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Indonesia Best Practices

Khon Kaen, Thailand | Citizen Awareness of the Smart City

Khon Kaen, Thailand

Date: July 5, 2023

Khon Kaen, Thailand | Citizen Awareness of the Smart City

Fast Facts

  • Mayor: Thirasak Thikhayuphan
  • Population: 147,579
  • Area: 46 Km²
  • GCoM Signatory since 2016
  • Khon Kaen is a rice-trading centre on the railway between Nakhon Ratchasima and Udon Thani. It hosts one of the top Thailand universities, Khon Kaen University. 


Khon Kaen Province has been identified as one of the ten provinces suitable for smart city projects, according to a government commissioned study done by Chulalongkorn University. While destinations like Phuket and Chiang Mai are renowned for their tourism, Khon Kaen’s reputation lies in being the educational, medical, business, banking, and public service hub of northeastern Thailand. TBecause of the socio-political movements that began within its borders, the province is regarded as a regional trendsetter, and is commonly referred to as the Khon Kaen Model. The smart city project in Khon Kaen follows suit, reflecting the province’s innovative and forward-thinking approach.

Solutions Implemented

Khon Kaen’s development as a smart city was not solely driven by the state; it required active public participation and engagement. Civil society organisations played a crucial role in contributing to the city’s development, while influential business leaders, many of whom were born and raised in Khon Kaen, took the lead. Their personal attachment to the city, sense of responsibility towards its people and their desire for economic growth and progress motivated them to initiate the Khon Kaen smart city initiative. They had been working for over seven years, even before the launch of the smart city programme in Phuket, to address the city’s daily challenges and make Khon Kaen a more liveable place. [1]

In 2015, during his inaugural visit as the Minister of Transport, Air Chief Marshall Prajin Juntong visited Khon Kaen. This presented an opportunity for Khon Kaen Transformation Team (KKTT) to showcase their vision for transforming the city into a smart city, starting with the implementation of a light rail system. Smart mobility took centre stage during the sessions, but the importance of other aspects of a smart city was not overlooked. KKTT sought policy support for the first phase of the Khon Kaen light rail route, which would run north and south within the city. While they did not request financial support due to potential strings attached, the light rail project became a focal point of the Khon Kaen smart city programme, with local leaders believing it to be integral to advancing the city’s development as a regional hub. 

Results and Solutions Learned

Local business leaders launched the smart city movement in Khon Kaen, which got widespread public support. These leaders recognised that provinces were competing fiercely for smart city support and that financial resources for infrastructure and public services expansion were limited. Given these constraints, relying solely on central government funding for the implementation of the smart city in Khon Kaen would be challenging. 

The degree of responsiveness to the needs of local residents distinguishes Khon Kaen from other smart cities in Thailand. Khon Kaen places a primary emphasis on improving the quality of life for its citizens. Rather than solely relying on the public sector’s role to achieve development goals for a sustainable smart city, Khon Kaen’s business leaders and civic groups have actively sought support from both the central and local governments. They have also fostered a close working relationship with the College of Local Administration at Khon Kaen University. Furthermore, they have leveraged media platforms to distribute promotional materials and advertisements to rally support from both the public and private sectors. A truly smart city acknowledges and values local community growth, which is more likely to occur when policy initiatives are bottom-up and community-oriented.

[1] Suradech Taweesaengsakulthai, Sirisak Laochankham, Peerasit Kamnuansilpa, and Supawatanakorn Wongthanavasu “ Thailand Smart Cities: What is the Path to Success?,” Wiley Online Library, February 26, 2019, from

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