After six months in lockdown, Thailand is encouraging citizens to return to its islands and beaches. The nation has had no local transmissions in the last two months.

Businesses have opened back up and the government is now contemplating allowing 100,000 foreign workers to return to the country and their jobs. “As the recovery phase begins, a key challenge will be how to help people who lost their jobs reconnect with the labour market,” Birgit Hansl, World Bank Country Manager for Thailand has said.

The pandemic elevated the need for digital technologies in jobs and industries to cope with the crisis. How could digital technologies also help the nation tackle unemployment and support job seekers and business?

Tackling unemployment and reskilling

8.3 million people in Thailand are estimated to lose jobs or income as a result of the pandemic, with those in tourism and service industries at particular risk, according to the World Bank.

The good news is that Thailand’s appetite for and maturity in digital technology has rapidly increased. Its capabilities and resources are fast becoming world-class, and it is constantly seeking opportunities with the latest technologies.

The country must use this strength to boost skills and jobs in other sectors. Thailand’s Digital Economy and Society Minister in May met with leaders of local tech companies to discuss how jobs could be protected.

The Digital Economy Promotion Agency is working with tech companies to develop courses to reskill people. It is developing a “national digital workplace platform” to match job candidates and employers, The Nation has reported.

Distributing welfare

Covid-19 has also highlighted the need for governments to reach citizens and deliver support swiftly. Speed is the most powerful attribute of the modern organisation. Governments that have been able to adapt at speed have been able to manage the recent businesses impacts better than others.

Over 30 cities in China have issued digital vouchers worth millions of dollars on WeChat and Alipay apps to boost spending. These apps already offer a host of government payment services and offer a direct route to people’s wallets in China.

The Thai parliament passed a support and stimulus package of US$58mn in May – the country’s largest ever cash injection. Public servants are now tasked with the responsibility to ensure that the benefits and related support programmes reach households and businesses quickly, and at scale.

Paper-based processes are getting in the way of mission delivery. Forms and signatures are one of the first interactions people have with governments. Why not make these interactions as frictionless as possible?

Whether the government sets up new unemployment support or platforms to re-skill people, it will need to get people to sign up for programmes and ensure they’re receiving support on time. Digital forms combined with e-signatures are among the easiest, and contactless, ways to ensure this.

These technologies can accelerate old paper-based processes without breaking the bank. For simpler forms, this could be as easy as uploading a photo of the paper version. For example, Adobe Scan can convert a photo of a physical form into a PDF document and automatically make all fields fillable. When integrated with Adobe Sign, e-signatures can also be mandated for added authentication and auditing purposes.

Unlike other larger digital initiatives which may cost millions if not billions of dollars to implement, digital forms and e-signatures offer a simple yet quick way to improve governments’ efficiency. It offers an opportunity for governments to be very nimble in a crisis, and pivot to address the fundamental challenges people face.

Form inputs are automatically captured in digital format which further eliminates the need for manual data entry. This speeds up backend processes and ensures that public support funds and programmes can reach beneficiaries in the shortest time possible.