KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 15 — Policies and regulations on free flow of data across the countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) must be realised urgently to further promote digitalisation and its growing participation in the region.
Senior Economist of Jakarta-based Economic Research Institute for Asean and East Asia (ERIA), Dr Lurong Chen, said the call is essential now as digital activities which include rule setting, trade facilitation and service liberalisation would certainly be beneficial.
“Asean, as a regional organisation, has shown its potential in supporting growth and development. Thus, a regional effort is needed to promote digitalisation, and the most urgent task is to realise the free flow of data,” Chen told Bernama in an email reply in conjunction with the first Asean Digital Ministers Meeting (ADGMIN1), scheduled to be held via teleconference on Jan 21 and 22.
The inaugural meeting, which will be hosted by Malaysia, will focus, among others, on creating a digital economic bloc among Asean countries.
Chen added that with the challenging period of the current Covid-19 pandemic, the free flow of data implementation would certainly help to further spur the digital economy, and moving towards its integration across the region.
“The pandemic reinforces the importance of digitalisation more than ever now. In addition to e-commerce, e-learning and e-health have also shown the big market demand and potential during the pandemic.
“Regarding this – yes, accelerating the pace of service liberalisation will help further spur the digital economy,” he said.
Chen, who was a Research Fellow at the United Nations University – the academic and research arm of the United Nations – added that with the Asean Dialogue Partners, the area of digital transformation and economy in terms of issues covering cybersecurity and personal data protection within the bloc could also be improved.
“It will be fundamental to promote ‘free flow of data with trust’ across countries.
“Talking with other digital leading countries (i.e the United States, China and Japan), it will help Asean to share its experience and learn from others how to accelerate digital adoption and sustain its development.
Speaking on ADGMIN1, Chen said the meeting is important especially in the current pandemic’s socio-economic landscape.
“Covid-19 poses a series of new challenges, both socially and economically.
“People look forward to learning from the meeting; on what issues drew particular attention from Asean leaders, how ministers will interpret these challenges, and in which way Asean countries will work together to shape the framework of regional governance on digitalisation.”
Themed “Asean: A Digitally Connected Community”, the meeting seeks to strengthen cooperation among Asean countries towards building digital ecosystems as a pillar in the post-Covid-19 development plan.
To be chaired by Minister of Communications and Multimedia Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah, ADGMIN1 will also involve Asean dialogue partners including Japan, China, the European Union, South Korea, and the International Telecommunication Union.
Asean, established in 1967, comprise Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.