Advancing digital economies in the AEC era: new report

As part of the report group, The US-ASEAN Business Council encourages the Malaysian government to lead AEC initiatives, which will drive digital economies in ASEAN.

By AvantiKumar
Jan. 20, 2017

AEC logo (AEC)

Image- An AEC logo (AEC)


According to a new AEC report, digital data management is one of the keys to advance digital economies within the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC).

On 18 January 2017, the US-ASEAN Business Council and consulting company Deloitte presented a report, The Digital Economy and the Free Flow of Data: Advancing the ASEAN Economic Community, to the Malaysian government and business community. Malaysia is currently the chair of the AEC.

"The digital economy plays a strategic role as a critical enabler for deepening ASEAN regional integration and as well as helping drive next generation domestic demand led growth for startups and SME's," said ambassador Michael Michalak, senior vice president and regional managing director of the US-ASEAN Business Council.

"We encourage Malaysia to lead in ASEAN by supporting policies on data management that allow member economies to benefit from greater efficiency, extended reach and lower costs," he said.

AEC Deloitte Microsoft

Photo - (From left) - Nur Sulyna Lim Abdullah, Chief Officer Corporate Strategic Sector, MCMC; Jasmine Begum, Director, Legal, Corporate & Government Affairs, Microsoft Malaysia & New Markets; Ambassador Michael Michalak, Senior Vice President and Regional Managing Director of the US-ASEAN Business Council; Jeff Pirie, AEC Leader, Deloitte Southeast Asia and Claudia Chan, Regional Director, Government Affairs, Asia Pacific for Seagate, at US ASEAN Business Council report launch on 18 January, 2017 in Kuala Lumpur

Deloitte Southeast Asia's AEC leader Jeff Pirie said: "Regional integration and the digital economy are both big opportunities in what is one of the world's fastest growing regions."

"All manner of business, from the start-up to the regional champion as well as the multinational, will benefit if the AEC framework puts the digital economy front & centre. Now is the time to do so," said Pirie.

These sentiments follow initiatives by Malaysia's national ICT industry association, PIKOM, in the last two years as well as strategic moves from government agencies MDEC  (Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation), which include bilateral agreements with the UK, and research agency MIMOS with emerging technologies.

Tuning the regional framework

Such initiatives within in Malaysia and throughout ASEAN, can be bolstered by policies to support high-tech industries, enhance the development of eCommerce, help small and medium enterprises reach customers and optimise their businesses, enable financial inclusion, and encourage foreign investment.

However, governments need to consider regulatory, legal and policy issues stemming from technology, platforms and providers, the report advised.

In addition, issues highlighted for attention included privacy, security, intellectual property and customer protection if countries are to benefit from the digital economy.

The group presenting the report also said it was essential "to ensure that it is the risk, not the actor, which is regulated. Further, inter-agency cooperation is essential if ASEAN member states are to have effective digital laws and regulations as issues cut across many different sectors."

Among industry organisations involved in the report, Amol Gupte, Citi country officer (CCO) for Singapore and Head of ASEAN, said, "Digitisation of financial services has a positive impact on ASEAN integration and the economies of Southeast Asia. To maximize the full potential of digitisation across the region, there is need for a supportive policy framework. Particularly crucial is the ability to move data quickly and seamlessly across borders which will benefit trade, increase innovation and support financial inclusion."

During a recent forum, held in conjunction with the unveiling of the report, at Microsoft Malaysia's office, Jasmine Begum, director, Corporate External & Legal Affairs (CELA) agreed with the report's suggestions.

"In our increasingly interconnected world, the new trade routes are now digital and global businesses are increasingly relying on data flows to manage operations," said Jasmine.

"With the recently announced Digital Free Trade Zone, Malaysia is well-positioned to harness the opportunities of the digital economy," she said. "Every person and every organisations needs to actively participate in the fourth industrial revolution. We recognise the importance of transparency, privacy, security and compliance in ensuring the smooth flow of data across borders, and are encouraged by our collective efforts to advance the ASEAN Digital Economy through inclusive people-centric enabling policies."

The report, available on the the Deloitte website, was developed by the US-ASEAN Business Council and Deloitte, with support from Cisco, Citi, Google, MasterCard, Microsoft, and Seagate.

The first edition of this article appeared on Computerworld Malaysia 20 January 2017.