Digital technologies and the business models they enable will drive Southeast Asia’s growth in and through the digital economy. This potential lies in the region’s mobile-first population’s adoption of digital tools, the integration of the digital and non-digital economies through online-to-offline (O2O) platforms, and increasing innovation and startup activity. As technology becomes more integrated into our daily lives, however, the creation of economic value must also serve the broader objective of fostering quality growth for a sustainable, inclusive and equitable transformation of both the economy and society.
This Special Report, commissioned by Asia Tech X Singapore, seeks to articulate the desired outcomes of sustainable digital development and to identify the key enablers that would shape the next phase of growth for Southeast Asia. Over 130 policymakers, investors, digital economy companies, institutions and academics in the field contributed to this Special Report through a series of in-person roundtables in Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam, held between February to March 2023.
This Special Report was prepared by the Tech for Good Institute, and made possible with the generous support from Asia Tech X Singapore.
While strategies and implementation plans reflect the diverse economies and societies of SEA-6, two common objectives emerge: advancing the digitalisation of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs), key sectors, government and public services.
Common priorities to achieve these two objectives include:
- developing digital infrastructure
- building digital literacy
- developing digital talent
- fostering trust in the digital ecosystem
- encouraging innovation and entrepreneurship
- strengthening regional cooperation
DECs can contribute to SEA-6’s development by striving for:
- Responsibility, ensuring that no harm is done;
- Supportive outcomes, when harms are mitigated;
- Facilitative outcomes, in which benefits are optimised through efficiency; and
- Transformative outcomes, requiring radical new approaches to address local, national or global challenges previously deemed intractable.
While transformative outcomes may dominate headlines, responsible, supportive and facilitative outcomes are all needed for “Tech for Good” to serve society.
Stakeholders across the public, private and civil sectors in the region are keen to build on the progress made in the digital economy thus far. The growth of the digital economy must lead to sustainable digital development, empowering a confident digital society that leverages innovation to foster inclusive and equitable progress.
While existing priorities for digital transformation remain, outcomes are broadened:
- Affordable quality access
- Meaningful and productive participation in the digital economy
- Sustainable and adaptive livelihoods through the digital economy
- Governance of emerging technologies
- Impactful investment and innovation
- A coordinated and responsive regulatory environment, nationally and regionally
Citizens and consumers deserve a commitment from the public, private and civil sectors to shared outcomes, new processes and perspectives, and a more collaborative and holistic approach to enable innovation within a confident digital society. These goals need cooperation towards shared outcomes, coordination with clear communication to prevent knowledge or operational silos, and co-creation to ensure inclusion of diverse or underrepresented interests so that the needs and rights of all parties are respected. Not only will this foster a conducive environment for technology and business innovation, but also develop the craft of policy-making and governance for the digital age.
This is a Special Report produced by the Tech for Good Institute for Asia Tech x SG (ATxSG).