How can Southeast Asia harness tech for good?

Tilman Ehrbeck, Managing Partner of Flourish Ventures and Chair of the Reference Board to U.N. Special Advocate for Inclusive Finance Development discusses with TFGI’s Chairperson Ilaria Chan.

Tilman Ehrbeck has had a front-row seat to the impact of technology on societies over the last three decades, having served as a journalist, economist and venture capitalist.

“I really felt then and I still feel that we need all the tech-led progress and productivity increases that we can possibly get,” he tells Ilaria Chan, Chairperson of the Tech for Good Institute’s (TFGI) Board of Directors. Ehrbeck is now Managing Partner of Flourish Ventures and Chair of the Reference Board at the U.N. Special Advocate for Inclusive Finance Development.  

In a conversation with Chan at the launch of TFGI, Ehrbeck discusses how the power and promise of technology can be molded to have a positive impact in Southeast Asia. “Tech is not necessarily good per se; tech is actually quite neutral. You need to have a moral compass and an idea of to what end we want to use technology. And as a society, you have to work and find a political consensus to deal with issues that technology also brings about”, he says.


Key insights from the conversation:

  • Technology is neutral by nature. It can only be harnessed for good when one works within the right parameters. This means that innovations and business models have to be aligned with the wellbeing of the consumer. 
  • Innovation in technology should be centered around a triple-win proposition that makes consumers, providers and new intermediaries better off.
  • As a region with high internet penetration and low traditional banking penetration rate, Southeast Asia has the opportunity to use technology to advance financial inclusion . The region can leapfrog the challenges of traditional financial services by borrowing the best components from financial systems around the world.
  • The approach of embedded finance widespread in China, together with ideas of public digital infrastructure, open finance and open data taken from India could be a powerful combination for Southeast Asia.  
  • As a society, we have to work together and find political consensus to deal with the issues that have emerged through increased usage of technology.  


Watch the full conversation below:

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Mouna Aouri

Programme Fellow

Mouna Aouri is an Institute Fellow at the Tech For Good Institute. As a social entrepreneur, impact investor, and engineer, her experience spans over two decades in the MENA region, South East Asia, and Japan. She is founder of Woomentum, a Singapore-based platform dedicated to supporting women entrepreneurs in APAC through skill development and access to growth capital through strategic collaborations with corporate entities, investors and government partners.

Dr Ming Tan

Founding Executive Director

Dr Ming Tan is founding Executive Director for the Tech for Good Institute, a non-profit founded to catalyse research and collaboration on social, economic and policy trends accelerated by the digital economy in Southeast Asia. She is concurrently a Senior Fellow at the Centre for Governance and Sustainability at the National University of Singapore and Advisor to the Founder of the COMO Group, a Singaporean portfolio of lifestyle companies operating in 15 countries worldwide.  Her research interests lie at the intersection of technology, business and society, including sustainability and innovation.

 

Ming was previously Managing Director of IPOS International, part of the Intellectual Property Office of Singapore, which supports Singapore’s future growth as a global innovation hub for intellectual property creation, commercialisation and management. Prior to joining the public sector, she was Head of Stewardship of the COMO Group and the founding Executive Director of COMO Foundation, a grantmaker focused on gender equity that has served over 47 million women and girls since 2003.

 

As a company director, she lends brand and strategic guidance to several companies within the COMO Group. Ming also serves as a Council Member of the Council for Board Diversity, on the boards of COMO Foundation and Singapore Network Information Centre (SGNIC), and on the Digital and Technology Advisory Panel for Esplanade–Theatres on the Bay, Singapore’s national performing arts centre.

 

In the non-profit, educational and government spheres, Ming is a director of COMO Foundation and Singapore Network Information Centre (SGNIC) and chairs the Asia Advisory board for Swiss hospitality business and management school EHL. She also serves on  the Council for Board Diversity and the Digital and Technology Advisory Panel for Esplanade–Theatres on the Bay, Singapore’s national performing arts centre.

 

Ming was educated in Singapore, the United States, and England. She obtained her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Stanford University and her doctorate from Oxford.