Thailand plans to showcase more than just its renowned hospitality at Expo 2020. It will also capitalise on the opportunity to demonstrate its expertise in other areas, under the government’s Thailand 4.0 strategic plan.
Located in the Mobility district at the expo site, ‘Mobility for the Future’ will be the theme for Thailand’s pavilion. The country’s digital capabilities will be in the spotlight, with the aim of boosting investment and international trade, as well as advancing the tourism industry.
“Thailand will be the regional hub of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in terms of transportation, logistics and industry, to drive the country under the policy of Thailand 4.0,” says Nuttapon Nimmanphatcharin, president and CEO of the Digital Economy Promotion Agency (Depa).
Depa is a branch of Thailand’s Ministry of Digital Economy & Society, established in 2017 to support and promote the development of digital industry and innovation in the country. The agency has undertaken various initiatives to drive change, including introducing digital skills courses to upskill the country’s workforce, launching a smart visa project to attract foreign ‘digital talent’ to Thailand, and providing funding for startups.
In June 2019, Depa published findings from research conducted with business consulting firm Frost & Sullivan (F&S) that aimed to identify and understand the emerging and impactful technology trends of the next five to 15 years in Thailand. The report, titled ‘Thailand Digital Technology Foresight’, says that while there has been notable progress in digital transformation in the country, challenges such as a lack of a clear digital strategy, a siloed approach to transformation and unfavourable regulations all hinder progress.
Based on market analysis, F&S identified seven technologies that Depa should prioritise in the coming years to drive transformation in Thailand’s digital landscape. These are the Internet of Things, artificial intelligence, data analytics, next-generation telecoms (5G), distributed ledger technology, quantum computing and automation.
Thailand’s pavilion sits on a 3,606-square-metre plot, which is the biggest site that the country has occupied at a World Expo since its first participation more than 150 years ago.
Elements representing Thai culture and traditions have been worked into the pavilion’s design.
Solar orientation and natural shading will reduce the power and energy requirements of the pavilion. A gable roof, a distinguishing feature of Thai architecture, is situated at the entrance of the pavilion to represent the customary Thai greeting, known as ‘Wai’.
A native flower, the ‘Dok Luck’ (luck flower), which is part of the traditional Thai flower garland, provided inspiration for the pavilion’s architecture. The flowers are woven around the pavilion like floral curtains. The main colour used throughout the design is gold, symbolising abundance and richness.
Meanwhile, the traditional flower garland or ’Puang Malai’, which is used in the official logo of the Thai pavilion, is said to represent friendship and hospitability.
“The flowers were fine-tuned and digitally arranged into lines to demonstrate the limitless digital connection that links ideas from various sources,” explains Nimmanphatcharin.
“Gold is used as a dominant colour to depict the abundance of the Suvarnnabhumi region and our rich history, while four bouquets represent Thailand 4.0. The theme also reflects Thailand’s stepping into the innovation-driven, digital age towards stability, wealth and sustainability.”
Thailand-based Index Creative Village was appointed as the official representative for the pavilion and ground was broken in April 2019. Dubai-based Arcade Start Construction was awarded the main contract and, as of March 2020, construction works were 50 per cent complete.
Handover of the pavilion is scheduled for September 2020. According to regional projects tracker MEED Projects, the pavilion has a budget value of $70m.
Nimmanphatcharin says the impact of the coronavirus outbreak on construction progress has been limited, as the building materials used are sourced locally and workers are based in the UAE. However, he adds that he expects the outbreak to affect global logistics and shipments, as a smaller number of vessels will be travelling from China to Thailand and from Thailand to Dubai, which may increase costs.
“If the outbreak continues, it might affect the installment of the interiors,” he says. “We still have some room to be flexible. We are working and construction continues on track. We have planned to fully accept the situation in the future.”
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