Sandbox to Society: Fostering Innovation in Southeast Asia

To enable a thriving digital ecosystem, innovation should happen at all levels. While technology and business model innovations are happening at a rapid pace, policy and regulatory innovation should also be encouraged to ensure that the digital ecosystem remains safe for all. This study provides an landscape review of sandbox initiatives in the SEA-6. The aim is to provide an overview of one type of policy innovation employed by government stakeholders to encourage technology and business model innovation in a responsible way.

Southeast Asia’s digital economy continues to grow at an unprecedented rate due to the rapid pace of digital adoption in the region. To help solve societal problems, businesses in sectors such as finance, transport, health, and education are leveraging innovative solutions. Consequently, a wide range of digital goods and services have entered the market. However, technological advancement also poses new risks to its users, especially those who are coming online for the first time.

To safeguard society from the unintended consequences of technology, governments across Southeast Asia have actively been exploring diverse regulatory instruments – among which is the implementation of regulatory sandboxes.

Regulatory sandboxes is an instrument that enables regulators to foster innovation in a safe and responsible way, while creating a safe space for closer dialogue between regulators and businesses in various industries. Sandboxes can create opportunities for deeper regulatory learning, and empower regulators to take a more adaptive and anticipatory approach to regulation.

To maximise the potential of regulatory sandboxes in building an inclusive digital ecosystem,  it is imperative that we discuss the effectiveness of current sandbox initiatives in fulfilling the intended objectives and explore opportunities for further adaptation, along with managing risks and innovation in certain sector appliances.

This paper builds on the World Bank’s and Nesta UK’s framework on the typologies of sandboxes and is adapted to reflect Southeast Asia’s context. The paper aims to provide an overview of the current sandbox initiative in six Southeast Asian countries: Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam (collectively known as “SEA-6”).

We are hopeful that a comprehensive understanding of the current trends of regulatory innovation in Southeast Asia will enable policymakers, business leaders, and academics to continue insightful conversation and productive collaboration to improve the implementation of sandboxes in the region.

Key Takeaways:

While regulatory sandboxes were pioneered in the United Kingdom, it made its way to Southeast Asia from as early as 2016. Since then, the momentum to deploy sandboxes has been building continuously, with more than half of the sandboxes in the region launching in 2020 or later. In line with global trends, sandboxes in the region have gained the most traction in the financial technology sector. Other sectors have started to explore sandbox practices, including transportation, healthcare, drones, robotics, artificial intelligence (AI) and more.

For example, Singapore’s privacy-enhancing technologies (PET) and generative AI sandboxes show the country’s focus on emerging technologies. The Philippines implements an agricultural insurance sandbox to protect its farmers, whereas Malaysia operates a drone sandbox to further position the country as the drone hub of Southeast Asia.

Almost 90% of the sandboxes in the region are focused on product development. Currently, only a few include policies or regulations as a desired outcome. This indicates a presently untapped opportunity for regulators to utilise sandboxes for regulatory learning and policy adoption, particularly in dealing with emerging technologies where the attendant’s risks and opportunities are difficult to predict.

The majority of sandboxes (64%) are considered advisory in approach as it was designed to test the viability of new products and business models, and to clarify regulatory grey areas so that businesses can comply with existing regulations. In particular, most of the fintech sandboxes in the region are focused on making it easier for innovators to work with regulators, so that they may test and adapt their product or service under existing regulations, rather than assessing if and how regulations could be changed.

For regulators, key considerations include setting clear sandbox guidelines and frameworks, establishing a platform for sharing regulatory learnings, adopting a more anticipatory approach, creating more cross-sectoral sandboxes and coordinating sandbox corridors for cross-border testing. Meanwhile, the private sector should consider being more open to sharing data and expertise to regulators, proactively contribute feedback to improve sandbox administration, and offer dedicated teams to ensure internal alignment and effective participation in sandboxes.

This review is but a “snapshot” of current practice as of 2023. We are keenly aware that the rapid evolution of technology, coupled with the pace of change within each country, will mean continued changes in the tech regulatory landscape.

We welcome your feedback, especially with regard to any inaccuracies, omissions or obsolete information. Please do not hesitate to contact

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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.