Promoting the Growth of the Digital Startup Ecosystem in ASEAN

These remarks were originally delivered at the 8th ASEAN Economic Community Dialogue by His Excellency Satvinder Singh, Deputy Secretary General of the ASEAN Economic Community. Find out more about the event highlights below
By His Excellency Satvinder Singh, Deputy Secretary General of the ASEAN Economic Community
Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen, a very good morning to you all.

It is refreshing to see a young and vibrant audience today. You are truly the key to our economic recovery and the catalyst for economic growth in ASEAN. Digital startups attract talent, funding, catalyse local innovation  and most importantly create jobs. You are therefore essential in our vision to further grow our startup ecosystems and ultimately our economy.
Since the onset of the pandemic, our digital consumer base expanded by nearly 20% to more than 360 million active internet users. Regional growth rates are expected to reach 5.0 percent this year and 5.3 percent next year, much higher than global average. Down the line, the digital economy is estimated to add USD 363 billion of Gross Merchandise Value (GMV) to ASEAN by 2025.
Southeast Asia is ripe with opportunity, especially in key verticals such as ecommerce and fintech. Ecommerce continues to be an area of interest for the region’s investors and entrepreneurs. Revenue for the sector is projected to reach over US$142.7 billion in 2022, and it is expected to grow annually by 15.1% by 2025. Meanwhile, the fintech sector remains a rising vertical in the region as digital payments make up the largest segment within the space, with a projected total transaction value of US$195.8 billion for this year.

Amid these opportunities, the tech scene still faces several challenges. ASEAN Member States (AMS) have varying degrees of digital readiness, and digital startups are so far concentrated within a few AMS. As such, there is a need to identify key factors that would promulgate and foster startup ecosystems across the AMS.

To this end, the ASEAN Digital Master Plan 2025 places the development and growth of digital startups in ASEAN as a high priority agenda. This framework highlights the key success factors in developing digital startups quality talent, education curriculum, incentives, regulatory environment and digital infrastructure. I very much look forward to your feedback on these key success factors to help us come up with relevant policy framework for digital startups in the region. 
I would also like to take this opportunity to share some of ASEAN’s initiatives that could complement the framework ecosystem and substantively support the digital startups in the region:
  •  First, the ASEAN Trust Mark Scheme for eCommerce. will support the ASEAN governments to create a dynamic ecommerce environment through sharing of best practices in legal compliance, data handling, consumer protection, and anticounterfeiting, which will help boost consumer confidence in ASEAN ecommerce companies. As one of the Priority Economic Deliverable (PED) under the Cambodia’s Chairmanship this year, ASEAN Member States are working together to deliver policy recommendations to move forward with this initiative.
  • Second, ASEAN is now working on mainstreaming the Digital Business ID and establishing a regionally comparable and recognised Unique Business Identification Number (UBIN) for businesses in AMS and the region. Through this initiative, we recognize that a trusted regional digital identity system for companies will help promote crossborder trade, expansion activity, and access to finance in the region.
  • Lastly, ASEAN has launched the linkage of the RealTime Retail Payment System (RTRPS) between Singapore and Thailand in April 2021, with higherthanexpected takeup volume. This will be followed by the MalaysiaSingapore linkages targeted for launching in Q4 2022. With this progress in digital financial services and regional payment connectivity, we hope that this can be expanded into a wider network of  interconnected RTRPS linkages across the region. This initiative will contribute to ASEAN’s digitalisation drive and financial inclusion by taking advantage of cellular phones to increase market access and banking services to consumers and MSMEs in far flung areas where services are limited.

Ladies and Gentlemen, let me take this opportunity to thank you for your participation. I truly believe that ASEAN has come far, and its best years are still ahead of it. encourage you to keep innovating to solve social problems, meet the needs of people, and work toward developing sustainable solutions for the future. I strongly believe that through regular engagements between public and  private sector to share ideas and knowledge, we can accelerate the digital transformation and create an effective, integrated, secured and inclusive digital ecosystem in ASEAN. 

Thank you very much, and I wish you a very fruitful discussion during this event.


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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.