Digital ASEAN Set To Clear Path For Economic Development In Southeast Asia

The World Economic Forum is launching a project to develop the digital economy of Southeast Asia in sustainable, trustworthy, and inclusive ways.
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Developed in response to demand from the WEF’s partners in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, the Digital ASEAN project will take on the roadblocks that stand in the way of the growth and maturation of the digital economy in that region and help build the infrastructure that will allow business, governments, and nonprofits to realize their full potential.

The nations that make up ASEAN represent the world’s fastest-growing internet market, adding 125,000 new users every day. The gross domestic product in the ASEAN sphere is expected to increase by $1 trillion over the next decade, but there are obstacles to that growth and prosperity that Digital ASEAN seeks to eliminate, such as:

  • Insufficient digital infrastucture
  • Restriction on cross-vorder data exchanges 
  • Lack of consistent rules and regulations governing ecommerce
  • Inadequate data/privacy safeguards
  • Cumbersome business licensing requirements 
  • Lack of digital payment solutions
  • Weak defenses against hacking and cyber-attacks
  • Shortage of the empirical evidence needed to inform better policymaking

ASEAN has already specified various policy suggestions and frameworks to mitigate some of these concerns. The hope is that the research and initiatives that come out of Digital ASEAN will be able to generate the buy-in needed to make the large-scale changes that are required. Broadly speaking, Digital ASEAN will be focusing on these three areas:

  1. Moving toward a digital single market by enabling ecommerce and cross-border data flow.
  2. Building enabling digital ecosystems with digital entrepreneurship, digital human capital and identity, better cyber resilience, and better research for evidence-based digital policy.
  3. Improving digital infrastructure, access, and literacy.

Digital ASEAN’s portfolio will be shaped and guided by a board of fifteen advisors, consisting of business leaders, academics, ASEAN ministers, and the ASEAN Secretary General. Each of the three major areas of concern will have its own working group made up of multiple stakeholders, and the ASEAN Regional Business Council—a group of 70 companies involved with the WEF’s efforts in Southeast Asia—will also be active in managing the project and setting its priorities.

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