Dr. Karndee Leopairote, Supervisory Board member of Electronic Transactions Development Agency (ETDA), Thailand

By Kai Ee Seah

Women in GovTech Special Report 2020.

How do you use technology/policy to improve citizens’ lives? Tell us about your role or organization

This year, ETDA has made its transition to a regulator. Our team aspires to be a friendly regulator and balances between regulations and digital service business promotion.  When considering the roles of government authorities and the scope of the current digital economy-related laws, removing outdated laws and promoting the best practices and practical standards are our priorities. Our three fundamental pillars are building a digital standard landscape, digital ID ecosystem, and government e-service. We also emphasise our supporting pillars, which are promoting informed digital citizens, utilizing foresight, and promoting data utilization and e-office in the government sector.

What was the most impactful project you worked on this year? 

Besides my board member roles at the key government agencies in Thailand, I am also serving as Chief Advisor on Foresight and Innovation at FutureTales Lab by MQDC.  Despite the Covid-19 situation, we successfully launched the very first future lab in Thailand. We focus on foresight practice, data analytics, and collaboration platforms for futurists in the private sector, government agencies, and academia. Since the beginning of the year, our research stream has contributed to policy direction during the pandemic's uncertain time. We cast out near-term predictions and long-term future scenarios in the live, work, learn, play aspects of our citizen lives and the future of urbanisation. We have worked with our research partners and government agencies in developing a data platform, which we called ‘Earth Pulse’, to provide near term prediction of natural disasters and the impact of climate change. We aim to mitigate risks and to save lives. We expect to enhance our system with the government’s open data and machine learning to give analytical focus to the national policy.

What is one unexpected learning from 2020? 

The Covid-19 situation is unprecedented. This year has been a grand challenge for all of us. At the policy level and the organisation level, we learned to adopt different lenses simultaneously.  When the pandemic hit, firstly, we need to act now to ensure our survival. Secondly, we need to retool and accelerate the opportunity. And lastly, we need to disrupt ourselves and reimagine our futures.

Despite the perfect storm of the pandemic and digital disruption, I have learned that our society can be resilient and adaptive far better than I ever imagined. Our government and our citizens act and adapt very quickly and effectively in our own way.  The citizens voluntarily share their travel information through “Thai Chana” mobile application to ensure community safety. Cashless transactions are widely adopted overnight in all user segments. We have learned that our healthcare system is by far at the world’s forefront. We also have learned that we are so capable of creating ‘crisis-driven’ innovation and extend for the greater good.

What tool or technique particularly interests you for 2021?

I particularly would like to see the Digital ID ecosystem fully developed. I am excited to see the Digital ID Sandbox, which requires cross-departmental & cross-organisation effort. We hope to move towards a “self-sovereign” digital identity management system. This would enable our citizens to have full control of their own identity.

What are your priorities for 2021?

Keep on learning and connecting with new talents.

What advice would you give to women looking to start a career in GovTech? 

I believe technology is genderblind. The development of technology and its ease of use have widened the opportunity for any gender, age, and almost any professional background. The GovTech space is not about how much you know, but it is all about how fast you can learn.

Write a message for your future self.

Hi Karndee in 2030, the world right now emphasises human rights, women's rights, and animal rights. I would love to hear from you about how the robot rights and the ethics of AI unfold in this decade.