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A sustainable digital future for the ASEAN


Last Feb. 6-10, digital leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) agreed to ensure a sustainable digital transformation that is people-centered, safe, secure, relevant to the needs of end users and stakeholders, during the 3rd ASEAN Digital Ministers Meeting (ADGMIN), ASEAN Digital Senior Officials Meeting (ADGSOM), and related meetings.


With the Philippines as chair, the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) under Secretary Ivan John Uy, led the discussions and set out four priorities anchored on the theme, “Synergy Towards a Sustainable Digital Future.”


The first priority is Safe Cyberspace: Regional Cooperation for Cybersecurity Knowledge and Skills Development. The rapid development of technology comes with accompanying risks that prey on the vulnerable and threaten the progress that each of our nations have worked hard to achieve. Cyber threats can be aimed at critical infrastructure that can affect basic government services, national security, and economic activity. As we harness the benefits of digital emerging technologies and trends, we must also heighten our defense against the risks that come with it.


Second priority is Citizen-Centric Governance: Development of a Regional Stocktaking Process for Digital Government Solutions in ASEAN. The pandemic has caused the great pivot to digitalization, and it has made us realize our limitations to enable a smooth transition to a highly digital environment. We need to have resilient ICT infrastructure. Our laws and policies need to be updated to support digital governance initiatives. We need to identify digital systems, processes and infrastructure that have been proven effective by our respective governments, thus the importance of exchange of knowledge, technical expertise and best practices among ASEAN Member States.


Priority number three is Digital Inclusion: Increasing participation of women, youth and other sectors in ICT with focus on policy engagement, improving digital competence and fostering inclusive future. Digital transformation comes at a great cost to those who are economically and digitally challenged. Thus, we need to make sure that in this shift to a “new normal,” no one is left behind. We have to make sure that the different sectors of society are included in this digital transformation.


The fourth priority is Innovation-Driven Economy: Creating and Strengthening ASEAN Strategies to Support and Develop Innovative Startup Ecosystems and Promote Digital Innovation Across. As the shift to a fully digital economy is laid out for us in the ASEAN, we have to also identify innovative ways of developing our economy further. We need to harness the creative minds of our people to generate more wealth for everyone. We need to find innovative ways in sourcing new capital to fund our economic activities, innovative processes to transact in whatever platform our systems and databases may be operating; we need groundbreaking ideas to make our supply chains and logistics capable of supporting our shift to a fully digital economy.


The meeting also gave way to discussions of previous and ongoing initiatives of the ADGMIN and the ADGSOM. Projects that have been identified for the 2023 Work Plan include the ASEAN Digital Government Benchmark Framework; ASEAN Framework on Logistics for Digital Economy Supply Chain for Rural Area; Digital Adoption and Market Expansion of Startups and MSMEs; Digital ID in ASEAN; Regulatory Pilot Space to Facilitate Cross-Border Digital Data Flows to Enabling Self-Driving Car in ASEAN; Feasibility Study of ASEAN Digital Opportunity Traineeships; Study on best practices for development and operation of key digital platforms for digital government in ASEAN; and Green Digital Initiatives.


Moreover, the digital ministers adopted the Boracay Digital Declaration 2023, which reflects the desire of ASEAN digital leaders to strengthen digital connectivity and accessibility to pave the way for a digitally-enabled society.


Among others, the digital leaders agreed to strengthen the connection and cooperation between the ASEAN Member States and Dialogue Partners, not only through infrastructure development, but also through interpersonal interaction in narrowing the digital divide, technical assistance and capacity building, accelerating digital transformation, and in the spirit of sharing a common vision and identity.


Secretary Uy, as chair of the ADGMIN, conveyed confidence in the event being instrumental in meeting ASEAN’s goals, especially in transforming the region into a leading digital community and economic bloc. Secretary Uy stressed: “To achieve synergy is to achieve a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts. This is aligned with the principle of the ASEAN — to create a community that multiplies the potential of its members to be a stronger and a more prosperous region.”

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