Huge chance for ASEAN amid digital economic era

Monday, 2020-11-16 08:52:20
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With its young population, ASEAN is well poised to thrive in the digital economic era. (Photo: VNA)
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NDO – Despite the complex developments of COVID-19, ASEAN and its clear advantages is now seeing a huge opportunity for sustainable digital economic development.

Within the framework of the 37th ASEAN Summit held in Hanoi, the ASEAN Business and Investment Summit was held under the theme "Digital ASEAN: Sustainable and Inclusive”, discussing important content related to the fourth Industrial Revolution in terms of stimulating growth, trade and investment, as well as overcoming the consequences of the COVID-19 epidemic.

A series of important issues, such as future of technology and employment in ASEAN; ASEAN and self-resilience, sustainable and inclusive growth; how ASEAN can enhance fintech across all member states; and how technology can support greener investment, were on the agenda.

Speakers emphasised that the COVID-19 pandemic, climate change, the trade war, digital transformation, the fourth Industrial Revolution and international integration have placed humanity in general, and ASEAN member states in particular, in view of both unprecedented challenges as well as opportunities.

The fact that ASEAN sees an opportunity for its sustainable development and digital economic growth in the current serious situation of COVID-19 is completely grounded. In fact, despite unfavourable factors from epidemics and trade tensions, the e-commerce industry in Southeast Asian countries has still made great progress.

A joint report on Southeast Asia's e-economy by Temasek, Google and Bain announced before the ASEAN Business and Investment Summit showed that the e-economy of Southeast Asia is still reaching US$105 billion of total commodity value in 2020, equal to 2019. Digital sectors in the region continue to grow strongly and are expected to exceed US$300 billion by 2025. The electronics trade has emerged as the largest industry, growing up to 63% and reaching U$62 billion in 2020, whilst being expected to continue its growth trajectory, reaching US$172 billion by 2025.

The digital economy has grown strongly in a number of countries, such as Vietnam and Indonesia, who have achieved double-digit growth of 16% and 11%, respectively, despite the difficulties caused by COVID-19. In terms of cross-border e-commerce, Vietnam is one of the fastest growing countries in the world at a rate of 35% per year, 2.5 times higher than Japan, the report said.

Experts assess that the potential for digital economic development of ASEAN countries is huge as the region currently has about 400 million internet users, and this year alone, there are 40 million new users. Business opportunities in new fields such as fintech, medical technology and educational technology are expanding and attracting greater investor attention.

The digital economy is not only acting as a "launch pad" for the economic growth of ASEAN countries in the coming years, but is also serving as a basis to promote the connection of the region with partner countries. Speaking at the recent ASEAN- Republic of Korea (ROK) Summit, Malaysian Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin called on ASEAN to further promote information and communication technology cooperation with the ROK to further accelerate the regional digital economy. The PM emphasised that Southeast Asia is progressing in the digital era with its fast-growing, dynamic and rapidly expanding tech-savvy middle class. According to the Malaysian premier, cooperation between ASEAN and the ROK in the propagation of the digital economy would ultimately enhance the productivity and economic output of ASEAN’s micro, small and medium enterprises.

Earlier, within the framework of the Indo - ASEAN - Oceanic Business Summit & Expo, Indian and ASEAN officials also participated in an online business summit, discussing supply chains and logistics; information technology and telecommunications equipment; and the production value chain.

In fact, the COVID-19 epidemic, besides creating great challenges, also offers an opportunity for an awakening and a change in our way of development in a greener and more sustainable direction. At the recently wrapped-up 37th ASEAN Summit, the Malaysian PM stated that COVID-19 has brought about unprecedented challenges and a whole new world. Seizing development opportunities from the digital economy in the "whole new world" is vital in order to promote growth recovery, strengthen connectivity, and enhance ASEAN's position over the coming years.