2015 marked the establishment of the ASEAN Community, comprising the ASEAN Political-Security Community (APSC), ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community (ASCC) and ASEAN Economic Community (AEC). Information and Communications Technology (ICT) has played a critical role in supporting regional integration and connectivity efforts. And as the region forges ahead to further deepen economic integration and community building, ICT is expected to play an increasingly pivotal role. ICT, and in particular the Internet, has become a core part of the economy and embedded infrastructure, progressively underlying all aspects of socio-economic growth and development. ASEAN is now transitioning towards a digital economy. The importance and impact of this transition – from a single sector focus to a horizontal enabler of all sectors – should not be understated. AIM 2020_Final (File 2)
The first ASEAN ICT Masterplan (2010-2015) (AIM 2015) identified six strategic thrusts as its key objectives, namely, economic transformation, people empowerment and engagement, innovation, infrastructure development, human capital development and bridging the digital divide. Significant progress was made in each of these areas. For instance, teledensity and connectivity, particularly from mobile devices, skyrocketed throughout the region; the establishment of activities such as the ASEAN CIO Forum, Digital Content Exchange and ASEAN Cyberkids Camp, among others, have served as platforms for regular information exchange towards bridging the digital and information divide.
The most challenging barriers to entry noted at the outset of the AIM 2015 were the high cost of market entry and the strong position of established players. Today, these barriers have been substantially
lowered and the playing field levelled. Across ASEAN, digital tools such as computers and mobile devices have become cheaper and readily accessible, connecting people with information easily. Advances in mobile connectivity have enhanced and extended communication and trade networks, powering regional economic growth.
The creation of an integrated digital economy, however, goes further than enabling connectivity and focusing on the exciting and disruptive developments. Increasingly, all sectors of the economy are adopting and embedding ICT and fostering economy-wide growth and innovation. Thus, the next development of the ASEAN ICT Masterplan (2016-2020) (AIM 2020) is to focus on enabling such economy-wide transformation.
This includes supporting the many traditional sectors now in the midst of digital transformation or rejuvenation. Going digital is not simply defined by its hardware, software or networks; it is better associated with the need to connect individuals and communities regardless of their location, to facilitate faster access to services and to create new and better ways of doing business.
A digital economy is essentially a knowledge-based economy that
comes with specific skill sets, and these are skills that many AMS do not yet have enough of. The key objectives of the AIM 2020 have thus focused on enabling the transformation to the digital economy and developing the human capacity necessary for this transition, facilitating the emergence of a single integrated market that is attractive to investment, talent and participation, and building a digital environment that is safe and trusted.