptocurrency hubs they are arguably playing catch-up.

However, despite this, Thailand has one of the most prosperous cryptocurrency ecosystems in the region, thanks in large part to the government.

Local leaders have adopted an avant-garde approach to integrating cryptocurrency into the mainstream, going so far as to plan a central bank digital currency (CBDC) by 2019.

While Thailand’s success in the cryptocurrency industry ought to be celebrated, the country can take advantage of its momentum to achieve something even more valuable: working towards becoming a global hub for blockchain development, innovation, and entrepreneurship.

Blockchain, of course, is the technology at the centre of cryptocurrency, though many in the public mistakenly confuse the two; blockchain is the public ledger while digital currencies are just one of its many applications.

Since blockchain will be much bigger than just crypto, it makes sense for Thailand to position itself to thrive in this technology. As with its rise to prominence as a cryptocurrency hub, Thailand’s bid to become a centre of blockchain will be driven from the top down.

Government leaders and policymakers must continue to adopt regulations that are blockchain-friendly and actively encourage both local people and foreigners to create products with the technology.

However, adopting a blockchain-friendly stance is easier said than done. Because blockchain is a public ledger, most of the applications that utilise it will seek to decentralise control away from unavoidable companies and organisations, which will fight to the last breath to maintain the status quo.

Thus, to support blockchain innovation, Thai government leaders may have to resist powerful institutional forces that policymakers in other countries might try to follow and find strength in their highest calling as leaders: advancing what’s in the best interests of the people.

It is difficult to predict just how much blockchain can upend traditional industries until you look at some of the companies using the technology in the region. A good example to look at is an electricity company in Singapore, which is currently developing its own ecosystem. Consumers will be able to engage in peer-to-peer energy trading, while businesses will be able to create smart contracts for retail electricity.

Rather than shun a company like this, like other countries in the region possibly will, Thailand needs to develop a policy that allows these innovators to fairly compete with incumbents.

Thailand can make an even bigger claim to being the blockchain hub of the region by working with innovators who already have live products.

One such example a company from Indonesia known for its crypto-enabled point-of-sale terminals; it recently introduced a blockchain-based smartphone as well.

People who buy a phone – scheduled for release in the second quarter of 2019 – will be able to make calls, send messages and transfer different types of data without the need for a carrier, as it will run on a proprietary blockchain system.

The phone, then, could truly disrupt telecommunications as we know it today, as it will enable users to communicate without the carrier intermediary. Though it may be challenging to establish policies and regulations around this new field of decentralised communication, the Thai government could still do so, just as it has for crypto.

Welcoming the phone innovation into its borders, along with other blockchain-based phones, will be a positive message to other companies around the world.

It will prove that Thailand is eager to work with anyone who aims to use blockchain technology to change the world.

Thailand’s branding as a blockchain-friendly environment – even within fiercely contested industries such as energy and telecommunications – will attract innovators from all over the world.

The public may soon be able to see companies setting up shop in Thailand using the blockchain to innovate real estate, digital rights, healthcare, supply chain, and everything in between.

Experts urge that Thailand focus on setting up this advantage as blockchain appears to be the defining technology in the next generation of the digital economy.

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