Thailand 2031: A Glimpse into the Future (Bangkok Post)

Why 2031? The next decade is likely to become seen as a milestone era during which the world accelerated into a period of development and prosperity having successfully turned the page of one of the worst chapters in modern history after Covid-19 shook the global community to its core.

Driven by the unprecedented pace of technological change, the world has already changed dramatically since the early 2000s when currently emerging sectors which harness our nascent grasp of artificial intelligence — robotics, smart homes and factories, autonomous vehicles, and personal assistants — were still the stuff of science fiction movies and idle fantasy.

Now, as we enter the middle period of the 21st century, it seems almost inconceivable that these, and many more, technological advancements won’t soon become part of everyday life.

Despite, or maybe inspired by, the upheaval of the recent pandemic, many are predicting a sharp recovery accompanied by a reshaping of the geopolitical landscape.

And breakthroughs in science and medicine will only further reinforce the prevailing sense of change that will come to define this technological revolution. Transformation will be rapid and widespread, and the onus will be on every nation, Thailand included, to keep up or risk falling back in terms of development, as people’s lives and livelihoods become increasingly inseparable from this new dawn.

To mark its 75th anniversary, which falls on Sunday, the Bangkok Post has invited several visionary leaders to tell us how they imagine the Thailand of 2031 in all its potential guises, from the economic and political to the technological, environmental and social.

As the paper celebrates a past laden with its own unforgettable moments, we hope readers will enjoy this glimpse into the future as part of this special publication.

Prep key to harnessing transformative shift

Sustainability and technology will be driving forces during the next decade, but to reap the benefits adjustments need to be made

Looking ahead to the next decade, the world will be defined by two major trends: sustainability and technology, according to Sethaput Suthiwartnarueput, governor of the Bank of Thailand.

The mounting evidence of climate change and people’s greater awareness through improved access to information has led to waves of environmental standards and regulations.

“Digital technology will be the other transformative force going forward. More efficient computers have allowed us to collect and make use of a quantity of data that was previously unimaginable,” he said.

Companies and governments around the world are finding ways to integrate technology into their products, not only to increase efficiency, but also to improve the experiences and lives of the public.

Given these trends, where will we stand 10 years from now?

The sustainability trend together with a decreasing workforce means Thailand will shift away from quantity towards quality, according to Mr Sethaput.

Mass tourism will give way to small groups of eco-conscious travellers, he said. National park regulations will be updated with sustainability in mind.

As demand for healthcare and wellness professionals increases, so will the demand for upskilling and recertifying service workers, said Mr Sethaput.

New types of services could emerge. Given the pervasiveness of remote work, vacation destinations could be transformed into dream workplaces for office workers, he said.

Along with the service sector, agriculture and manufacturing will experience a major shift as well. Consumers’ growing concerns about sustainability and health has led to green product categories that are able to command higher prices, said Mr Sethaput.

On the flipside, products that are deemed non-sustainable might be banned from some markets. A reliance on processing unique products, rather than producing commodities, will be key to delivering higher value-added exports, he said.

Digital technology will play an integral role in all of this, from mechanising manufacturing processes to enabling more efficient production and services through data.

Precision farming in controlled environments will reduce variability in crop yields for farmers, said Mr Sethaput. Automated government processes will enable small farmers to easily provide relevant sustainability certifications.

Those who fail to incorporate technology into their businesses will struggle to compete, while those who succeed will enjoy many more opportunities from that technology, he said.

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Bangkok Post

1 August 2021

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