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Thai tourism stimulus a road to cashless society

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A Thai girl in traditional costume posing for pictures at the ancient Wat Chaiwatthanaram temple in Ayutthaya province. AFP

Thai tourism stimulus a road to cashless society

As of October 9, as many as 10 million people had registered for the Thai government’s 10 trillion baht ($329 billion) “Eat, Shop, Spend” campaign since it was launched on September 23.

Under the project, registrants are given a 1,000 baht coupon to spend. Though the project is seen as a populist policy, there are many sectors that will benefit from the campaign, with IT experts seeing this as a first step towards turning Thailand into a cashless society.

Suebasak Suebpakdee, a telecoms researcher at Bangkok University, said the “Eat, Shop, Spend” project appears to be a way of introducing Thais to cashless payment, as it will circulate funds in many economic sectors.

Though the younger generation is familiar with e-transactions, the concept of e-wallets has not spread nationwide.

“If we want to succeed like China and other developed countries, where e-wallet has become a more traditional way of payment, we need to expand access points and applications. Only about one million people use e-wallets even though the service has been available for several years,” Suebsak said.

“However, this ‘Eat, Shop, Spend’ campaign has almost immediately gained 10 million e-wallet users, with merchants and small businesses finally recognising online opportunities, especially since they are earning 500 to 1,000 baht daily via apps.”

The campaign has not just increased the use of e-wallets, it has also increased the number of points where it can be used.

Previously, e-transactions could only be made at large retail shops or luxurious coffee shops, but now it can be used in mom-and-pop stores, street vendors and even for motorcycle taxis.

“Some countries use years to reach this scale, while Thailand managed to achieve this in less than half a month,” he said.

Behind the simple interface of the “Eat, Shop, Spend” is the National Digital ID system, which uses a facial-recognition system. Suebsak believes the system’s performance and accuracy will improve when the personal database is linked and more data is retrieved from different sources.

Hence, he said, the “Eat, Shop, Spend” campaign is worth the investment and even though the system is unstable, this campaign is a firm step towards a cashless society.

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