(Vientiane) – Empowering a skilled digital workforce, increasing regional connectivity, and understanding the impact of technology on jobs and productivity were central themes for this year’s meetings between the US-ASEAN Business Council (US-ABC) delegation and the ASEAN Telecommunications and IT Ministers. The meetings took place in Vientiane, Laos from October 23-25 as part of the annual ASEAN Telecommunications and IT Ministers Meeting (TELMIN).
The US-ABC delegation included seven leading American technology companies led by US-ABC President and CEO, Alexander C. Feldman, US-ABC Senior Vice President & Regional Managing Director, Ambassador Michael W. Michalak, and Chair of US-ABC’s Information and Communications Technology (ICT) Committee and President for Cisco Systems in ASEAN, Naveen Menon.
“Southeast Asia’s digital economy topped $100 billion this year for the first time and is now projected to grow to $300 billion by 2025.” said Alexander Feldman. “Achieving this figure will rely on ASEAN policymakers’ support for cross border data flows as well as their success in creating environments conducive to innovation and workforce upskilling. ASEAN nations lead the way in rates of mobile internet usage which is the result of a highly connected, young and tech-savvy population. The US-ABC and its members are committed dialogue partners in promoting the digital future of ASEAN and its youthful and highly digitally engaged population.”
“The adoption of technology has been a big driver of ASEAN’s growth," said Naveen Menon. "As digital innovation picks up pace, its impact will be even bigger in the future. The rollout of 5G services, for example, will enhance digitalization of businesses and see the region take the lead in the fourth industrial revolution. As digital adoption increases, we will see more users and devices come online, generating an increasing amount of data. While this presents greater opportunity, it also means that the attack surface will increase, exposing businesses to more cyber risks. They will also need to protect consumer data as users become more aware of this issue and regulators take a stricter stand. Finally, it will be crucial to ensure the region’s workforce is not left behind as it adopts new age technologies. For that all stakeholders – businesses, governments, and educators - need to work together to ensure the workforce is being reskilled and upskilled as required.”
“Public-private collaboration is an important component of digital skills development in ASEAN to ensure the region keeps pace with digital transformation," said Ambassador Michael Michalak. "The US-ABC remains committed to the ongoing collaboration needed to build a strong digital ecosystem and support Industry 4.0 through established channels such as the ASEAN-US Digital Policy Consultative Forum, and ASEAN Multi-Stakeholder Dialogue on OTT services. The Council is also proud to facilitate capacity-building programs such as our ASEAN Innovation Series and SME workshops promoting skills transfer and empowering businesses to leverage digital tools as part of their success stories. In 2020, we hope to further cement our collaboration with ASEAN governments across these various platforms.”
During the plenary luncheon with the ASEAN TELMIN, the U.S. ICT industry leaders on the mission delivered a presentation on how businesses and governments can closely collaborate to invest and develop a skilled digital workforce to enable the growth of the digital ecosystem throughout the region.
Mission delegates also discussed how digital infrastructure investment such as 5G and Smart Cities can increase both rural to urban and country to country connectivity and challenges and opportunities presented by Industry 4.0. Delegates also analyzed the impact of technology on jobs and productivity in Southeast Asia.
The delegation drew attention to implications for ASEAN nations on policies surrounding cybersecurity, privacy, and digital data governance, emphasizing the need for resilient regulatory frameworks that are in alignment with global best practices, which remain open to innovation and are conducive to the free flow of data.
In addition to formal events with the TELMIN, delegates also engaged the Ministers bilaterally to discuss mutual integration and investment interests. Bilateral meetings included those with:
- H.E. Tram Iv Tek, Minister of Post and Telecommunications, Cambodia
- H.E. Gobind Singh Deo, Minister of Communications and Multimedia, Malaysia
- H.E. S. Iswaran, Minister for Communications and Information, Singapore
- Ms. Yoshida Makiko, Vice Minister, Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications, Japan
- Mr. Eliseo Rio Jr., Undersecretary for Operations, Department of Information and Communications Technology, Philippines
- Mr. Semuel Abrijain Pangerapan, Director General of Informatics Applications, Ministry of Communication and Information Technology, Indonesia
- Dr. Thavisak Manodham, Director General of e-Government, Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications, Lao PDR
Companies participating on the mission included Amazon Web Services, Cisco, Facebook, Google, Qualcomm, Salesforce, and SAP.
The mission reinforces US-ABC’s ongoing efforts to promote data governance conducive to growth and innovation in ASEAN. In August, US-ABC’s ICT Committee released a white paper, “Digital Data Governance in ASEAN: Key Elements for a Data-Driven Economy” (accessible here). This publication provides U.S. industry recommendations on digital data governance frameworks, in complement to the ASEAN Framework on Digital Data Governance.